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Become A Specialty Cook

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Working As A Specialty 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

  • $32,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Specialty Cook Do

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.


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 Specialty 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.


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.


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.


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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Specialty Cook Typical Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
First Cook 3.9 years
Master Cook 3.5 years
Cook/Baker 3.1 years
Cook/Trainer 2.8 years
Lead Cook 2.8 years
Lunch Cook 2.4 years
Dinner Cook 2.3 years
Banquet Cook 2.1 years
Line Cook 2.1 years
Assistant Cook 2.0 years
Cook 2.0 years
Specialty Cook 2.0 years
Breakfast Cook 1.9 years
Kitchen Cook 1.8 years
Station Cook 1.7 years
Prep Cook 1.7 years
Snack Bar Cook 1.7 years
Top Careers Before Specialty Cook
Cook 19.5%
Line Cook 17.0%
Sous Chef 8.2%
Prep Cook 6.3%
Lead Cook 6.3%
Chef 4.4%
Grill Cook 3.8%
Server 2.5%
Supervisor 2.5%
Top Careers After Specialty Cook
Sous Chef 16.6%
Cook 16.0%
Line Cook 11.7%
Chef 9.8%
Lead Cook 5.5%
Line Chef 3.7%
Cashier 3.1%
Supervisor 2.5%
Head Cook 1.8%
Saucier 1.8%

Do you work as a Specialty Cook?

Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Penn National Gaming
Highest Paying City
Framingham, MA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
2.0 years
How much does a Specialty Cook make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Specialty Cook in the United States is $33,011 per year or $16 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $21,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $51,000.

Real Specialty Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Korean Specialty Cook K H Lee, Inc. Ann Arbor, MI Aug 12, 2015 $56,306
Japanese Specialty Cook K H Lee, Inc. Ann Arbor, MI Sep 22, 2015 $56,306
Cook, Brazilian Specialty Tapas Bites LLC New York, NY Oct 01, 2016 $55,097
Indian Specialty Cook Jai Bhole Nath Inc. Bellerose, NY May 16, 2016 $54,912
Cook of Japanese Specialty FUJI Sushi of Jacksonville Inc. Jacksonville, FL May 13, 2016 $53,269
Cook of Japanese Specialty FUJI Sushi of Jacksonville Inc. Jacksonville, FL Jan 16, 2016 $53,269
Specialty Cook Romeo & Julieta Wine Cafe San Diego, CA Jan 28, 2016 $52,250
Specialty Cook China Lane Chinese Restaurant Hollywood, FL Jul 10, 2015 $51,397
Thai Specialty Cook Saengporn LLC Dba Thai Orchid Restaurant Vancouver, WA Oct 28, 2016 $49,754
Specialty Cook El Nopal Mexican Family Restaurant Louisville, KY Sep 02, 2016 $47,819
Korean Specialty Cook Sgshl, Inc. Raleigh, NC May 05, 2015 $47,715
Cook, Korean Specialty S-Bro International, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Nov 18, 2015 $47,528
Specialty Cook Saigon Cafe Provo, UT Aug 07, 2015 $47,486
Japanese Specialty Cook Nariho Restaurant Management, Inc. Aurora, IL May 08, 2016 $46,696
Cook of Chinese Specialty Pan Asia Restaurant LLC Forked River, NJ Aug 03, 2016 $31,699
Chinese Specialty Cook Chen Yam Restaurant Corp Orange, CT Dec 18, 2015 $31,574
Specialty Cook DOMO 7 Japanese Restaurant White House Station, NJ Sep 22, 2015 $31,429
Italian Specialty Cook Ripof Associates, LLC D/B/A Ippolitos Cucina Lakewood, NJ Feb 04, 2015 $31,305
Korean Specialty Cook Sola Inc. Mukilteo, WA Nov 23, 2016 $31,000
Asian Specialty Cook Happy Family Business, LLC Coppell, TX Sep 28, 2016 $31,000
Specialty Cook Maharjan & Lama, Inc. Washington, DC May 08, 2016 $30,867
Cook, Chinese Specialty Kumo Asian Bistro, Inc. Alexandria, VA Feb 25, 2016 $30,763
Cook, Chinese Specialty Zin Hao Liang Coon Rapids, MN Jul 21, 2015 $27,000
Korean Specialty Cook United Business Investment Inc. Dallas, TX Aug 24, 2016 $27,000
Specialty Cook Gaylord India Restaurant Schaumburg, IL Jul 18, 2016 $27,000
Cook, Chinese Specialty Rose Garden I Inc. Blaine, MN Jan 15, 2016 $27,000
Cook, Chinese Specialty Zin Hao Liang Coon Rapids, MN Dec 11, 2015 $27,000
Cook of Chinese Specialty XING Fa Inc. Tinton Falls, NJ Aug 06, 2015 $26,998
Cook, Chinese Specialty Purple Garden H.P. Corp. East Brunswick, NJ Aug 28, 2015 $26,998

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Top Skills for A Specialty Cook

  1. Food Preparation
  2. Cooking Surfaces
  3. Saut
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Followed procedures for safe food preparation, assembly, and presentation.
  • Worked grill, saut , & expediter stations.
  • Acted as an alternate in the case of Sous Chef's absence.
  • Prepare specialty menu items following specific methods that usually require short preparation time.
  • Maintained high standards of customer service during high-volume, fast-paced operations.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Specialty Cooks

  1. Vermont
  2. Nevada
  3. Maine
  4. Texas
  5. Minnesota
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Arizona
  9. Illinois
  10. Oklahoma
  • (77 jobs)
  • (374 jobs)
  • (102 jobs)
  • (3,085 jobs)
  • (954 jobs)
  • (120 jobs)
  • (108 jobs)
  • (760 jobs)
  • (1,598 jobs)
  • (439 jobs)

Specialty Cook Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken










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Specialty Cook Education


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts


Culinary Institute of America


Art Institute of California - Inland


State University of New York Albany


Sam Houston State University


Atlantic Cape Community College


Columbia University


Ashworth College


Spokane Community College


North Carolina A & T State University


Pasadena City College


Brown University


University of Northern Iowa


Portland Community College


University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Kankakee Community College


Yorktowne Business Institute


College of New Rochelle


Suffolk County Community College


Kirkwood Community College

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Culinary Arts




Hospitality Management


Political Science


Food And Nutrition


Computer Science


Health Care Administration










Mechanical Engineering


Chemical Engineering


Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians


General Studies


Drafting And Design


Management Science


Music Performance


Area Studies


Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

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