Restaurant Cook Job Description
Restaurant cooks season, cook and prepare dishes in restaurants. Dishes may include meats, soups, vegetables, desserts, and other meals.
In large or busy restaurants, cooks are normally assigned a station in which to work. Each station specializes in preparing specific types of food. Entry level cooks work at the simplest stations (often as salad or fry cooks), and slowly move on to work at more advanced stations as they gain experience.
Restaurant cooks need to be well organized and able to handle multiple tasks at the same time. During rush hours, the waitstaff may drop off dozens of orders within a few minutes. Cooks have to keep track of what was ordered and which orders came in first so they can keep the flow of the restaurant moving quickly and efficiently.
During slow periods, restaurant cooks spend their time cleaning and restocking their stations. After the restaurant closes, they have to make sure that the kitchen is clean before clocking out. In busy restaurants, it can take hours to thoroughly clean the kitchen after close.
Working as a restaurant cook can be a great job for students who need to find a job that won’t interfere with their school schedule. For those who dream of being a chef or owning their own restaurant one day, working in this occupation can be a great introduction to restaurant operations.
Work Environment and Schedule
The work environment for restaurant cooks can be stressful at times, particularly when a restaurant is especially busy during a lunch or dinner rush.
Managing many different orders at the same time can be difficult, and waiters and waitresses are sometimes impatient. Maintaining a high level of focus and patience for long stretches of time can be mentally demanding.
This can be a physically demanding occupation as well. Restaurant kitchens are hot and noisy. Cooks spend their entire shift working on their feet, and have to move very quickly from one task to another. Heavy lifting is sometimes prepared during prep and cleaning times.
Because most cooking instruments are either sharp or hot, restaurant cooks get hurt on the job from time to time. Taking safety precautions can help minimize the risk of injury, but it’s rare to meet a cook who hasn’t suffered at least a few cuts or burns.
Most cooks work full time, but there are plenty of part time positions available as well. Depending on the restaurant you work in, shifts can include early morning or late evening hours.
Since most restaurants are busiest on nights and weekends, cooks are normally expected to work during those times.
How to Become a Restaurant Cook
Most restaurant cooks are trained on the job. They normally start their training by learning to perform basic tasks in the kitchen while working under the supervision of a more experienced cook. Training normally includes basic cooking techniques, as well as sanitary and safety procedures.
Most cooks start out by making basic foods. In some restaurants, they start by making salads or working as a fry cook until they become experienced enough to move down the line into more advanced positions.
In some cases, cooks get their start in a restaurant by working as a dishwasher or busser. These positions provide exposure to restaurant operations, and can lead to many opportunities within a restaurant.
There are currently 915,400 restaurant cooks in the United States, with 31,290 new restaurant cook job openings created each year.
Restaurant Cook jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Restaurant Cook Salaries
Restaurant Cook salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most restaurant cooks make between $18,600 – $27,000 per year, or $8.96 – $12.98 per hour.