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Institution And Cafeteria Cook Career

Career Description

Institution and Cafeteria Cooks prepare and cook large quantities of food for institutions, such as schools, hospitals, or cafeterias.

Common Work Tasks

  • Work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses,  hospitals, and other institutions
  • Prepare a large quantity of a limited number of entrees, vegetables, and desserts according to preset menus
  • Clean and inspect galley equipment, kitchen appliances, and work areas to ensure cleanliness and functional operation
  • Apportion and serve food to facility residents,  employees, or patrons
  • Cook foodstuffs according to menus, special dietary or nutritional restrictions, or numbers of portions to be served
  • Clean, cut, and cook meat, fish, or poultry
  • Wash pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and other cooking equipment
  • Compile and maintain records of food use and expenditures
  • Direct activities of one or more workers who assist in preparing and serving meals
  • Bake breads, rolls, and other pastries

Other Job Titles

Institution and Cafeteria Cooks are also known by other titles, including:

  • Cooks
  • Waiters and Waitresses
  • Chefs
  • Servers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Most institution and cafeteria cooks require little education or training to start because most skills are learned on the job. Training generally starts with basic sanitation and workplace safety and continues with instruction on food handling,  preparation, and cooking procedures. Training in food handling, sanitation, and health and safety procedures are mandatory in most jurisdictions for all workers. Those who become proficient and who show an interest in learning complicated cooking techniques may advance to more demanding cooking positions or into supervisory positions.

      Institution and cafeteria cooks must be efficient, quick, and work well as part of a team.  Manual dexterity is helpful for cutting, chopping, and plating. These workers also need creativity and a keen sense of taste and smell. Personal cleanliness is essential because most States require health certificates indicating that workers are free from communicable diseases. Knowledge of a foreign language can be an asset because it may improve communication with other restaurant staff, vendors, and the restaurant’s clientele.


The median annual salary for an Institution and Cafeteria cook is $21,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $32,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $14,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of institution and cafeteria cooks are:

  • Elementary and Secondary Schools- $20,640
  • Nursing Care Facilities - $22,180
  • Special Food Services - $23,590
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $24,970
  • Community Care Facilities for the Elderly - $22,530

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 43,000
  • Employment 2006 : 401,000
  • Employment 2016:  445,000
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