Cafeteria Cook Job Description

Cafeteria cooks prepare and cook large quantities of food. They normally work in schools, hospitals, buffet-style restaurants, and businesses that offer a cafeteria to their employees.

Unlike other types of cooks, cafeteria cooks almost never prepare food to order. Instead, they prepare large quantities of food that’s placed at a buffet or cafeteria line, and customers help themselves to what’s been prepared.

Cafeteria kitchens are often noisy and hot. These cooks have to work quickly with potentially dangerous items (like fire and knives), while taking the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of injury.

This can be a stressful occupation, particularly during busy hours. Cafeteria cooks have to prepare large quantities of food in a short amount of time, and there can be little time for breaks. In busy cafeteria settings (like those at casinos or on a cruise ship), they can remain busy for a very long stretch of time. In other settings (like schools), there is often more downtime between rushes.

Cafeteria workers spend the majority of their shifts working on their feet and moving around the kitchen. This isn’t really a physically demanding occupation, but it can still leave you exhausted at the end of a shift.

The working schedule for cafeteria workers varies greatly depending on the employer they work for. For example, those who work in school cafeterias are normally able to work during regular business hours, while those who work at a restaurant may often need to work on nights and weekends.

How to Become a Cafeteria Cook

Cafeteria cooks are normally trained on the job. Some employers may prefer candidates with a high school diploma, but one is not always required.

Entry level cafeteria cooks normally start their training by performing basic tasks around the kitchen. They prepare basic foods, and help more experienced workers as needed.

With time and experience, it’s possible to move into more advanced cooking positions or other areas of a cafeteria’s operations.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 391,790 cafeteria cooks in the United States, with 13,810 new cafeteria cook job openings created each year.

Cafeteria Cook jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Cafeteria Cook Salaries

Overall Salaries

Cafeteria Cook salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most cafeteria cooks make between $18,700 – $28,300 per year, or $8.97 – $13.60 per hour.

Updated: 05/04/2017

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