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What is a cook?

Learn all about what a cook does, how much they're paid, and much more!

What is a cook

What is a cook?

Cooks plan dishes and prepare food for restaurant customers and in commercial kitchens. They are knowledgeable about flavors and textures and are efficient masters of various preparation methods. Many cooks’ talents are specialized after years of training and experience in one area of the commercial restaurant industry.

A cook is a team player, understanding when to speak up and when to follow the guidance of chefs or restaurant managers. Many cooks are trained in culinary schools, but others learn the trade and prove themselves in restaurant kitchens.

What are a cook’s duties and responsibilities?

A cook’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Knowledge of textures and flavor profiles

  • Precisely measuring, weighing, and mixing ingredients

  • Skills in various methods of preparing food, including baking, grilling, steaming and boiling

  • Knife skills

  • Precisely following recipes and processes

  • Food handling and safety knowledge

  • Knowledge about allergens to avoid cross-contamination

  • Preparing ingredients consistently and efficiently

  • Handle high-heat kitchen environments

  • Storing food and ingredients safely

  • Checking the quality of ingredients

  • Understanding how to use cooking equipment, such as ovens and fryers

  • Accommodating special requests from guests

  • Maintaining a clean and organized workstation

How much are cooks paid?

Cooks make, on average, between $24,000 and $33,000 annually, depending on the environment in which they work. Cooks in high-end restaurants or corporate kitchens can earn more than the average.

What are the qualities that make a good cook?

Consistency and efficiency are two qualities that make a good cook. Cooks must be able to execute cooking methods and processes with precision on a daily basis. They also must be able to prioritize their movements in the kitchen to maximize their productivity.

Good cooks are knowledgeable about flavors and textures. They can imagine the results of a cooking method before they execute it. That way, they can know how to balance heat and time to get consistent results.

Cooks also have to be able to work as a team, which requires patience and good interpersonal skills. Managers and chefs will make demands of cooks that might go against their best judgment. It’s important to be able to trust the rest of the team.

How to become a cook?

Becoming a cook requires learning about flavors, textures, and cooking methods. Many cooks attend culinary schools to acquire formal education in cooking. Many restaurants require a “staging” process for cooks–a trial period for them to demonstrate their skills. Others learn on the job, working their way up through the ranks of restaurant kitchens as they acquire knowledge and skills. 

Anyone can practice cooking in a home kitchen, as well, using what tools and ingredients they can afford. Developing skills on your own time will impress hiring managers with your passion for the job. Cooks can work in a wide variety of businesses–practice the skills required for the kind of job you want to get.

It’s a good idea to look at local job ads for which restaurants or businesses are hiring cooks. But, reaching out to make a personal connection with managers or business owners goes a long way. 

How to hire a cook?

Set clear expectations for the kind of cook you want to hire and look for applicants with a combination of the right skills and experience for the job. When interviewing candidates, be specific about which station and shift you’re hiring to fill.

Make it clear how much training you’re willing to provide. Many people are looking to develop cooking skills and get experience if you have a team that can train them for the role. But, if you need someone to step into a job quickly, hire someone that has experience in the role. 

Posting job ads online can be a good way to reach qualified candidates. Remember to screen potential employees based on interpersonal skills in addition to experience. Make sure that they’ll be a good addition to the existing team. Staging is a common practice in the restaurant industry that lets you get a feel for a cook’s skills and leadership style before offering them a position full-time.

Cooking is a job that many people enjoy and are passionate about. Cooks get to be creative in the kitchen and find joy in making great food for people every day.

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