Cooks may prepare fresh vegetables.
Cooks season and prepare foods, including soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.
Cooks typically do the following:
- Ensure the freshness of ingredients
- Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes
- Bake, grill, or fry meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
- Boil and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
- Arrange and garnish food on serving dishes
- Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
- Cook, handle, and store food or ingredients
Cooks usually work under the direction of chefs, head cooks, or food service managers. Large restaurants and food service establishments often have multiple menus and large kitchen staffs. Teams of restaurant cooks, sometimes called assistant cooks or line cooks, work at assigned stations equipped with the stoves, grills, pans, and ingredients they need to prepare food.
Job titles often reflect the principal ingredient cooks prepare or the type of cooking they do, such as fry cook or grill cook.
Cooks use a variety of kitchen equipment, including broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders.
Cooks' responsibilities vary depending on the type of food service establishment, the size of the facility, and the level of service offered. However, in all establishments, they follow sanitation procedures when handling food. For example, they store food and ingredients at the correct temperatures to prevent bacterial growth.
The following are examples of types of cooks:
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 about 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.
Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other establishments. They typically prepare a large quantity of entrees, vegetables, and desserts according to preset menus. However, they sometimes customize meals, such as for diners’ dietary considerations.
Private household cooks, sometimes called personal chefs, plan and prepare meals in private homes, according to the client’s tastes and dietary needs. They pick up groceries and supplies, clean the kitchen, and wash dishes and utensils. They also may cater parties, holiday meals, luncheons, and other events. Private household cooks typically work full-time for one client, although many are self-employed or employed by an agency, regularly preparing meals for multiple clients.
Restaurant cooks prepare a variety of dishes, usually by individual order, in eating establishments. Some restaurant cooks order supplies and help maintain the stock room.
Short order cooks prepare and sometimes serve foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service. For example, they might make sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time.