What does a Cook do?
Cooks can be employed at restaurants, hotels, cafes, catering companies and cafeterias at schools, hospitals and corporations. Cooks can also work in people’s homes as Personal Cooks. Cooks use their culinary knowledge and background to learn the details of each menu item, prepare multiple dishes simultaneously to serve large parties, help stock inventory, organize refrigerators and communicate with other kitchen staff to deliver dishes to customers in a timely manner. Their job is to interpret meal orders and produce meals at the correct temperature to serve to diners. Some Cooks interact directly with customers at tableside service or food stations.
Cook skills and qualifications
Cooks must exercise the following qualities and skills:
- Knowledge of safety procedures, including safe temperatures at which ingredients must be kept and to which food must be prepared to avoid foodborne illness
- Ability to work as part of a team, collaborating on complex dishes
- Interpersonal skills to interact with a variety of other people, such as waitstaff, dishwashers, management and sometimes customers
- Calm demeanor to work in a high-stress, fast-paced environment
- Accountability for the dishes they prepare measuring up to the expectations of management and customers alike
- Comprehension and organization to follow direct orders and recipes and to correctly prepare dishes to the standards of the restaurant
- Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination to handle tools, such as knife techniques for chopping, slicing, cutting and dicing
- Ability to stand in one place for hours at a time, handle extreme heat and work shifts
Cook salary expectations
A Cook makes an average salary of $12.22 per hour. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.
Cook education and training requirements
Working as a cook requires a minimum of a high school diploma to fulfill the basic skills and knowledge required for the job. Vocational or technical school diplomas are preferred, as is some experience in a similar position. The American Culinary Federation accredits a range of training programs and sponsors apprenticeship programs to provide the requisite training and skills.
Cook experience requirements
While little to no experience is required for a basic cook position, the more experience a candidate has, the more skills and talents they will offer. Many cooks become proficient in their trade through experience, beginning in food preparation or as a kitchen helper to learn the basics of cooking, then advancing to become an assistant cook or line cook and eventually becoming a full cook. Others learn through apprenticeships with experienced cooks or chefs.
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