Line Cook: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 20, 2019

Line cooks require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if working as a line cook is the right job for you.

A line cook is one of the more basic positions in the kitchen, the main task being food and ingredient preparation. College coursework is sometimes favored for this job, but many line cooks just have experience, and on-job training is provided.

Essential Information

Line cooks are employed by many restaurants and prepare much of the food that comes out of the kitchen. They work under a head chef or sous chef, and each line cook is typically assigned a particular place on the line, such as the grill, stove or vegetable prep area. Formal education is not required for this position, but prospective line cooks may wish to enter a culinary program for formal training and to improve their advancement opportunities.

Required Education None, but formal culinary arts programs are available
Other Requirements On-the-job training, work experience
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22% for restaurant cooks
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $26,530 for restaurant cooks

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

In addition to playing a large part in the actual production of each meal, line cooks typically have several duties that revolve around helping the kitchen stay clean and operational. Depending on the size of a kitchen, a line cook may be required to help clean the kitchen after and between meals. Many kitchens employ prep chefs who are in charge of preparing the food to be cooked for each meal, but line cooks may help with the cutting, precooking and marinating.

Job Requirements

There are no formal requirements for line cooks due to the wide variety of restaurants and their needs, and on-the-job training is common in this field; however, formal training can be helpful for securing a job or for career advancement. At upscale restaurants, a line cook may be expected to have completed some culinary arts training. Programs are available from community colleges, vocational schools and culinary institutes. They may last several months or years and may lead to a certificate or degree. Some schools offer training programs specifically for line cooks culminating in a certificate. Coursework covers culinary arts professionalism, sanitation, cooking and baking skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many restaurants look for work experience when hiring a line cook, and food preparers may advance to line cook positions (www.bls.gov). It's also important that line cooks work within the regulations of the given state they're in. Most states require kitchen workers to obtain a food handler's permit. These permits certify carriers to work with and prepare food for others and are usually obtained by attending a short class and paying a fee. Industry certification is also available from the American Culinary Federation.

Career Outlook

The BLS reported that restaurant cook positions were expected to increase much faster than the average from 2018-2028, which was about average. Those with culinary arts training should have the best job prospects. Although there are a variety of potential job opportunities, positions at upscale restaurants come with intense competition. In May 2018, the BLS reported that workers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $37,630 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $19,420 or less per year.

As a line cook, you work with other kitchen staff, helping prepare ingredients and dishes. Line cooks should have a handler's permit for food, and prior kitchen experience. Many line cooks improve their career outlooks by enrolling in culinary courses and can boost their credentials through professional certification from the American Culinary Federation

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