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Become A Head Cook

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Working As A Head Cook

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • $38,109

    Average Salary

What Does A Head 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.

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How To Become A Head 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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Average Length of Employment
First Cook 3.9 years
Cook Supervisor 3.3 years
Head Cook 3.0 years
Cook/Baker 3.0 years
Cooking Chef 3.0 years
Cook/Trainer 2.9 years
Lead Cook 2.7 years
Dietary Cook 2.4 years
Line Cook 2.0 years
Cook 1.9 years
Breakfast Cook 1.9 years
Assistant Cook 1.9 years
Grill Cook 1.6 years
Prep Cook 1.6 years
Cook/Dishwasher 1.6 years
Pizza Cook 1.5 years
Fry Cook 1.2 years
Top Careers Before Head Cook
Cook 22.2%
Line Cook 12.5%
Cashier 8.8%
Prep Cook 6.2%
Manager 5.1%
Chef 3.0%
Sous Chef 2.9%
Server 2.8%
Waitress 2.2%
Supervisor 2.1%
Grill Cook 2.1%
Lead Cook 2.1%
Top Careers After Head Cook
Cook 20.2%
Line Cook 10.3%
Cashier 5.8%
Manager 5.5%
Prep Cook 5.0%
Chef 5.0%
Sous Chef 4.9%
Lead Cook 3.1%
Supervisor 2.7%
Head Chef 2.7%
Server 2.6%
Grill Cook 2.6%

Do you work as a Head Cook?

Head Cook Demographics

Gender

Male

59.5%

Female

39.0%

Unknown

1.5%
Ethnicity

White

65.5%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Black or African American

10.8%

Asian

6.0%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

59.5%

French

7.0%

German

5.4%

Italian

4.9%

Japanese

3.8%

Greek

3.2%

Chinese

2.7%

Portuguese

1.6%

Arabic

1.6%

Swedish

1.1%

Mandarin

1.1%

Korean

1.1%

Thai

1.1%

Filipino

1.1%

Albanian

1.1%

Tagalog

1.1%

Polish

1.1%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Indonesian

0.5%

Dari

0.5%
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Head Cook Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

18.5%

Johnson & Wales University

8.5%

Kaplan University

7.0%

University of North Dakota

6.7%

Culinary Institute of America

5.0%

Ashford University

5.0%

Kirkwood Community College

5.0%

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

5.0%

Hinds Community College

4.7%

Delgado Community College

4.1%

Johnson County Community College

3.5%

Baker College

3.5%

Ultimate Medical Academy - Clearwater

3.2%

Des Moines Area Community College

3.2%

Essex County College

3.2%

Missouri State University

2.9%

University of Florida

2.9%

Sinclair Community College

2.6%

Liberty University

2.6%

Utah Valley University

2.6%
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Majors

Culinary Arts

23.0%

Business

20.2%

General Studies

5.6%

Criminal Justice

5.5%

Hospitality Management

4.3%

Accounting

4.0%

Management

3.9%

Health Care Administration

3.9%

Computer Science

3.7%

Psychology

3.7%

Nursing

3.3%

Food And Nutrition

2.7%

Medical Assisting Services

2.6%

Automotive Technology

2.6%

Education

2.2%

Liberal Arts

2.1%

Graphic Design

2.0%

Precision Metal Working

1.8%

Communication

1.6%

English

1.6%
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Degrees

Other

44.1%

Associate

21.3%

Bachelors

20.8%

Certificate

8.2%

Diploma

2.7%

Masters

2.1%

License

0.7%

Doctorate

0.2%
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Real Head Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Head Cook JK Grill DBA Le Marais New York, NY Feb 10, 2015 $79,997
Head Cook, Mexican Cuisine BDD Page Ave Restaurant Corp D/B/A Cabo New York, NY May 05, 2016 $66,742
Head Cook, Spanish Cuisine Coamex Restaurant Inc. Jackson, NY Dec 31, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine Taro Rest. Inc. D/B/A Due Restaurant New York, NY Jun 02, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine 289 Bleecker Restaurant LLC New York, NY Aug 28, 2015 $66,742
Head Cook, Continental Cuisine Guapo Bodega New York, NY Sep 18, 2015 $66,742
Chef & Head Cooks Pan Asia Cafe N Grille Braintree Town, MA Nov 25, 2015 $66,664
Chef or Head Cook Pepe West 48TH Street, LLC D/B/A La Masseria New York, NY Sep 10, 2015 $66,518
Chef and Head Cook Mskan Inc. Birmingham, AL Jan 03, 2016 $65,000
Head Cook Toros Restaurant Clifton, NJ Nov 20, 2015 $64,501
Head Cook, Italian Cuisine Luma Restaurant Inc. New York, NY Aug 03, 2016 $64,501
Head Cook Cafe Joelle, Inc. Sayville, NY May 20, 2015 $64,168
Chef and Head Cook Yakiniq San Francisco, CA Sep 10, 2015 $62,213
Head Cook (Russian Cuisine) Roxy E, LLC Sunny Isles Beach, FL Apr 10, 2015 $52,000
Head Cook Ah-Kai Sushi & Grill, LLC Goodyear, AZ Jan 12, 2015 $51,690
Head Cook Style Concept Studio Washington, DC Oct 20, 2015 $51,667
Head Cook Bistrot Du Coin Washington, DC Oct 27, 2015 $51,667
Head Cook-Korean Food Texas Moon Group, Inc. Dallas, TX Sep 02, 2016 $51,000
Japanese Food Head Cook Lucky Food Inc. Lynnwood, WA Jul 14, 2015 $49,795
Specialty Korean Head Cook Spoon House, Inc. Champaign, IL Aug 07, 2016 $49,500
Head Cook-Korean Food Texas Mercury, Inc. Dallas, TX Oct 05, 2016 $49,200
Head Cook/Mediterranean Cuisine Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Mar 23, 2016 $45,760
Head Cook/Mediterrranean Cuisine Persian Mediterranean Cuisine DBA: Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Feb 23, 2016 $45,760
Head Cook/Mediterrranean Cuisine Persian Mediterranean Cuisine DBA: Mirage Restaurant, Inc. Clearwater, FL Sep 16, 2015 $45,760
Chef/Head Cook Amici, Inc. Kennebunk, ME May 15, 2015 $45,622
Head Cook Gonna Enterprise, Inc. Paramount, CA Nov 18, 2015 $45,448
Head Cooks Oasis Foodservice, Inc. Blacksburg, VA Feb 17, 2016 $45,000
Chef/Head Cook Mai Thai Restaurant Westmont, IL Jul 07, 2015 $44,907
Pakistani Indian Head Cook Naan-N-Curry LLC Renton, WA Jun 10, 2016 $44,866 -
$46,000

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Top Skills for A Head Cook

  1. Kitchen Equipment
  2. Meal Prep
  3. Prep Cooks
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Utilized computer software specific to nutrition analysis, menu planning, scheduled maintenance and repairs for kitchen equipment.
  • Manage cooks for the operation on a 365 Yearly basis and use of donations and purchased food for meal Preparation.
  • Prepared and cooked all food that was ordered while also managing the kitchen area, and prep cooks.
  • Prepared restaurant menu items to customers specifications.
  • Followed food safety procedures according to company policies and health and sanitation regulations.

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Top 10 Best States for Head Cooks

  1. Nevada
  2. New Jersey
  3. Vermont
  4. Hawaii
  5. Minnesota
  6. Texas
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Wyoming
  9. Colorado
  10. Nebraska
  • (399 jobs)
  • (827 jobs)
  • (83 jobs)
  • (150 jobs)
  • (1,023 jobs)
  • (3,201 jobs)
  • (123 jobs)
  • (65 jobs)
  • (1,046 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)

Top Head Cook Employers

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