On the Line / Hiring / What is a prep cook?

What is a prep cook?

We answer the basics about the role of a prep cook, their hourly rate, experience needed, and how to hire for the position.

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What is a prep cook?

A prep cook is responsible for preparing all the ingredients needed for meal service at a restaurant. This includes chopping, peeling, slicing, and dicing ingredients and preparing sauces, soups, and stocks.

In addition to prepping ingredients, prep cooks help to keep kitchens clean and organized. They typically set up the stations in a kitchen, and support line cooks during service. 

What are a prep cook’s duties and responsibilities?

A prep cook’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Setting up kitchen workstations
  • Maintaining a clean and organized workspace
  • Operating cooking equipment such as stoves, ovens, and grills
  • Knife skills
  • Measuring ingredients and seasonings
  • Proper cutting techniques
  • Preparing components of dishes, such as soups, stocks, and sauces
  • Working with a team of chefs and cooks
  • Knowing and adhering to food safety standards

How much are prep cooks paid?

Prep cooks earn an average of $28,000 to $36,000 annually and an average of $15.53 per hour. Depending on the work environment and business, prep cooks may be hourly or salaried employees.

What are the qualities that make a good prep cook?

A good prep cook is precise, efficient, and works well as part of a team. Prep cooks often spend hours preparing elements of other dishes to be used by chefs and line cooks. They understand how these components join together to create a dish, as well as flavors, scents, textures, basic cooking techniques. They must know the proper cutting techniques to minimize food waste and maximize the amount of product available for use.

Prep cooks also need to be organized and attentive to detail when setting up workstations. A good prep cook knows how to communicate with other cooks and chefs during the cooking process. Good prep cooks are flexible and able to work in fast-paced kitchen environments. 

How to become a prep cook

A prep cook is often thought of as an entry-level job in a kitchen. Many people who work as prep cooks are trained in culinary schools and see the position as a way to get their foot in the door, but others who have a passion for cooking get their education through on-the-job training.

Browsing online job ads for prep cooks is a good way to figure out what openings there are in your area. Kitchen managers and business owners are impressed by candidates that take the initiative to introduce themselves personally and express genuine interest in the job.

How to hire a prep cook

Hiring a prep cook starts with making a list of the qualifications, skills, and knowledge required for the role. Then, you can imagine the kind of person that will be a good fit for the team. Remember to consider the hours you’ll expect the prep cook to work.

Building relationships with local culinary schools is a good way to get a list of qualified candidates. You can also post job ads on online job boards, but you might have to wade through a large number of applicants to find people with the right qualifications and skills.

When interviewing prep cooks, ask about their experiences and assess their interpersonal skills. Before hiring a candidate, verify their qualifications and certifications. Many businesses require prep cooks to stage, which entails training and working for a trial period before taking on the full role.

Being a prep cook requires precision and efficiency, but the position is often less fast-paced than other cooks’ roles. Many prep cooks can work flexible hours and enjoy being part of a kitchen team.

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