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Cook Career Guide

If you’re someone with a real passion for feeding other people tasty and delicious food, then you may thrive as a cook!

Cooks prepare food for clients and customers. A career as a cook is a fast-paced, demanding and creative career that requires you to use your imagination to produce excellent quality food that meets the customers needs.

To become a cook, there are no formal education requirements and you will receive on-the-job training. Some cooks also learn the relevant skills through apprenticeships. Cooks may decide to attend culinary schools or vocational cooking schools, but it is not a necessity.

 

Every moment, every day, and every year – a cook enhances his or her skills, adds something to his or her repertoire, and becomes better at the craft. This is incredibly gratifying.

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Cook Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Cook Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Cook field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33895 Cashier/Cook Female 44 $15,300 Flatgap, KY 01/01/2010
33789 Cook Female 32 $8,000 Michigan city, IN 01/01/2010
33391 Baker, Salad Bar Preparation Female 50 $11,000 Prague, OK 01/01/2010
33277 Cook/Teacher Female 50 $12,000 Rural Retreat, NY 01/01/2010
33255 Head Cook Male 48 $28,000 Baltimore, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a cook does

The job of a cook is to prepare food for clients and customers. Cooks may also devise new methods of cooking and new menu items. They can work in a fast food restaurant, a diner, a family restaurant, or a fine dining establishment. Cooks can also work in hotels, on cruise ships, and even in private homes. Anywhere where a professional must prepare food, a cook can find a job. Regardless of where they work, their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring that food preparation areas are kept clean and sanitary
  • Preparing food to the specifications of the client
  • Making adjustments to food to accommodate guests with allergies or specific diet concerns
  • Managing other employees in the kitchen (e.g., pot washers)
  • Ordering ingredients and resources as needed
  • Operating various kitchen appliances (e.g., blender, oven, grill, or stand mixer)
  • Serving food, ensuring it looks appealing and is garnished correctly
  • Assisting other cooks during the food assembly process
  • Devising new recipes
  • Estimating expected food consumption and organises preparation
  • Keeping records and accounts of food purchases
  • Meeting with customers to ensure a great meal experience

Why they are needed

Revenue in the food and beverages industry is projected to reach $236,529m in 2020. Cooks, like other hospitality personnel (e.g., chefs, pastry chefs, bakers) play a fundamental role in this industry. They are responsible for cooking delicious food for clients, without them, there would be no ‘food’ in the thriving food and beverages industry.

Pros and cons of a career as a cook:

Pros:

  • There is the potential to make good money as chef, especially if you are hired privately or work for a fine-dining establishment
  • It is a relatively easy career to enter as there are no formal education requirements
  • It is an occupation that offers jobs worldwide
  • If you are passionate about food, then you get to do your passion every single day
  • You get to express your creativity
  • A career as a cook offers lots of variety (e.g., you could work in cafe, at a high end restaurant, privately for a family)

Cons:

  • It is a physically demanding job that requires you to be on your feet
  • There are some hazards. For example, cooks work with sharp knives or hot ovens
  • The pay can be uncertain
  • The hours can be long and unpredictable
  • Cooks will have to work weekends, evenings, and holidays
  • It can be a stressful and high pressured jobs

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of cooks is projected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This employment growth is expected because the growing population is expected to result in a greater demand for food at a variety of dining places. One thing is for certain: we all love food. We will continue to eat out, have meals delivered or require catering services. All of these places will requires cooks to prepare the meals.

The employment of fast food cooks is actually projected to decline. This is because fast food establishments are attempting to streamline operations by hiring other workers, such as counter workers, who both prepare and serve food to customers. Cooks in private households are also expected to face competition from the many food delivery service options.

Career paths

There are no formal education requirements to becoming a cook. Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training. This training usually lasts a few weeks, and trainees learn kitchen basics, workplace safety and how to handle and cook food.

Cooks may also choose to learn through an apprenticeship program, that last 1 year and combines technical training and work experience. These programs may be sponsored by professional culinary institutes, industry associations and trade unions. The American Culinary Federation sponsors apprenticeships. To get an apprenticeship, you must be over the age of 17 and have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Some cooks, especially those who aspire to work in restaurants or private households, attend culinary schools or vocational cooking schools. These programs can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years and can be in advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines and various cooking styles. To enter these programs, candidates will need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Example Job Titles for Cook

Below is a list of common job titles in the Cook field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for cooks in the United States was $12.67. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.06 per hour and the highest 10 percent earned more than $18.27 per hour. Private household cooks received the highest paying salary of $18.21 per hour. Fast food cooks received the lowest salary, of $11.30 per hour.

Autonomy and Flexibility

In general, a cook should have relatively high autonomy. They are normally a senior staff member in a kitchen. They are in charge of kitchen decisions, the chose who to delegate tasks to and they have control over portioning food and garnishing. In terms of flexibility, kitchens can be highly stressful places. It is likely that cooks will have little flexibility over how they plan their days, as deadlines are strict and timing is tight.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an cook, based on average annual salary and number of jobs available, were:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary was $32,382
  2. Hawaii, where the average annual salary was $32,382
  3. Washington, where the average annual salary was $33,269
  4. Vermont, where the average annual salary was $30,324
  5. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary was $30,477

The worst states to be a cook, according to Zippia, were West Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.

Work environment

Cooks can work in many different places, such as: restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels and other establishments where food is prepared. The largest employers of cooks in the United States were restaurants and other eating places, which employed 71% of all cooks. Healthcare and social assistance employed 7% of all cooks and 5% were employed by educational services.

Cooks tend to prepare only part of a dish which means that they coordinate with other cooks and kitchen workers to complete meals on time. Cooks may stand for a long period of time, and work in a highly pressured environment. Some cooks may work outdoors at food stands, catered events or in mobile food trucks.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Cook careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Cook career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Cook.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

There has been no detailed exploration as to what personality traits will make a successful cook. However, it is very possible that successful cooks might be ESTP personality types. ESTP’s, otherwise known as ‘the explorer’, are curious, energetic and imaginative. They bring energy and excitement to their interactions with others, which is perfect for working in, and motivating, a team. They are curious, which will aid them in inventing new recipes and testing flavours. Finally, ESTPs are not the sensitive type and due to this, they can work in a fast-paced, highly pressured and critical environment.

Accomplishment and mastery

Cooks get to do their passion as a job, which will already leave them feeling pretty accomplished! What is more, is that they can learn their skills through on the job training and can pick up most of the cooking skills they need with great ease. Therefore, there is a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Throughout their career, cooks will serve fantastic food for families, friends and colleagues to bond over. Each time they do this, they will feel accomplished and fulfilled.

Meaning and contribution

The work of a cook has huge meaning and contribution to the food and beverage industry. Without them, the industry would not be able to thrive, as it does so well. The work of a cook also has huge meaning to the people who eat the food they prepare. Whether it’s for celebratory meals, weddings, funerals or christenings, cooks allow people to bond and come together, which is truly meaningful.

However, the work of a cook is not greatly meaningful to the lives of those who are struggling. Therefore, if you are truly passionate about helping those in need, and want a career that does this, you may find the work completely lacks meaning and contribution.

Life fit

Many cooks work full time, including early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Typically, cooks work more than 40 hours a week. This means it can provide a difficult life fit, especially for those who have a family.

Who will thrive in this career?

In order to thrive as a cook you must be imaginative. This will allow you to keep creating tasty and unique food, that your clients and customers will want to eat! Attention to detail is imperative for cooks to thrive, as they need to ensure all of their tastes excellent, right down to the finest detail.

Cooks also need to be assertive in order to thrive. Lots of people may work in a kitchen and cooks need to be able to lead others confidently and delegate tasks. Similarly, as kitchens can be notoriously stressful, cooks must be able to remain calm and collected under pressure.

Who will struggle in this career?

It goes without saying that those who are not passionate about food, and producing high quality food, will struggle in this career. This is because cooks need to know what excellent food tastes like. Those who aren’t particularly hands on or practical may struggle as a cook. This is because cooks learn nearly all their skills through on the job training and need to enjoy the process. Finally, if you cannot work well as part of a team then you may struggle with the kitchen dynamics, as cooks often collaborate with other cooks and supervise kitchen staff!

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as a genuine interest and passion for cooking, cooks will need skills and talents such as:

  • Willingness to learn, as becoming a good cooks takes time and experience
  •  Communication skills, as cooks need to communicate with other cooks and kitchen staff
  • Leadership skills, as cooks will be responsible for leading a team of other kitchen staff
  • Attention to detail, as cooks must pay attention to all aspects of their dish to ensure it is of the highest quality
  • Physical fitness, as cooks will have to be on their feet all day
  • Organization skills, as kitchens are busy and stressful and cooks play a part in keeping it orderly, tidy and clean
  • Multitasking, as cooks will have many different tasks to complete all at once

Education

There are no formal education requirements to becoming a cook. Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training. This training usually lasts a few weeks, and trainees learn kitchen basics, workplace safety and how to handle and cook food. Cooks may also choose to learn through an apprenticeship program, that last 1 year and combine technical training and work experience.

Cooks may also attend culinary schools or vocational cooking schools, but it is not a necessity. These programs can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years and can be in advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines and various cooking styles. To enter these programs, candidates will need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Certifications

There are no certification requirements to becoming a cook.

How to Become

Summary

Cooks prepare food for clients and customers. A career as a cook is a fast-paced, demanding and creative career that requires you to use your imagination to produce excellent quality food that meets the customers needs.

Immediate action

If you want to become a cook, then we suggest getting work experience in the hospitality industry. Whether thats as a pot washer, waitress/waiter or food runner, the experience and knowledge is valuable!

Education and learning

To become a cook, there are no formal education requirements and you will receive on-the-job training. Some cooks also learn the relevant skills through apprenticeships. Cooks may decide to attend culinary schools or vocational cooking schools, but it is not a necessity.

Skill development

Part of being a successful cook is enjoying the process. Cooks will spend the entirety of their career developing and advancing their skills and knowledge!

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Cook careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33895 Cashier/Cook Female 44 $15,300 Flatgap, KY 01/01/2010
33789 Cook Female 32 $8,000 Michigan city, IN 01/01/2010
33391 Baker, Salad Bar Preparation Female 50 $11,000 Prague, OK 01/01/2010
33277 Cook/Teacher Female 50 $12,000 Rural Retreat, NY 01/01/2010
33255 Head Cook Male 48 $28,000 Baltimore, NY 01/01/2010

Resources