Line cooks assist chefs to season and prepare food in restaurants, hotels, or other food service industries. They typically work in teams with other line cooks and are assigned to a particular station in the kitchen under the supervision of the chefs.
How to Become a Line Cook
Line cooks typically have a high school diploma or the equivalent. High school students should take home economics, food science, and business classes. After high school, line cooks may gain knowledge from vocational schools, professional culinary institutes, and colleges. Programs in culinary, vocational, or colleges include courses in cooking techniques, international cuisines, proper and safe handling of utensils, like knives, and other skills. These programs can last from two months until two years. Some line cooks may also start out with entry-level positions and work their way up to become a line cook based on experience.
It is helpful to begin training in as many restaurants as possible to learn basic kitchen skills under the supervision of a chef. This provides an opportunity to gain experience and build up a resume when applying for jobs. Some states require a food handler license to work in a restaurant, but no license is necessary. Check with your state food and licensing board to see if you will need a food handler license and how to obtain one.
There are specific skills and traits needed in this career field:
- Physical stamina and strength – You must stand for long hours and may need to lift heavy objects
- Attention to detail – A lot goes on in a kitchen quickly and at the same time
- Communication skills – Vital when following the exact directions of the chef or supervisor to ensure customers get their food on time and cooked to perfection
- Quality control – Line cooks need to inspect food quality; a sense of smell and taste is also necessary as well for this
- Time management – Vital to keep up with the kitchen’s pace and ensure operations run smoothly and efficiently
Line Cook Job Description
Line cooks work in fast food restaurants, cafeterias, or fine dining establishments. Therefore, their duties depend on the size and type of place they work. Line cooks are also referred to as assistant cooks as they support the chefs. Line cooks working in fast food restaurants also work in teams, but the level of skill required is limited and the various types of food handled are repetitive.
Larger restaurants have team line cooks, so each one is assigned to a particular station to do a specific job and will often be identified by the station (i.e. grill cook or fry cook). The line cook ensures they have the necessary equipment and ingredients to make the food at their assigned station.
Line cooks use broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, blenders, and sharp knives daily. Therefore, safety precautions are vital. They are responsible for weighing, measuring, and mixing ingredients following the chef’s recipe. A line cook has the task of keeping the work area, dishes, and utensils clean and sanitized. They must also store food and other perishables at the correct temperatures to prevent spoilage and waste.
Line cooks work full or part-time with early morning, late evening, weekend, and holiday hours. They often standing on their feet for extended lengths of time. The food industry is exciting and there is room for advancement. If you are looking for a hands-on, fast-paced environment, this may be just the career you are looking for! Good luck!