In the world of culinary arts, the line cook is a vital member of any kitchen staff. In fact, they’re considered the workhorses of any culinary team, responsible for preparing and plating the majority of the meals each day.
With more than just a love of food and a flair for the creative, a line cook needs to have a keen sense of observation and a quick eye for detail. They need to know how to multi-task and how to work quickly while still being able to produce high-quality results.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a line cook and what it takes to become one yourself.
Line Cook Job Duties
Line cooks perform the following duties:
- Preparing and cooking food according to recipes and specifications of the restaurant’s executive chef or head chef
- Following specific food preparation procedures and handling foods in a way that ensures quality and prevents spoilage
- Cooking meats, seafood, vegetables, and other foods using stoves, broilers, ovens, deep fryers, and other kitchen equipment such as blenders or mixers
- Using special equipment to slice or chop ingredients into uniform sizes
- Operating kitchen machinery such as dishwashing machines or ovens during busy periods to keep up with work demands
- Following proper sanitation procedures such as wearing gloves while preparing food and cleaning work surfaces to prevent contamination from germs or bacteria
- Preparing sauces and special spreads for use on menu items. May also prepare beverages such as coffee or tea for customers.
Line Cook Salary & Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in May 2020, the median hourly wage for cooks was $13.84. The lowest 10% earned less than $9.13 per hour, while the highest 10% earned more than $19.71 per hour.
In general, the prospects for cooks are good. Employment of cooks is expected to grow 26% from 2020-2030, a rate much higher than the average for all occupations.
This growth is due to a number of factors. The United States population is expected to continue to grow, and as a result, Americans will need more food. In addition, as incomes rise, consumers will be able to spend more on dining out.
Line Cook Job Requirements
Training for line cooks is typically on-the-job, but some employers may require an employee to attend a formal training program.
Education: The formal education requirements for line cooks vary, but most employers prefer candidates with at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers may require applicants to have completed some type of culinary arts program.
Training: Line cooks learn their skills through hands-on training under the supervision of a senior line cook at their place of employment. They can also be trained by spending time working in other kitchens where they can observe the execution of various cooking techniques.
Certifications & Licenses: A certificate or diploma is not required, but some employers may prefer that candidates have one or more of these credentials: ServSafe Food Handler, Certified Chef de Cuisine (CC) and OSHA Safety Certificate.
Line Cook Skills
A successful line cook needs to have the following skills:
Cooking skills: Line cooks must have cooking experience and expert knowledge of cooking techniques in order to successfully prepare a wide variety of foods on a consistent basis.
Time management skills: Line cooks must be able to manage their time well, and they need to multitask as they cook, plate, and ensure each customer gets their order quickly and correctly. The environment can be chaotic, so they need to be able to work under pressure.
Problem-solving skills: Line cooks must be able to think fast on their feet to handle special requirements from customers, swap out ingredients in the case of shortages, and solve other problems as they arise.
Interpersonal skills: Line cooks work with other kitchen staff to ensure food is prepared correctly and in a timely manner, so they must be able to get along well with others.
Creativity skills: Line cooks need to be creative in order to present dishes that taste great and look attractive. Creativity also contributes to menu planning as well as the versatility and improvisation that the job demands.
Line Cook Work Environment
Line cooks work in the kitchens of restaurants, hotels, or other hospitality settings, preparing meals for customers. They must be team players who can cooperate well with a kitchen staff team as the final output of quality meals and service depends on the entire team.
Line cooks spend long hours on their feet working in a busy kitchen. This is a demanding job, and line cooks must work quickly with a high level of quality. The environment is fast-paced and can at times be chaotic or pressurizing, but is also often rewarding for a passionate cook.
Line Cook Career Advancement
Line cooks can advance to a variety of positions in the kitchen. They may become sous chefs, head cooks, and even executive chefs. Regardless of how far they advance within the company, line cooks must learn to communicate with their peers and work as a team.
They should also continue to hone their cooking skills and learn new recipes that will help them stand out from other candidates as they change jobs. Line cooks may also want to seek out leadership roles within the company such as junior chef, team leader, or shift supervisor. This can be a stepping stone to more senior roles in management or ownership.
Line cooks can also decide to open their own restaurant or work as a personal chef. These positions will require some further training in business.
Line Cook Trends
Here are three trends influencing how line cooks work. Line cooks will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
As the trend of locally sourced ingredients continues to gain popularity, artisanal meats are becoming increasingly important.
Restaurants are increasingly focused on offering their customers high-quality products that are often better for the environment, which is driving more interest in farms and markets that specialize in these meats.
Move Towards Green Restaurants
Green restaurants are more than just the latest trend—they are an important component of sustainable development.
Some of the most popular green restaurants include those that promote local and organic food, as well as locally sourced meat, eggs, and dairy products.
One of the most notable developments in this field is the use of solar panels to power some restaurants, which cuts back on energy costs while promoting renewable energy sources.
More Americans are Becoming Vegetarians
The increasing popularity of vegetarianism is leading to greater demand for chefs who specialize in meatless dishes.
Vegetarian options are more likely to be offered in chain restaurants, which can present opportunities for line cooks who have experience working with both traditional and non-traditional meats.
How to Become a Line Cook
1. Planning Your Career Path
If you want to become a line cook, you’ll need a great deal of physical stamina and a strong stomach. Line cooks often work long hours in hot kitchens with little room for error; mistakes can have a significant impact on the quality of the food being served.
For this reason, it is important to be comfortable working under pressure. In addition, aspiring line cooks should have a solid understanding of cooking techniques and safety precautions. Training from chefs and other industry professionals will be essential in developing these skills.
2. Writing a Resume
In order to land a line cook job, it’s important to focus on the essential details. The employer will be looking for a candidate who has an understanding of what is expected from them and who can confidently demonstrate their skills and abilities. For this reason, it’s best to highlight your relevant experience and any awards or certifications you have received in the past.
When listing your experience, be sure to include the name of the restaurant where you worked and the dates of employment. If you were working in a more upscale establishment, it is important to list your responsibilities and achievements related to customer service and attention to detail.
When describing your education and training, list any specialized courses or certifications that relate directly to the position. While skills like punctuality, teamwork, and leadership are important qualities for a line cook, employers will want to know that you have the proper training in food preparation and serving before anything else.
Even if you don’t have experience as a line cook, list any restaurant or culinary-related jobs that you have held in the past. This could include being a server, a barista, or something else in the food industry. You can also list any relevant volunteer work that you have done.
3. Applying for Jobs
There are ways to increase your chances of landing a position. You can attend industry events such as food festivals or expos, join professional organizations and associations, and network with other people in the industry.
You can also visit the restaurants you’d like to work at and ask about job openings. You can contact local restaurants through email or phone calls as well. If you know someone who works at a restaurant, reach out to them and ask for an introduction to the hiring manager; this can be a great way to get your foot in the door.
4. Ace the Interview
The interviewer will be looking for strong communication skills. Be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your goals for the future.
The interview for a line cook position will be more of a discussion than an interrogation, and you will want to come up with some questions for the interviewer ahead of time. For example, you can ask things like “How would you describe the atmosphere here?” or “What are your goals for this position?”
The most important thing you can do is learn about the restaurant or establishment where you are interviewing. You need to know the menu inside and out! Make sure you have a good understanding of the duties of a line cook so that you can speak confidently about how you will be able to help the restaurant run smoothly. Also, it is essential to be punctual! Show up on time for your interview, this will show that you are serious about the job.