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What Is a Prep Cook and How to Become One

What Is a Prep Cook?

A prep cook works in a restaurant or private kitchen, preparing ingredients for other chefs to cook. As a prep cook, your responsibilities center on simplifying the cooking process for everyone in the kitchen. Your duties include cleaning, peeling, chopping, cutting, slicing, and dicing vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, and other food. You are also responsible for maintaining health and safety standards in the kitchen, which is a responsibility of everyone on the staff. You need excellent knife skills to safely and quickly prepare food, and you need communication skills to follow instructions and collaborate with your coworkers. Experience working in a kitchen is helpful when you look for jobs as a prep cook, but a prep cook can sometimes be considered to be an entry-level position.

How to Become a Prep Cook

There are no formal training qualifications to become a prep cook, but many employers prefer a high school diploma or GED certificate. A degree from a culinary arts program is a bonus, but is unnecessary and not expected at this level. Your employer will provide on-the-job training, especially in regards to food safety regulations and knife skills. Working in a kitchen is fast-paced, so you need strong time management skills to stay on top of your assigned tasks. You also need organization skills to make sure you prepare the right foods in the right quantities at the right times.

How to Be a Good Prep Cook

To be a good prep cook, you need excellent hand dexterity. You spend long periods of time preparing foods and must maintain your attention to detail the entire time. You also need physical stamina, since you must stand at your kitchen station for a full shift and walk around the kitchen to gather food and supplies. You need excellent communication skills to work productively in a crowded, fast-paced kitchen. As you gain experience, you can advance in your career to positions like sous chef or head cook.

Prep Cook Job Description Sample

With this Prep Cook job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Prep Cook role.

Job Summary

We are seeking a skilled, experienced prep cook to join our growing kitchen staff. In this position, you will assist the culinary team with a variety of tasks. Strong organizational and interpersonal communication skills are a must.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Follow the executive chef's prep list to plan daily work
  • Label ingredients and food items and stock pantry and refrigerator shelves in an organized manner
  • Properly store food items in designated containers
  • Sanitize work areas and equipment, wash dishes, take out trash
  • Measure seasonings, condiments, and ingredients for use in cooking
  • Portion and wrap food
  • Prepare ingredients for cooking
  • Wash, peel, and chop fruits and vegetables
  • Clean and cut or grind meat, fish, poultry, and shellfish
  • Place food in warming trays or refrigerated storage as appropriate
  • Carry food items and utensils to food stations
  • Use manual and electric equipment for food preparation
  • Perform basic cooking tasks such as stirring, straining, and parboiling food and reducing sauces
  • Package take out foods
  • Prepare beverages including soft drinks, coffee, and tea
  • Hand out prepared dishes to servers for delivery to customers
  • Maintain records of quantities of foods and ingredients used
  • Update supervisors when stock of food items or supplies are low
  • Inform managers about broken or malfunctioning equipment
  • Comply with food safety and sanitation guidelines

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Background as a prep cook or related experience
  • Availability for early morning shifts
  • Manual dexterity to ensure proper operation of kitchen utensils and cutting tools
  • Effective communication skills
  • Proficient in English
  • Adept at performing tasks well in a fast-paced environment
  • Able to stand through duration of shift