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Become A Lead Cook

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Working As A Lead 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

  • $41,500

    Average Salary

What Does A Lead 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 Lead 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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Lead Cook Jobs

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Lead Cook Career Paths

Lead Cook
Head Chef Chef/Kitchen Manager Executive Chef
Assistant Food Service Director
5 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Office Manager Event Coordinator
Catering Sales Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Lead Line Cook Kitchen Manager Dietary Manager
Certified Dietary Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Chef De Partie Chef Catering Manager
Director Of Catering
7 Yearsyrs
Chef Head Chef Executive Chef
Director Of Food And Beverage
9 Yearsyrs
Kitchen Supervisor Sous Chef Food Service Director
Director Of Food And Nutrition Services
10 Yearsyrs
Machine Operator Production Supervisor Purchasing Manager
Director Of Purchasing
10 Yearsyrs
Chef Executive Chef General Manager
District Manager
7 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Executive
District Sales Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Kitchen Manager Restaurant Manager
Food And Beverage Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Chef De Partie Pastry Chef Sous Chef
Food Production Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Sous Chef Chef Executive Chef
Food Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Lead Line Cook Sous Chef Executive Chef
Food Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Sous Chef Executive Chef
General Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef General Manager Account Executive
Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Chef De Cuisine Director Of Food And Beverage Assistant General Manager
Multi-Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Executive Chef Director Of Food And Beverage Assistant General Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
General Manager Account Manager Operations Manager
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Kitchen Supervisor Kitchen Manager Restaurant Manager
Restaurant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Kitchen Manager General Manager Account Executive
Sales Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
First Cook 3.9 years
Cook Manager 3.7 years
Chef Manager 3.6 years
Cook Supervisor 3.3 years
Head Chef 3.0 years
Lead Cook 3.0 years
Head Cook 3.0 years
Sous Chef 2.9 years
Kitchen Supervisor 2.6 years
Chef 2.5 years
Lead Line Cook 2.3 years
Kitchen Lead 2.2 years
Banquet Cook 2.1 years
Breakfast Cook 1.9 years
Assistant Cook 1.9 years
Pantry Cook 1.3 years
Top Employers Before
Cook 20.5%
Line Cook 15.2%
Sous Chef 8.1%
Chef 5.6%
Prep Cook 5.4%
Cashier 4.3%
Manager 3.3%
Head Cook 2.5%
Grill Cook 2.4%
Internship 2.3%
Supervisor 2.1%
Server 2.1%
Top Employers After
Cook 17.7%
Sous Chef 13.0%
Line Cook 9.9%
Chef 8.1%
Prep Cook 3.6%
Cashier 3.3%
Manager 3.0%
Supervisor 2.5%

Do you work as a Lead Cook?

Lead Cook Demographics

Gender

Male

68.9%

Female

29.4%

Unknown

1.7%
Ethnicity

White

62.9%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

11.2%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.4%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.1%

French

13.6%

Italian

7.9%

German

5.6%

Japanese

3.3%

Polish

2.3%

Portuguese

1.9%

Mandarin

1.4%

Korean

1.4%

Arabic

1.4%

Vietnamese

0.9%

Thai

0.9%

Chinese

0.9%

Hawaiian

0.5%

Cheyenne

0.5%

Dutch

0.5%

Indonesian

0.5%

Hungarian

0.5%

Ukrainian

0.5%

Turkish

0.5%
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Lead Cook Education

Schools

Johnson & Wales University

17.1%

University of Phoenix

12.2%

Culinary Institute of America

11.4%

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

11.2%

Delgado Community College

4.1%

Johnson County Community College

3.7%

Ashford University

3.7%

University of North Dakota

3.5%

Arizona Culinary Institute

3.3%

Kirkwood Community College

3.3%

Hinds Community College

3.1%

Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago

3.1%

Liberty University

2.9%

Kaplan University

2.7%

University of Southern Mississippi

2.5%

Sinclair Community College

2.5%

Sullivan University

2.5%

The Academy

2.5%

Boise State University

2.5%

Jackson State University

2.3%
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Majors

Culinary Arts

34.9%

Business

17.5%

Hospitality Management

5.9%

Criminal Justice

4.5%

General Studies

4.2%

Health Care Administration

3.9%

Management

3.5%

Psychology

2.9%

Food And Nutrition

2.5%

Computer Science

2.4%

Accounting

2.4%

Education

2.2%

Communication

2.1%

Liberal Arts

2.1%

Nursing

2.0%

Automotive Technology

1.5%

Graphic Design

1.5%

English

1.4%

Information Technology

1.4%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.3%
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Degrees

Other

40.4%

Associate

25.7%

Bachelors

20.5%

Certificate

7.3%

Diploma

3.0%

Masters

2.5%

License

0.4%

Doctorate

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Lead Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Lead Cook Lotus Group LLC Plymouth, MN Jan 13, 2016 $50,232
Lead Cook Vagabondo, Inc. DBA Mezza Luna Neptune Beach, FL May 20, 2010 $23,854
Lead Cook Se Llama Peru Provo, UT Feb 18, 2010 $23,187
Lead Cook Mu-Shu's Express Dining Colorado Springs, CO Apr 04, 2008 $21,914
Lead Cook Mu-Shu's Express Dining Colorado Springs, CO Mar 27, 2008 $21,914

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Top Skills for A Lead Cook

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  1. Kitchen Equipment
  2. Food Safety
  3. Prep Food
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted daily inspections and maintained food sanitation and kitchen equipment safety reports.
  • Certified food safety manager Skills Used Critical thinking Time management Education and Training Food production Active listening
  • Lead other cooks, prep food, clean up, and other duties that are assigned.
  • Managed wide variety of customer service and administrative tasks to resolve customer issues quickly and efficiently.
  • Prepared, cooked and presented food according to customers requirements Supervised and coordinated activities of cooks and workers.

How Would You Rate Working As a Lead Cook?

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Top Lead Cook Employers

Jobs From Top Lead Cook Employers

Lead Cook Videos

Line cooking!

Paul Gerard's WORK THE LINE featuring Anthony Bourdain & Tom Colicchio

Who Cooks Our Food? Ambrocio Ramirez, Manzanita Lead Cook

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