COOKS are responsible for preparing and cooking meals that taste good and are pleasing to the eye. They prepare traditional dishes as well as experiment with new ones. Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. Restaurant cooks generally prepare a wide selection of dishes for each meal, cooking most orders individually. Short-order cooks prepare foods to order in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service. Some cooks may specialize in ethnic and/or regional foods. Cooks may supervise other kitchen workers, estimate food requirements, order groceries and supplies, and keep track of inventory.
Salary, Size & Growth
- $25,000 average per year ($12.00 per hour)
- A very large occupation (2,006,000 workers in 2010)
- Expected to grow moderately (0.7% per year)
A high school diploma is recommended for those planning a career as a COOK. To achieve the level of skill required of a cook in a fine restaurant, many years of training and experience are necessary. An increasing number of cooks obtain training through high school, post-high school vocational programs, and 2- or 4-year colleges. They may also be trained in apprenticeship programs offered by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, and trade unions. The American Culinary Federation certifies qualified individuals at the level of cook.