Prep Cook Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Prep Cook, or Preparatory Cook, is responsible for providing a supportive role to kitchen staff in the preparation of meals and ingredients. Their duties include organizing and labeling food items in storage closets, performing tasks like chopping ingredients and sanitizing their work station during and after service.

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Prep Cook duties and responsibilities

Prep Cooks perform various food preparation, cooking and cleaning tasks to ensure the kitchen remains efficient in creating and delivering dishes for patrons. Their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Completing all tasks, in order, on the prep list from the Head Chef or other kitchen manager
  • Labeling and stocking all ingredients on easily accessible shelves
  • Washing, chopping and sorting ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meats
  • Measuring quantities of seasonings and other cooking ingredients
  • Parboiling food, reducing sauces and starting first steps in various dishes
  • Cleaning dishes, washing cooking utensils and cookware, taking out the trash and sanitizing kitchen
  • Adhering to all relevant nutrition and sanitary regulations and standards 
  • Keeping track of ingredient inventory and collaborating with other kitchen and management staff to order resupply
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What does a Prep Cook do?

Prep Cooks typically work for restaurants, event venues or catering companies to ensure food quality and timely delivery of dishes to restaurant-goers. They work closely with other kitchen staff to complete orders by gathering necessary ingredients and distributing them to different stations throughout the kitchen. Their job is to wash dishes, oversee specific cooking tasks and take inventory of produce to determine ordering needs. They may also be responsible for helping Waiters deliver food to restaurant-goers and clean tables after guests leave.

Prep Cook skills and qualifications

Prep Cooks use soft skills, role-specific hard skills and industry knowledge to maintain quality and efficiency standards. Their skills and qualifications include:

  • Superior dexterity skills to operate cutting tools quickly and safely
  • Keen understanding of industry-standard best cooking and preparation practices
  • Familiarity with safe and sanitary food handling and preparation
  • Certified in proper food handling, typically through a ServSafe Certification
  • Good math skills with a clear understanding of cooking measurements
  • Strong sense of smell and taste
  • Excellent organizational, time management and multitasking skills
  • Great collaboration and teamwork skills
  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment

Prep Cook salary expectations

A Prep Cook makes an average of $12.41 per hour. Pay rate may depend on a candidate’s level of education, experience and geographical location.

Prep Cook education and training requirements

Prep Cook candidates are likely to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some candidates may have completed a vocational culinary program, resulting in a professional certificate or diploma. Other candidates may have completed an associate degree in culinary arts, culinary science or a specialized culinary training program, often through a community college, technical school or culinary training school.

In all culinary training programs, candidates train under experienced professionals, training in proper cooking, preparation and plating techniques and flavor combination. Many candidates with culinary education and training may be able to begin work with little-to-no additional training.

Prep Cook experience requirements

Prep Cooks with recent culinary education and/or training have gained practical experience in the classroom and may also have completed an apprenticeship or internship in a professional kitchen. Experienced Prep Cook candidates may have a few or many years of experience and require little-to-no additional on-the-job training. Candidates may even have experience in another kitchen-assistance role or in a restaurant, like as a Busser, Host or Waiter. Candidates with no culinary education or previous kitchen experience may require on-the-job training to develop quality techniques in the kitchen.

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Frequently asked questions about Prep Cooks

 

What is the difference between a Prep Cook and a Line Cook?

The difference between a Prep Cook and a Line Cook is that a Line Cook holds more seniority and the two roles have differing responsibilities. For example, the Line Cook is responsible for overseeing dishes cooked on stovetops in pots or pans or dishes cooked in the oven. In contrast, Prep Cooks perform a variety of standard tasks like retrieving items from the pantry or fridge and portioning out ingredients. Prep Cooks often assist Line Cooks in providing them with clean cooking utensils and ingredients to add to their dishes.

 

What are the daily duties of a Prep Cook?

On a typical day, a Prep Cook arrives before the start of service. They review the storeroom, walk-in fridge and freezer to check for low-stock items. Prep Cooks also help staff unload produce from delivery trucks and store them away. Throughout service, they switch between multiple jobs to assist the kitchen staff as needed. This includes washing dishes, bringing pots to boil, chopping vegetables, measuring portions and delivering produce to different stations for Cooks to add to their dishes. 

After service ends, Prep Cooks help by washing remaining dishes, cleaning off kitchen surfaces, mopping floors and placing clean utensils and dishes back in the appropriate places. They also record remaining produce inventory and provide a list of supplies to management for them to order.

 

What qualities make a good Prep Cook?

A good Prep Cook enjoys working as part of a team and supporting others in their duties. They have common cooking knowledge that enables them to cook meat, identify spices, chop vegetables and operate various kitchen appliances. They also have excellent verbal communication that allows them to call out orders and relay their progress on particular tasks. 

Further, a good Prep Cook remains calm under pressure, especially during the peak of service. This is an important quality for Prep Cooks to have as it ensures they complete their duties correctly, even in chaotic moments. Prep Cooks also need to have excellent organizational habits that allow them to organize and label produce to make them easy for kitchen staff to find.

 

Who does a Prep Cook report to?

A Prep Cook typically reports directly to the Sous Chef to receive instructions about their job duties. Prep Cooks may also report to the Head Chef or Kitchen Manager. Prep Cooks typically communicate with these individuals to identify inventory needs or receive their work schedule.

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