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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:
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Line Chef
Top Careers After Line Chef
Hispanic or Latino12.8%
Black or African American0.5%
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Johnson & Wales University30.2%
Culinary Institute of America14.1%
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts6.3%
Southern New Hampshire University4.4%
University of Rhode Island3.9%
Kirkwood Community College3.9%
Arizona Culinary Institute3.9%
Joliet Junior College2.9%
Monroe Community College2.9%
University of Phoenix2.9%
Manchester Community College2.4%
Henry Ford College2.4%
New England Culinary Institute2.4%
Western Technical College2.4%
Western Michigan University2.4%
University of Wisconsin - Stout2.0%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Line Chef||Bruce's Gourmet Catering, Inc.||CA||Sep 21, 2010||$31,931|
|Helper Cook||Italian Inn Restaurant||Hyattsville, MD||Feb 25, 2010||$31,201|
|Cook Helper||The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc.||Palm Beach, FL||Oct 01, 2016||$26,588|
|Cook Helper||MIZ-Zip's CAFE||Flagstaff, AZ||Feb 28, 2011||$25,044|
|Korean Cook Helper||Sushi Town Restaurant, Inc. DBA Sushi Dake||Anaheim, CA||Jul 28, 2015||$24,482|
|Cook Helper (Thai Specialty)||Thai Aroma, Inc.||Ellicott City, MD||Oct 19, 2015||$22,942|
|Cook Helper||KOHU Restaurant Enterprises Inc.||Urban Honolulu, HI||Jul 10, 2016||$22,500|
|Cook Helper||GG Cham Soot GOL, Inc.||Garden Grove, CA||Jul 10, 2015||$22,443|
|Cook Helper-American Style||Big Fish Seafood Bistro||Princeton, NJ||Sep 23, 2008||$22,268 -
|Cook Helper-American Style||Big Fish Seafood Bistro||Princeton, NJ||Mar 25, 2009||$22,268 -
|Cook Helper||The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc.||Palm Beach, FL||Oct 01, 2015||$22,206|
|Cook Helper||The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc.||FL||Oct 01, 2014||$22,122|
|Cook Helper||The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc.||FL||Oct 01, 2013||$22,122|
|Cook Helper||J.W. Dawit, Inc.||Aiea, HI||Dec 16, 2016||$21,600|
|Cook Helper||The Broadmoor Hotel, Inc.||CO||Apr 01, 2014||$21,037|
|Cook Helpers||Snowbird Corporation||UT||Nov 01, 2014||$20,327|
|Cook Helper||Snowbird Operations LLC||UT||Dec 09, 2015||$20,181|
|Cook Helper||E C Group Inc.||Centreville, VA||Oct 27, 2016||$20,000|
|Cook Helper||Kai Nan Tei Restaurant LLC Dba Han Yang Restaurant||Urban Honolulu, HI||Oct 25, 2016||$20,000|
|Cook Helper||Snowbird Operations LLC||UT||Dec 07, 2016||$19,952|
|Cook Helper||The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc. DBA The Breakers||FL||Oct 01, 2012||$19,827|
|Cook Helper||SMMJ Co Inc.||Urban Honolulu, HI||Oct 26, 2015||$17,680|
|Cook Helper||Ryant Hawaii Inc. Dba Sumo Sushi Hawaii||Urban Honolulu, HI||Jan 28, 2016||$17,680|
|Cook Helper||Sugar Bowl Restaurant||MI||Jun 15, 2011||$17,280|
|Cook's Helper||Skorpios, Inc. T/A Skorpios Charcoal Grill||Vienna, VA||Nov 08, 2016||$17,222|
|Cook Helper||Tara Thai||Charlottesville, VA||Apr 02, 2015||$17,118|
|Cook Helper||D.H.J. LLC||Purcellville, VA||Oct 29, 2015||$17,056|
|Cook's Helper||Alexandria Food Company, LLC||Alexandria, VA||Jul 10, 2015||$17,014|
|Cook Helper||Ramnarain L.C.||Rockville, MD||Jan 14, 2016||$16,848|
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