A cook prepares, seasons, and cooks all kinds of food to serve in a restaurant. He is usually part of the cooking staff of a restaurant along with dishwashers, kitchen helpers and fellow cooks or chefs as well. A short-order cook prepares dishes on a fast-food type of restaurant, while a cook can also be an expert in one kind of food in a rather large restaurant. Kitchen helpers work side by side with cooks in preparation of food may it be pastries, vegetables, or even soup. A cook may also order supplies, keep records and accounts, price items on menu, or even plan the menu.
A cook washes, peels, cuts and prepares food designated for cooking, packages batches of food; cooks the orders by different customers simultaneously, maintains sanitation, health, and safety standards in work areas; weighs, measures and mixes ingredients required for specific food items being prepared; operates large-volume cooking equipment; verifies that prepared food meets requirements for quality and quantity; orders and takes delivery of supplies depending on estimated food consumption; portions, arranges, and garnishes food to serve; coordinates and supervises work of kitchen staff; and consults with managerial staff to plan and price menus.
Education and Training Requirements
To develop a keen sense of smell and taste, a cook needs much experience and solid knowledge about the subject. Being a high school graduate along with having on-the-job training is the minimum requirement for one to be a cook. Cooking programs and courses to earn a diploma are available in high schools, vocation schools, technical schools, or even colleges. Some cooks start as kitchen helpers or dishwashers to learn from chefs first-hand.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
Cooks must understand proper preparation techniques, memorize a large variety of recipes to ensure consistency, know the materials methods, and equipment in food preparation as well as knowledge of food values, menu planning, and uses for left-over food. The ability to take inventory and keep records of foodstuffs used and give significant assistance in planning menus for both banquets and regular meals is also needs. They also must be neat-looking, physically fit, and the ability to perform mathematical computations in order to meet budgets.
A cook works typically 40-48 hours a week in kitchens that are air-conditioned, with suitable work space and modern equipment. Despite convenient working conditions, cooks require physical strength and stamina as standing and lifting heavy pots and kettles are expected. Despite being in uniform, they work very near hot grills, ranges and ovens in a chaotic environment as the cooking staff employs a large number of people at a time. They must be able to work with little or no supervision as well as handle the pressure during rush hours.
Entry-level cooks earn anywhere between US$16,000 to US$30,000 and may go up to US$50,000 with work experience. Aside from having free meals at work, health insurance and paid vacations and holidays are some benefits that cooks can avail of.