Becoming a Hospital Cook
|Degree Level||Cooking school optional; certificate, associate, and bachelor's degree programs available|
|Experience||1-2 years of entry-level experience as a cook usually required|
|Licensure and Certification||Food safety certification required by the state|
|Salary||$23,960 (2015 median for hospital cooks)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Hospital cooks prepare large volumes of food for both patients and hospital staff. It is their job to prepare food that is nutritious and desirable so that sick patients will get the food intake they need to help with recovery. These individuals prepare food for a preset menu, may make a variety of meals from a small menu, and/or prepare special meals for patients who require therapeutic diets.
In general, cooks are typically responsible for ensuring that the food is fresh and handled properly for safety reasons. Cleanliness is very important as is the storage of the ingredients. Cooks must also know how to carefully follow recipes in order to prepare the correct type and amount of food. As such, prospective hospital cooks should look into gaining entry-level experience, obtaining food sanitation certification and earning a culinary degree. Once a full time position is obtained, hospital cooks can expect to earn a median annual salary of $23,960 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Obtain Entry-Level Experience
Most hospital cook positions require 1-2 years of experience as a cook. This can be obtained through entry-level positions at places such as sit-down restaurants, fast food chains, school cafeterias or hotel dining services. Some hospital cook positions only desire basic food handling knowledge, while other positions require large-volume cooking as part of previous work experience. Examples of entry-level positions include line cooks, fast food cooks, short-order cooks, food preparation workers and school cafeteria workers.
Obtain Sanitation Certification
Food sanitation certification is often required for hospital cooks. Certification is usually handled by the state. The process of obtaining certification involves completing a course, which may be offered online or in a classroom, followed by a pass/fail examination. Topics discussed in the certification exam include personal and food hygiene, cross-contamination of allergens, cleaning and proper cooking temperatures. The employer may also request additional job-specific sections to be tested.
Consider Cooking School
While cooking school is not required for most hospital cook jobs, completing a program can open doors for advancement or higher pay and makes resumes more competitive. Basic programs range from year-long certificate programs to 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts. Certificate programs work on improving speed and skill, as well as presentation in different styles of cuisine. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs also cover nutrition, kitchen and menu management and cost control.
Prospective hospital cooks need to gain entry-level experience, complete a food sanitation certification program, and potentially earn a culinary degree in order to start and advance a career as a hospital culinarian.