Job search FAQs
Frequently asked questions about Cook jobs
A cook is responsible for safely and creatively cooking food and preparing meals for restaurant customers. Not only do they need cooking skills and expertise, they must know how to properly and safely handle food, keep a safe, stocked and clean kitchen, and ensure other kitchen staff are meeting expectations.
Cooking-related tasks include preparing food (like chopping, dicing, slicing, measuring, etc.), mixing ingredients and following recipes, plating and decorating items, and baking, grilling, steaming or frying (meats, fish, vegetables, etc.).
Additionally, cooks may be asked to check and maintain inventory and restock items, order food and supplies and work with suppliers, accept and organize deliveries, and other administrative tasks related to running a kitchen.
Finally, they must also maintain a clean, sanitary, and safe kitchen, including overseeing other kitchen and even restaurant staff.
Most cook jobs request a high school diploma or equivalent as an education requirement. Depending on the restaurant and level of expertise you need, certification or degree from a culinary school may be preferred, especially if you aspire to be a chef or work for an elevated establishment.
There are also courses you can take online specific to different types of foods, techniques, or parts of the kitchen.
If you’re considering becoming a cook, you may want to start in an entry-level role such as server or dishwasher to gain exposure to the responsibilities in a restaurant environment. Some places also hire food prep workers or food runners to assist the cook and kitchen staff, where you can learn and practice tasks associated with preparing food.
You could also start working at a smaller restaurant or chain location to learn kitchen basics and become familiar with running a kitchen and work your way up to a larger or higher-end establishment.
Requirements for a cooking role can vary by company, but many require the same basic things like:
High school diploma or equivalent
Proven experience as a cook or working in a restaurant environment
Knowledge of different cooking procedures and methods
Ability to follow sanitation and safety procedures and protocols
Ability to work in a team
Strong communication skills
Experience using different cookware and kitchen tools
Experience with hot and cold food preparation
Depending on the type of cook the job description may be for, there could be additional requirements. For example, a line cook job may have some different, more general requirements than a grill cook position, which may be more specific.
The job description should clearly outline requirements, but if you have questions, ask the hiring manager.
Interview questions vary, but you can expect a mix of general questions, ones about your
Knowing what types of questions may be asked, and preparing answers ahead of time, can help you succeed in your interview:
What is your experience in food handling?
Tell us about something on our menu we could improve.
How do you ensure your kitchen is stocked and staff is staying on task during a rush?
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake preparing an order. How did you correct it, and what did you learn?
What’s the most difficult situation you’ve encountered in a previous cook role?
What entrees/sauces/etc. can you prepare?
What qualities/skills do you think a successful cook needs?
There are several qualities and skills a good cook will have to be successful in their role. Some of the best qualities or traits include:
Works well with a team
Willing to learn
Willing to listen
A cook’s skills should focus on culinary expertise and knowledge, communication, and customer service skills. These can include:
Knowledge of kitchen, food safety, and sanitation protocols
Attention to detail
Cooks may decide to seek higher-level chef positions, especially if they earn a degree from a culinary school or certifications from culinary associations. The more you train, gain experience, prepare complex dishes and recipes, and learn new cooking skills, the more likely you are to advance your career.
Additionally, you may want to gain the experience and responsibility that comes with supervising a kitchen staff or team. An assistant or general manager position takes you out of the kitchen but allows you to oversee and manage a larger piece of the restaurant business.
Cook work schedules can vary from day to day depending on where they work. Sometimes, cooks may be hired for specific events only, or they may regularly work at a physical location. Shifts may include days, late evenings, nights and weekends, and even sometimes holidays.
Cooks work in bars, restaurants, hotels, and other establishments that serve food. The environment can range from fast food to casual dining to five-star restaurants, each with a slightly different kitchen environment.
Typically, kitchens are fast-paced, hot, and small, with not a lot of space to move around. You’ll often be working alongside other kitchen staff, so it’s important to be able to work well as a team and communicate effectively. Kitchens can also sometimes be stressful, especially during a rush or busy times.
However, they are also a place where you can be creative and showcase your culinary passion and expertise, while taking pride in your work, regardless of the establishment you’re at.