Line Cook: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Line cooks are employed by many restaurants and prepare much of the food that comes out of the kitchen. They typically work under a head chef or sous chef. Formal education is not required for this position, but prospective line cooks may wish to enter a culinary program for formal training and to improve advancement opportunities.
Line Cook Job Description
Line cooks, also known as assistant cooks, are responsible for much of the actual food production and plating within a full-service restaurant. Each line cook is typically assigned a place on the line, such as the grill, stove or vegetable prep area, and is responsible for cooking that specific portion of the meal.
In addition to playing a large part in the actual production of each meal, line cooks typically have several duties that revolve around helping the kitchen stay clean and operational. Depending on the size of a kitchen, a line cook may be required to help clean the kitchen after and between meals. Many kitchens employ prep chefs who are in charge of preparing the food to be cooked for each meal, but line cooks may help with the cutting, precooking and marinating.
There are no formal requirements for line cooks due to the wide variety of restaurants and their needs; however, formal training can be helpful for securing a job or career advancement. At upscale restaurants, a line cook may be expected to have completed some culinary arts training. Programs are available from community colleges, vocational schools and culinary institutes. They may last several months or years and may lead to a certificate or degree. Some schools offer training programs specifically for line cooks culminating in a certificate. Coursework covers culinary arts professionalism, sanitation, cooking and baking skills.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many restaurants look for work experience when hiring a line cook, and food preparers may advance to line cook positions (www.bls.gov). It's also important that line cooks work within the regulations of the given state they're in. Most states require kitchen workers to obtain a food handler's permit. These permits certify carriers to work with and prepare food for others and are usually obtained by attending a short class and paying a fee. Industry certification is also available from the American Culinary Federation.
The BLS reported that cook positions were expected to increase 8% from 2010-2020, which was slower than average. Those with culinary arts training should have the best job prospects. Although there are a variety of potential job opportunities, positions at upscale restaurants come with intense competition. Restaurant cooks earned a mean salary of $23,300 per year in May 2012, according to the BLS. All other categories of cooks (exempting restaurant, short order and cafeteria cooks) made an average yearly wage of $25,310 the same year.
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