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Restaurant Cook Career

Career Description

Restaurant Cooks prepare, season, and cook soups, meats, vegetables, desserts, or other foodstuffs in restaurants. May order supplies, keep records and accounts, price items on menu, or plan menu.

Common Work Tasks

  • Inspect food preparation and serving areas to ensure observance of safe, sanitary food-handling practices
  • Turn or stir foods to ensure even cooking
  • Season and cook food according to recipes or personal judgment and experience
  • Observe and test foods to determine if they have been cooked sufficiently, using methods such as tasting, smelling, or piercing them with utensils
  • Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes or personal judgment, using various kitchen utensils and equipment
  • Portion, arrange, and garnish food, and serve food to waiters or patrons
  • Regulate temperature of ovens, broilers, grills,  and roasters
  • Substitute for or assist other cooks during emergencies or rush periods
  • Bake, roast, broil, and steam meats, fish,  vegetables, and other foods
  • Wash, peel, cut, and seed fruits and vegetables to prepare them for consumption

Other Job Titles

Restaurant Cooks are also known by other titles, including:

  • Cooks
  • Waiters and Waitresses
  • Chefs
  • Servers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Most restaurant 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.

      Restaurant 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 a Restaurant Cook is $21,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $30,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $15,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of restaurant cooks are:

  • Full-Service Restaurants- $21,610
  • Traveler Accommodation - $25,680
  • Limited-Service Eating Places - $20,120
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $24,870
  • Drinking Places - $22,320

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  12%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 98,000
  • Employment 2006 : 850,000
  • Employment 2016:  948,000
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