How to become a cook

Published: Friday 26th February 2021

Cook seasoning a dish of food

Are you thinking about how to become a cook? You’re not alone! Every year, thousands of people enter this popular and rewarding profession. To thrive in this role, you’ll need to have a love of food, physical stamina, and a team mentality.

Here’s how to become a cook. 

What is a cook?

A cook is someone who prepares food using a variety of techniques and equipment, usually at scale. Cooks usually work under the direction of a head cook or chef, usually in teams of two or more. They tend to work in restaurants/food service establishments and prepare and cook food to order. Cooks are often given particular tasks within a kitchen. For example, you can be assigned a meat station, where they prepare and cook meat. Another cook could be assigned to the vegetable station, where they prepare and cook vegetables. 

Cooks work with a variety of tools to help them do their work. These tools can include knives, pots, ovens, food processors, blenders, pans, and other tools. How cooks work and what their duties are will depend on the establishments they work in. Most chefs also need to follow strict health, safety, and sanitation requirements for the safety of their customers. 

There are several different kinds of cook. You could be a restaurant cook, creating food to order for customers to eat within the establishment. You could be a short order cook, working primarily in establishments like diners and with a limited range of ingredients. You could be a fast food chef, working with the latest machinery to create food as quickly as possible. Or you could be a personal chef, cooking for individual clients, usually in their home. 

What education do I need to become a cook?

Cook kissing his fingers to show that something is delicious

You do not require a formal education to become a cook. Most cooks learn their skills through vocational education or on the job training. However, many cooks go to culinary school with the ambition of becoming head chefs and owning their own restaurants. These programs tend to last around 2-3 years and teach students advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines, and various cooking styles. 

Do I need any other experience or qualifications?

Some cooks take on an apprenticeship in order to get started in the field. Apprenticeships usually take 1 year and provide a combination of training and work experience. The American Culinary Federation accredits many training programs.

Main duties

Your main duties will depend on his workplace and role within the organization. However, most cooks will:

  • Store food properly and keep it fresh
  • Mix, measure and weigh ingredients according to recipes
  • Boil, bake, steam, fry, or grill meats, fish, vegetables, and other ingredients
  • Arrange and garnish food on the plate
  • Clean work areas and cooking tools

Where are all the cook jobs?

As a cook, you will be able to work almost anywhere in the country. Most cooks work in restaurants, cafeterias, fast food establishments, hospitals, schools, retail stores, and any number of other places. As long as there is a need for freshly cooked food, there will be demand for cooks. 

Salary

Cook preparing a plate of food for a customer.

Employers tend to pay cooks by the hour. The median hourly wage is around $13 an hour, though this can vary from state to state. However, many cooks can earn up to $19-$20 an hour in a more established restaurant or in private households. 

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