Find The Best Cook Jobs For You

Where do you want to work?

0 selections

Cook Careers

So, get this - as a cook, you'll spend a lot of your time cooking. Crazy, we know. But that's not all you'll be doing. In addition to the food actually being cooked properly, most people like it to be seasoned. Between the preparation and seasoning, this is where you get to be creative.

When you think of a cook, you probably think of a restaurant setting but in actuality, cooks are needed in a lot of different places, this includes schools, hospitals, and even private households. One thing that is consistent is the inconsistent schedule.

Sometimes you'll work a night shift, other times you'll work super early in the morning. You may even have to work on a holiday. And don't be surprised with a weekend shift. The good news is that formal education isn't really necessary. Sometimes culinary creativity comes naturally.

What Does a Cook Do

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.

Duties

Cooks typically do the following:

  • Ensure the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes
  • Bake, grill, or fry meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Boil and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Arrange, garnish, and sometimes serve food
  • Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
  • Cook, handle, and store food or ingredients

Cooks usually work under the direction of chefs, head cooks, or food service managers. Large restaurants and food service establishments often have multiple menus and large kitchen staffs. Teams of restaurant cooks, sometimes called assistant cooks or line cooks, work at assigned stations equipped with the necessary types of stoves, grills, pans, and ingredients.

Job titles often reflect the principal ingredient cooks prepare or the type of cooking they do—vegetable cook, fry cook, or grill cook, for example.

Cooks use a variety of kitchen equipment, including broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders.

The responsibilities of cooks vary depending on where they work, the size of the facility, and the level of service offered. However, in all establishments, they follow established sanitation procedures when handling food. For example, they store food and ingredients at the correct temperatures to prevent bacterial growth.

The following are examples of types of cooks:

Restaurant cooks prepare a wide selection of dishes and cook most orders individually. Some restaurant cooks may order supplies, set menu prices, and plan the daily menu.

Fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, to be kept warm until served. For more information on workers who prepare and serve items in fast-food restaurants, see the profiles on food preparation workers and food and beverage serving and related workers.

Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. For each meal, they prepare a large quantity of a limited number of entrees, vegetables, and desserts, according to preset menus. These cooks usually prepare meals in advance and seldom take special orders.

Short-order cooks prepare foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service and quick food preparation. They usually prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time.

Private household cooks, sometimes called personal chefs, plan and prepare meals in private homes, according to the client’s tastes and dietary needs. They order groceries and supplies, clean the kitchen, and wash dishes and utensils. They also may cater parties, holiday meals, luncheons, and other social events. Private household cooks typically work for one full-time client, although some are self-employed or employed by an agency, regularly making meals for multiple clients.

How To Become a Cook

Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training and work-related experience. Although no formal education is required, some restaurant cooks and private household cooks attend culinary schools. Others attend vocational or apprenticeship programs.

Education

Vocational cooking schools, professional culinary institutes, and some colleges offer culinary programs for aspiring cooks. These programs generally last from a few months to 2 years and may offer courses in advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines, and various cooking styles. To enter these programs, candidates may be required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Depending on the type and length of the program, graduates generally qualify for entry-level positions as a restaurant cook.

Training

Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. Trainees generally first learn kitchen basics and workplace safety and then learn how to handle and cook food.

Some cooks learn through an apprenticeship program. Professional culinary institutes, industry associations, and trade unions may sponsor such programs for cooks. Typical apprenticeships last 1 year and combine technical training and work experience. Apprentices complete courses in food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. They also learn practical cooking skills under the supervision of an experienced chef.

The American Culinary Federation accredits more than 200 academic training programs and sponsors apprenticeships through these programs around the country. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 17
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Pass substance abuse screening

Some hotels, a number of restaurants, and the Armed Forces have their own training programs.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many cooks learn their skills through work-related experience. They typically start as a kitchen helper or food preparation worker, learning basic cooking skills before they advance to assistant cook or line cook positions. Some learn by working under the guidance of a more experienced cook.

Advancement

The American Culinary Federation certifies chefs, personal chefs, pastry chefs, and culinary administrators, among others. For cooks seeking advancement to higher level chef positions, certification can show accomplishment and lead to higher paying positions.

Advancement opportunities for cooks often depend on training, work experience, and the ability to prepare more complex dishes. Those who learn new cooking skills and who handle greater responsibility, such as supervising kitchen staff in the absence of a chef, often advance. Some cooks may train or supervise kitchen staff, and some may become head cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

Important Qualities

Comprehension. Cooks need to understand orders and follow recipes to prepare dishes correctly.

Customer-service skills. Restaurant and short-order cooks must be able to interact effectively with customers and handle special requests.

Dexterity. Cooks should have excellent hand–eye coordination. For example, they need to use proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.

Physical stamina. Cooks spend a lot of time standing in one place, cooking food over hot stoves, and cleaning work areas.

Sense of taste and smell. Cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell to prepare meals that customers enjoy.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

Average Salary
$27,996
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
47,748
Job Openings

Cook Career Paths

Top Careers Before Cook

Cashier
20.5 %

Top Careers After Cook

Cashier
15.6 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Cook

Cooks in America make an average salary of $27,996 per year or $13 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $36,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $21,000 per year.
Average Salary
$27,996

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Seattle, WA
Salary Range29k - 40k$35k$34,931
Newark, NJ
Salary Range27k - 39k$33k$33,233
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range27k - 38k$33k$32,864
Boston, MA
Salary Range27k - 37k$32k$32,126
Eugene, OR
Salary Range27k - 36k$32k$31,548
Washington, DC
Salary Range25k - 36k$31k$30,680
$21k
$40k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Culinary Professional/Cook/300 Bonus-Minnehaha Cafe
Culinary Professional/Cook/300 Bonus-Minnehaha Cafe
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$33,39203/31/2021
$33,392
Experienced Rounds Cook
Experienced Rounds Cook
Hale St. Tavern
Hale St. Tavern
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$35,47903/31/2021
$35,479
Cook
Heritage Specialty Foods
Heritage Specialty Foods
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$31,30503/31/2021
$31,305
Cook
Cook
Sonic
Sonic
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$26,08803/31/2021
$26,088
Cook
Cook
Schlotzsky's
Schlotzsky's
03/31/2021
03/31/2021
$20,87003/31/2021
$20,870
See More Recent Salaries

Calculate your salary

Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.

Cook Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Cook. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Cook Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Cook resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Cook Demographics

Gender

male

67.3 %

female

29.1 %

unknown

3.6 %

Ethnicity

White

53.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

20.2 %

Black or African American

13.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

68.8 %

French

9.0 %

Italian

4.0 %
See More Demographics

Cook Education

Majors

Business
16.0 %

Degrees

High School Diploma

33.7 %

Certificate

28.6 %

Associate

15.0 %
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Cook

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.1% of cooks listed kitchen equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and physical stamina are important as well.

  • Kitchen Equipment, 13.1%
  • Food Service, 13.0%
  • Menu Items, 10.4%
  • Communication, 8.9%
  • Food Safety, 8.1%
  • Other Skills, 46.5%
  • See All Cook Skills

Best States For a Cook

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a cook. The best states for people in this position are Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey, and Alaska. Cooks make the most in Hawaii with an average salary of $35,596. Whereas in Washington and New Jersey, they would average $34,289 and $33,043, respectively. While cooks would only make an average of $32,664 in Alaska, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Cook Jobs:
177
Highest 10% Earn:
$41,000
Location Quotient:
1.14
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Washington

Total Cook Jobs:
843
Highest 10% Earn:
$45,000
Location Quotient:
0.62
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. New Jersey

Total Cook Jobs:
1,014
Highest 10% Earn:
$46,000
Location Quotient:
0.69
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
View Full List

How Do Cook Rate Their Jobs?

Working as a Cook? Share your experience anonymously.
Rate
Do you work as a Cook?
Rate how you like work as Cook. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.
Rate

Top Cook Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ cooks and discovered their number of cook opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that McDonald's was the best, especially with an average salary of $19,072. Pizza Hut follows up with an average salary of $18,612, and then comes Burger King with an average of $18,347. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a cook. The employers include Sunrise Senior Living Management, Augustana Care, and Campus Auxiliary Services-Suny Geneseo

1. McDonald's
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$19,072
Cooks Hired: 
10,807+
2. Pizza Hut
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$18,612
Cooks Hired: 
7,019+
3. Burger King
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$18,347
Cooks Hired: 
5,906+
4. Sonic Drive-In
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$18,818
Cooks Hired: 
5,406+
5. KFC
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$18,471
Cooks Hired: 
5,398+
6. Buffalo Wild Wings
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$22,051
Cooks Hired: 
3,287+

Cook Videos