According to the National Restaurant Association, sales in the restaurant industry total a project $799 million in 2017. The United States has over one million dining establishments and 14.7 million restaurant workers. Line cooks constitute a major portion of these workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, as of 2014, line cooks accounted for 1,109,174 jobs. While many of these cooks work in kitchens not readily visible to their diners, the creations of line cooks often create lasting impressions about the restaurant. The following job description explains what line cooks do and need to ensure enjoyable dining experiences for customers and profitability for their companies.
What Does a Line Cook Do?
A line cook ensures a satisfying dining experience for customers and build standing for the restaurant and its brand in its community and beyond. Quality preparation of food requires the ability to judge tastes and aromas, attention to details, following directions from recipes and supervisors and physical skills with cooking tools.
Line Cook Job Description For Resume – Responsibilities
- Inspect foods and ingredients for freshness and date
- Prepare foods by cutting, peeling and seasoning
- Measure and weigh quantities of seasoning, water, butter, oil and other ingredients according to recipes
- Ensure ovens, grills, fryers and other equipment are at proper temperatures
- Grill, bake, fry or boil foods or ingredients as directed by recipes
- Taste or smell foods during preparation to ensure that dishes conform to recipe or request of customer
- Divide meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables and other foods into proper portions
- Place completed foods on plates to be delivered to diners
- Clean cooking and food preparation areas regularly to avoid contamination
- Observe health, occupational and sanitation regulations applicable to food service and kitchen operations
Line Cook Required/Essential Skills
Comprehension. Line cooks need the ability to read, listen to and understand instructions on preparing dishes. Recipes present detailed procedures for preparing dishes.
Coordination. Dexterity and hand-eye coordination constitute essential skills for line cooks to slice, stir, dice, chop and flip foods. The tools include knives, mixers, spoons, pans, pots, spatulas and meat thermometers. Lack of care with these and other cooking items create messes, slow kitchen operations and place the cooks and kitchen staff at risk of injuries.
Endurance. Line cooks spend significant hours on their feet in hot and humid kitchens. Much of the work is also repetitive. Endurance skills include the physical stamina to withstand hours of constant, fast-paced work using hands, fingers and arms.
Math. Use of measuring cups and spoons ensures the proper quantity of ingredients. Line cooks must be able to measure the volume or size of portions or ingredients using these tools. Math skills for line cooks include determining cooking times and temperatures for foods to attain.
Sensory. Skills in taste and smell allow line cooks to determine if foods are sufficiently or excessively sweet, salty or spicy. Line cooks must be able to distinguish the tastes of seasonings, sauces, other garnishments and the foods themselves.
Teamwork. In many restaurants, line cooks have a particular station. One may occupy the meat station, another the vegetables, while another works on sauces or garnishes. Teamwork skills include understanding particular roles, anticipating when their part of the entrée must be completed and communication with other station cooks.
Becoming a Line Cook
Line cooks learn their trade through training and work experience in many kitchen roles. The needed skills are acquired and honed through schools and working in restaurants.
Education and Training
Employers may prefer a high school diploma for line cooks, given the reading and math skills needed to prepare tasty dishes. According to O*NET, nearly 38 percent of restaurant cooks held a high school diploma. Approximately one in three had not graduated from high school.
Culinary schools, technical or community colleges, industry organizations and unions run educational programs that teach food safety, food preparation skills and operation of ovens, stoves, grills and other equipment. Through many of these institutions or organizations, aspiring line cooks can gain training through apprenticeships that last one year. The American Culinary Federation accredits apprenticeship programs.
The level of experience varies with the type of restaurant. Fine-dining restaurants or those with more elaborate dishes are more likely to require line cooks to have prior cooking experience, though training through a culinary institute might counteract a relative lack of work history.
Jobs such as food preparation workers, kitchen helpers, servers and cashiers expose prospective line cooks to the operation of a restaurant. Line cooks may start in fast-food restaurants or independently-owned diners.
For ethnic-themed restaurants, line cooks should have knowledge and experience cooking or serving the cuisine associated with those restaurants.
Line cooks generally work full-time, but part-time workers constitute a fair percentage of the occupation. O*NET reports nearly about 28 percet of line cooks log less than 40 hours per week. Four out of ten work 40 hours a week and nearly a third have work weeks lasting beyond 40 hours.
Generally, restaurants operate from early in the morning to late evenings. Some establishments may open only for breakfast or dinner, while others may serve only breakfast and dinner, skipping lunch. Weekend work is common, as diners may choose to eat out on evenings during the weekend.
In certain tourist areas, weather and other seasonal factors such as school schedules create peaks and valleys in dining traffic. Accordingly, some line cooks have only temporary jobs or hours reduced in off-season periods. Further, line cooks in school cafeterias or university dining halls may work nine or ten months in the year. Even though universities may have summer courses, dining halls may remain closed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an overall rise of four percent in employment of cooks through 2024, below the overall rate of seven percent throughout all employment sectors.
Hiring among restaurant cooks should see the largest increase, at a clip of 14 percent by 2024. Full-service restaurant companies often open establishments at or in close proximity to shopping centers, office complexes and planned developments in urban or suburban areas. Line cooks may find jobs in grocery stores that sell take-home meals and other foods, looking to capitalize on customer needs to manage time in having dinner and accomplishing shopping tasks.
The fast food sector could lose 15 percent of its job openings, or 80,400, by 2024. With many fast foods requiring generally little cooking time, fast food proprietors may opt for servers and food preparation workers in place of line cooks.
Line cooks with experience and skills can advance to roles as chef, executive chef, leaders of kitchen staff and may even open their own restaurants.
Talented and careful line cooks enjoy significant opportunities to land jobs, especially in full-service restaurants. Customers’ appetites for quality food and convenience will spur the demand for these establishments.
To qualify for a line cook position requires significant experience and training, often starting in short-order or fast food restaurants or in culinary training programs.