Schools in the USA
Back to Career Search     



How come the food we prepare at home never tastes the same as it does in a restaurant? For instance, if you have a special pasta with mushrooms and a rosee sauce and you try to duplicate the recipe at home, it probably will not taste the same, nor as good. Do not fret about your cooking skills! Keep in mind that cooks are highly trained food makers who have years of experience making delicious, scrumptious meals, appetizers and desserts.

Cooks plan, direct and participate in food preparation and cooking activities in restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, institutions and other food establishments. Their duties include not just cooking but also budgeting, purchasing supplies, hiring staff and generally making sure that things run smoothly in the kitchen.

In smaller kitchens, cooks may work alone, yet in larger facilities, the cook's duties may be split between performing many different tasks, including administrative work (ordering food and supplies, and managing the budget and staff), planning menus, training new staff, supervising kitchen workers, making desserts, soups, sauces, or salads, and also cleaning, chopping and actual cooking.

Regardless of how many or few of these tasks they are responsible for, all cooks must ensure that their food meets high standards of taste, appearance and hygiene during preparation. They are responsible for creating new recipes or dishes, perfecting classic dishes, and ensuring safety and hygiene are high priorities for each and every preparatory step.

Cooks love food and creating new recipes and masterpieces with various ingredients. They revel in making people's stomachs and brains happy by cooking for them. Cooks say that there is more to their job that just creating new and delicious tastes -- it is an art form, that is centerd around taste, texture and presentation. When something looks good, chances are it will taste even better.
         Related Careers
arrow Advertising Specialist
arrow Assistant Cook
arrow Auctioneer
arrow [ view all related careers ]

Program Spotlight
Matching School Ad
Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Health-Supportive Culinary Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Pastry & Baking Arts
  • And more...



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Successful cooks have an excellent sense of taste and flavor, as well as an artistic flair for creating new dishes. They should work well in a team environment, and have good hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, for chopping. Creativity, good health and excellent hygiene are also key traits, as cooks work with the food that people eat.

Those who work in busy kitchens need a good memory, and excellent organizational skills. Sometimes, cooks get many different orders shouted at them, so it is important to prioritize what need to be cooked when, so that the timing works out well. For example, if one person orders a steak well done and another a pasta, it is important that the steak go on the grill as soon as possible. Thus, cooks must be able to work well under stressful situations.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the menu to estimate food requirements and obtain the necessary food from storage or from suppliers
  • Prepare and cook meals of all types
  • Carve meats, prepare portions on a plate and add gravies, sauces and garnish to servings
  • Prepare buffets (e.g. platters, showpieces)
  • Clean and cut meats, fish and poultry and wash, peel and cut vegetables
  • Create decorative food displays and plate presentations
  • Hire and supervise other kitchen staff in the preparation, cooking and presentation of food
  • Order food and kitchen supplies based on best price and budget
  • Check the orders received for quantity and quality of product
  • Create new recipes
  • Plan menus and advise other chefs on size of portions or servings and standards of quality
  • Meet with customers regarding menus for special occasions
  • Arrange for equipment purchases and repairs
  • Ensure that sanitation standards are maintained
  • Meet with other managers in the organization
  • A typical day for a cook is filled with food. They take care of everything from ordering colored pasta to creating new salad dressings. They may work in a small kitchen where they prepare each dish themselves, or they may work in a huge kitchen where they order food, oversee staff, but do very little cooking. Cooks never work outdoors, unless they are barbecue cooks, and they may travel for training or to meet with other cooks and chefs. Finally, burns and cuts are common occupational hazards as they are always around hot pots and pans and sharp knives.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Cooks work in restaurants, hotels, pubs, resorts, cruise ships and retirement homes. Some work for hospitals, while others may be employed by wealthy individuals. Some cooks are self-employed, or work for a catering business.
  • Cooks work in hot, humid, busy and hectic kitchens full of sous-chefs, apprentices, assistants, prep cooks, dishwashers, and servers. Cooks do not have a regular 9-to-5 daily schedule, as most work lunch and/or dinner shifts. They may only work one shift, for five or six hours, but they may work all day, and be cooking for 12 hours in a row. They work both evenings and weekends, unless they work for a hospital, school or other environment that is open for regular business hours only.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for cooks? Cooks can study to become chefs or executive chefs in more upscale restaurants, where they gain more control and creativity over the menu. They may also become teachers in cooking schools, work as food or restaurant consultants, develop recipes with test kitchens, or become cookbook writers. Some may also advance to open their own restaurant or start up their own catering company.

  Educational Paths  
Cooks receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory to become a cook, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary from state to state, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less than what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the cook a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

Featured Schools

Matching School Ads
Institute of Culinary Education - Los Angeles
  • Named a Culinary School of Excellence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in 2015.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs Offered:
  • Health-Supportive Culinary Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Pastry & Baking Arts
  • And more...

Matching School Ads
  Universities and Colleges
Clarkson UniversityColorado School of MinesDalhousie University
Oral Roberts UniversityPenn State HarrisburgTemple University
The University of HoustonThompson Rivers UniversityUNB Saint John
University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasUniversity of British Columbia
University of IowaUniversity of New BrunswickUniversity of Ottawa
York University
Agriculture and Bio-resources | Allied Health and Health Sciences | Applied Business Technology | Architecture
Business Administration | Computer Science | Cosmetology and Esthetics | Culinary, Travel &Hospitality | Dance 
Engineering Technology & Applied Technology |Engineering | Film | Fine Arts and Design | Humanities and Liberal ArtsJustice and Security
| Natural and Applied Sciences | Naturopathic and Holistic MedicineNursingPublic Administration & PolicyReligious and Theological Studies
Sport Sciences and Physical Education | Teacher Education | Theatre
Articles | College News | Videos | Feedback | Career Search
Home | About Us | Contact Us | Faq | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Site Map | Cities Site Map | California - Do Not Sell My Info

Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved.