What Cooks Do
Cooks prepare fresh vegetables.
Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods. This may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.
Cooks typically do the following:
- Check the freshness of food and ingredients before cooking
- Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes
- Bake, roast, grill, broil, or fry meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
- Boil and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
- Garnish, arrange, and serve food
- Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, dishes, and silverware
- Cook, hold, and store food or food ingredients
Large restaurants and food service establishments often have varied menus and large kitchen staffs. Teams of restaurant cooks, sometimes called assistant cooks or line cooks, work at assigned stations equipped with the necessary types of stoves, grills, pans, and ingredients.
Job titles often reflect the principal ingredient cooks prepare or the type of cooking they do—vegetable cook, fry cook, or grill cook, for example. Cooks usually work under the direction of chefs, head cooks, or food service managers.
Cooks use a variety of kitchen equipment, including broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders.
The responsibilities of cooks vary with the place at which they work, the size of the facility, and the complexity and level of service offered.
The following are examples of types of cooks:
Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. For each meal, they prepare a large quantity of a limited number of entrees, vegetables, and desserts, according to preset menus. Because meals are usually prepared in advance, cooks seldom take special orders.
Restaurant cooks prepare a wide selection of dishes and cook most orders individually. Some restaurant cooks may order supplies, set menu prices, and plan the daily menu.
Short-order cooks prepare foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service and quick food preparation. They usually prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time.
Fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, to be kept warm until served. For more information on workers who prepare and serve items in fast-food restaurants, see the profiles on food preparation workers and food and beverage serving and related workers.
Private household cooks and personal chefs plan and prepare meals in private homes, according to the client’s tastes and dietary needs. They order groceries and supplies, clean the kitchen, and wash dishes and utensils. They also may cater parties, holiday meals, luncheons, and other social events. Private household cooks typically work for one full-time client. Some private household cooks and personal chefs are self-employed or employed by a private cooking company, regularly making meals for clients.