A cook is in charge of preparing, seasoning, and cooking the food. They must check the freshness of ingredients and follow recipes. They must tastefully arrange the food to be served. Cleanliness of work area and equipment is key. On top of these, a head chef will supervise the food preparation of others, create recipes, plan menus, manage inventory, and monitor sanitation and safety work practices.
How much would you earn in this position?
In 2012, the median hourly wage for cooks was $9.88. When breaking it down further, however, the range extended from $8.85 for fast-food cooks to $11.29 for private household cooks. For chefs and head cooks, the median annual wage was $42,480 in the same year. Those who earned the most were mainly located in upscale restaurants and luxury hotels in major cities and popular resort areas.
Some skills that will help you to succeed in this career include team work, considering a group of people, each with a specialized task, will work in tandem to assemble dishes. Additionally, being able to handle a variety of equipment, communicate, employ creativity, and manage your time will be assets. For head cooks, leadership skills are also beneficial. Familiarity with certain software might also be useful for scheduling and purchasing. Furthermore, if you are interested in running your own catering business, basic business skills would be a necessity.
As for education and experience requirements, experience is valued more in this field. On-the-job -training is available if you have no formal education. However, programs are available at culinary arts schools, community colleges, technical schools, and 4-year colleges. These are all very hands on, which relates back to the emphasis on experience. Other options include vocational and apprenticeship schools. High school education is typically a requirement for these programs.
Certifications are also not compulsory but available to offer an advantage. Different levels exist, ranging from 6 months to 5 or more years of work experience.
There are different types of cooks, mainly defined by their settings, including cafeteria, restaurant, short-order, fast-food, and personal cooks. These type of positions demand long periods of standing in a fast-paced environment, which can lead to a pressured environment. Hours range from early morning to late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Twelve hour days are not unusual. Depending on the setting, positions might not be available year-round, such as at a school or resort.
What interests you about this career? What other information would you like to know about it?
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Food Preparation and Serving