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Become A Lead Cook

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Working As A Lead Cook

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $41,500

    Average Salary

What Does A Lead Cook Do

A Lead Cook supervises the operations of the kitchen staff. They ensure that kitchen areas meet health and safety requirements as mandated by law.

How To Become A Lead Cook

Most chefs and head cooks learn their skills through work experience. Others receive training at a community college, technical school, culinary arts school, or 4-year college. A small number learn through apprenticeship programs or in the Armed Forces.


Although postsecondary education is not required for chefs and head cooks, many attend programs at community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and 4-year colleges. Candidates are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter these programs.

Students in culinary programs spend most of their time in kitchens, practicing their cooking skills. Programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Most training programs also require students to gain experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship or apprenticeship program.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most chefs and head cooks start working in other positions, such as line cooks, learning cooking skills from the chefs they work for. Many spend years working in kitchens before gaining enough experience to be promoted to chef or head cook positions.


Some chefs and head cooks train on the job, where they learn the same skills as in a formal education program. Some train in mentorship programs, where they work under the direction of an experienced chef. Executive chefs, head cooks, and sous chefs who work in upscale restaurants often have many years of training and experience.

Some chefs and head cooks learn through apprenticeship programs sponsored by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, or trade unions in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship programs generally last 2 years and combine instructions and on-the-job training. Apprentices must complete at least 1,000 hours of both instructions and paid on-the-job training. Courses typically cover food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. Apprentices spend the rest of their training learning practical skills in a commercial kitchen under a chef's supervision.

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

  • Minimum age of 17
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Passing grade in substance abuse screening

Some chefs and head cooks receive formal training in the Armed Forces or from individual hotel or restaurant chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification can show competence and lead to advancement and higher pay. The American Culinary Federation certifies personal chefs, in addition to various levels of chefs, such as certified sous chefs or certified executive chefs. Certification standards are based primarily on work-related experience and formal training. Minimum work experience for certification can range from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the level of certification.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Executive chefs and chefs who run their own restaurant need to understand the restaurant business. They should know how to budget for supplies, set prices, and manage workers so that the restaurant is profitable.

Communication skills. Chefs must communicate their instructions clearly and effectively to staff so that customers’ orders are prepared correctly.

Creativity. Chefs and head cooks need to be creative in order to develop and prepare interesting and innovative recipes. They should be able to use various ingredients to create appealing meals for their customers.

Dexterity. Chefs and head cooks need excellent manual dexterity, including proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.

Leadership skills. Chefs and head cooks must have the ability to motivate kitchen staff and develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with them.

Physical stamina. Chefs and head cooks often work long shifts and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet, overseeing the preparation and serving of meals.

Sense of taste and smell. Chefs and head cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell in order to inspect food quality and to design meals that their customers enjoy.

Time-management skills. Chefs and head cooks must efficiently manage their time and the time of their staff. They ensure that meals are prepared correctly and that customers are served on time, especially during busy hours.

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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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Lead Cook Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Italian

  • German

  • Portuguese

  • Japanese

  • Polish

  • Mandarin

  • Arabic

  • Vietnamese

  • Korean

  • Thai

  • Chinese

  • Hawaiian

  • Cheyenne

  • Hebrew

  • Indonesian

  • Hungarian

  • Ukrainian

  • Russian

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Lead Cook Education

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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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Top Lead Cook Skills

  1. Kitchen Equipment
  2. Food Preparation Areas
  3. Safe Food
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Sanitized work areas, kitchen equipment, serve ware and utensils.
  • Inspected food preparation areas to ensure safe, sanitary food handling practices.
  • Understand and follow procedures and processes for safe food handling and service.
  • Worked under pressure while maintaining great customer service to customers needs.
  • Prepared food items consistently and in compliance with recipes, portioning, cooking and waste control guidelines.

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