What is a Cook

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.

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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.

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And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Sodexo Operations Jobs (1,261)
  2. Aramark Jobs (1,307)
  3. IHOP Jobs (1,431)
  4. Darden Restaurants Jobs (889)
  5. Denny's Jobs (1,559)
Average Salary
$30,564
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
168,684
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Cook

Cooks in America make an average salary of $30,564 per year or $15 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $37,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $24,000 per year.
Average Salary
$30,564
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12 Cook Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Cook Resume

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

View Cook Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Sodexo Operations Jobs (1,261)
  2. Aramark Jobs (1,307)
  3. IHOP Jobs (1,431)
  4. Darden Restaurants Jobs (889)
  5. Denny's Jobs (1,559)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Cook Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Cook templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Cook resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Cook Resume
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Cook Demographics

Cook Gender Statistics

male

70.2 %

female

29.8 %

Cook Ethnicity Statistics

White

61.7 %

Hispanic or Latino

15.7 %

Black or African American

10.9 %

Cook Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

68.8 %

French

9.0 %

Italian

4.0 %
Job Openings

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Cook Education

Cook Majors

16.4 %

Cook Degrees

High School Diploma

45.5 %

Associate

20.1 %

Bachelors

15.6 %
Job Openings

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Online Courses For Cook That You May Like

Cook Real Food: How to Make Simple Plant-Based Meals
udemy
4.6
(1,117)

Learn how to cook whole plant foods to make quick, easy, and healthy vegan meals for practical everyday eating...

Nutrition and Health: Food Safety
edX (Global)

Everyday reports of food scandals and recalls are published. One day it’s scary bacteria in meat, and another day it’s dangerous pesticides in fruits. According to some, meat needs to be cooked well to prevent food-borne illness while others warn not to heat food to prevent the formation of poisonous substances. Many consumers worry about the conflicting and confusing messages about food hazards. This nutrition and health course will teach you about the risk factors associated with food and...

OSHA Safety Pro: Personal Protective Equipment
udemy
4.6
(1,401)

Impress management or get that job with you your ability to display life and dollar saving work place safety practices...

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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%

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, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Cooks make the most in Hawaii with an average salary of $40,265. Whereas in New Jersey and New York, they would average $37,130 and $36,287, respectively. While Cooks would only make an average of $35,992 in Washington, 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. Connecticut

Total Cook Jobs:
505
Highest 10% Earn:
$44,000
Location Quotient:
0.82
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. 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

3. Washington

Total Cook Jobs:
843
Highest 10% Earn:
$44,000
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
Full List Of Best States For Cooks

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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 $23,060. Sonic Drive-In follows up with an average salary of $25,495, and then comes Burger King with an average of $21,889. 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 One Hope United, Campus Auxiliary Services-Suny Geneseo, and Onehope Wine

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Becoming a Cook FAQs

How long does it take to become a Cook?

It takes 2 years of professional experience to become a cook. That is the time it takes to learn specific cook skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education.

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Do cooks make good money?

No, cooks usually do not make good money. The average annual wage for restaurant cooks is under $30,000. Entry-level positions start at $25,350 per year, while most experienced workers earn $38,090 per year.

Compensation is based on your experience in the field, as well as many other deciding factors. Working as a cook in casinos, corporate facilities, and cruise lines will most likely bring in more money.

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How do I become a cook with no experience?

You can become a cook with no experience by working your way up the kitchen hierarchy. You can start as a dishwasher or a prep cook and make your way to the position you wish to have.

By starting at a lower position in a restaurant, you can build a relationship with management. You are more likely to achieve a cooking position with no experience if you work up to it.

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How do I start a career in cooking?

To start a career in cooking, you will need to go to culinary school. Going to culinary school is especially valuable in learning how to become a cooking professional. If you don't know what area of the field you want to work in most, culinary school is an excellent way to figure that out.

Culinary Programs Cover These Aspects:

  • Menu Planning

  • Food Sanitation

  • Purchasing Inventory

  • Staffing Cooking Stations

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What qualifications do you need to be a cook?

To be a cook, you will need qualifications such as culinary experience, knowledge of food safety procedures, and personal training.

Many businesses will not hire a cook that has no experience. It's beneficial to have some experience working in the food industry or a kitchen professionally.

Some personal characteristics will qualify you to be a cook as well. You must be physically able to stand on your feet for long periods, as well as able to work long hours.

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