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Become A Line Cook, Prep Cook

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Working As A Line Cook, Prep 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

  • $23,100

    Average Salary

What Does A Line Cook, Prep 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 Line Cook, Prep 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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Line Cook, Prep Cook jobs

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Average Length of Employment
First Cook 3.8 years
Mess Cook 3.2 years
Master Cook 3.0 years
Head Cook 3.0 years
Cooking Chef 2.9 years
Cook/Trainer 2.8 years
Cook/Baker 2.8 years
Lead Cook 2.7 years
Dietary Cook 2.3 years
Lead Line Cook 2.3 years
Dinner Cook 2.2 years
Short Order Cook 2.1 years
Banquet Cook 2.0 years
Line Cook 2.0 years
Assistant Cook 2.0 years
Cook/Server 2.0 years
Cold Meat Cook 1.9 years
Line Chef 1.9 years
Cook 1.9 years
Grill Cook/Prep 1.8 years
Breakfast Cook 1.8 years
Kitchen Cook 1.8 years
Deli Cook 1.7 years
Prep Chef 1.7 years
Back Line Cook 1.6 years
Prep Cook 1.6 years
Grill Cook 1.6 years
Cook/Dishwasher 1.6 years
Specialty Cook 1.5 years
Pizza Cook 1.4 years
Pantry Cook 1.3 years
Fry Cook 1.1 years
Top Employers Before
Line Cook 23.7%
Prep Cook 11.1%
Cook 10.2%
Cashier 8.7%
Server 3.9%
Chef 2.5%
Manager 2.3%
Grill Cook 2.3%
Food Prep 2.0%
Sous Chef 1.7%
Internship 1.7%
Top Employers After
Line Cook 27.5%
Cook 11.7%
Prep Cook 9.3%
Sous Chef 5.0%
Cashier 4.6%
Chef 4.2%
Server 3.0%
Grill Cook 2.5%
Manager 2.2%
Lead Cook 2.2%

Line Cook, Prep Cook Demographics

Gender

Male

71.5%

Female

26.9%

Unknown

1.6%
Ethnicity

White

79.1%

Hispanic or Latino

12.9%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

1.4%

Black or African American

0.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

67.6%

French

10.8%

Italian

5.6%

German

2.8%

Japanese

2.8%

Tagalog

1.9%

Russian

1.9%

Portuguese

0.9%

Filipino

0.9%

Korean

0.9%

Arabic

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.5%

Hebrew

0.5%

Hmong

0.5%

Mongolian

0.5%

Polish

0.5%

Mandarin

0.5%
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Line Cook, Prep Cook Education

Schools

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

14.9%

Johnson & Wales University

14.6%

Culinary Institute of America

9.2%

University of Phoenix

6.0%

Grand Rapids Community College

4.6%

Cuyahoga Community College

4.3%

Valencia College

4.0%

Pima Community College

3.7%

Erie Community College

3.7%

Trident Technical College

3.4%

Kirkwood Community College

3.4%

Saint Petersburg College

3.4%

Stratford University

3.2%

Delgado Community College

3.2%

Central Michigan University

3.2%

Kaplan University

3.2%

Lansing Community College

3.2%

Anne Arundel Community College

3.2%

Schenectady County Community College

2.9%

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

2.9%
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Majors

Culinary Arts

37.7%

Business

14.6%

General Studies

6.1%

Criminal Justice

4.1%

Hospitality Management

4.0%

Psychology

3.3%

Computer Science

3.1%

Automotive Technology

2.9%

Health Care Administration

2.8%

Nursing

2.7%

Management

2.3%

Communication

2.2%

Graphic Design

2.2%

Liberal Arts

2.1%

Biology

1.8%

Kinesiology

1.7%

Accounting

1.6%

Food And Nutrition

1.6%

English

1.6%

Precision Metal Working

1.5%
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Degrees

Other

46.9%

Associate

22.9%

Bachelors

18.5%

Certificate

7.7%

Diploma

2.4%

Masters

1.2%

License

0.3%

Doctorate

0.1%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Line Cook, Prep Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Prep/Line Cook West End Ale House and Oyster Bar LLC Provincetown, MA May 01, 2016 $31,806
Line/Prep Cook Wade Hampton Golf Club, Inc. Cashiers, NC Apr 20, 2015 $27,131
Line/Prep Cook Wade Hampton Golf Club Inc. Cashiers, NC Apr 26, 2016 $25,566
Line/Prep Cook Wade Hampton Golf Club NC Apr 18, 2014 $25,044
Line Cook/Prep Cook Wagon Wheel South Inc. Palm Bay, FL Jan 04, 2010 $25,044
Line/Prep Cook Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club Inc. FL Oct 01, 2014 $24,835
Line/Prep Cooks L. Jireh, Inc. Grand Marais, MN Apr 11, 2016 $24,710
Line/Prep Cook Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club Orchid, FL Oct 01, 2016 $24,543
Line/Prep Cooks L. Jireh, Inc. MN May 07, 2014 $22,122
Line/Prep Cooks L, Jirah, Inc. MN May 07, 2014 $22,122

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Top Skills for A Line Cook, Prep Cook

KitchenEquipmentColdFoodItemsMenuItemsCompliantCustomerServiceSaladStationDishwasherFoodPrepItemsSautPantryResponsibilitiesiProperFoodPreparationFoodOrdersExpoHighVolumeStorageAreasKnifeSkillsSafeFoodHighFoodQualityNecessarySuppliesSafetyStandards

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Top Line Cook, Prep Cook Skills

  1. Kitchen Equipment
  2. Cold Food Items
  3. Menu Items Compliant
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Used knowledge to fix problems with kitchen equipment that broke down, and maintained a functional workplace.
  • Prepare a variety of foods including meats, poultry, vegetables, and cold food items.
  • Served menu items compliant with established standards.
  • Cash Handling and Customer Service Daily Food Preparation Conducting Interviews Shift Control Assistance Managing Beer Orders/Paperwork
  • Help create food for lunch and dinner service for the salad station, oven and the raw bar stations.

Top Line Cook, Prep Cook Employers

Line Cook, Prep Cook Videos

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