What to Expect in a Cook Job Description (With Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cooks prepare meals for restaurants, cafes and a wide variety of other food establishments. Food establishments outline their duties and responsibilities in the job description and can vary according to the employer's needs. It's a good idea to become familiar with the job description for a cook if you're interested in pursuing this career path. In this article, we describe the duties included in a typical cook job description, list the required skills and provide the steps you can take to become a cook.

Cook job description example

Here's an example of a cook job description to give you an idea of the experience and skills food establishments may look for:

Our family-owned and operated Italian restaurant is seeking an experienced cook. The cook is responsible for preparing high-quality authentic Italian meals for customers dining in or taking away. Further responsibilities include maintaining our food inventory, cleaning the cooking equipment and storing leftover food according to health regulations. We are looking for candidates with strong organisational skills, the ability to remain calm under pressure and strong references. Experience in preparing Italian cuisine is not essential.

Responsibilities:

  • prepare a range of high-quality meals for our customers

  • help design new menu items

  • help estimate stock requirements

  • streamline processes between our wait staff and kitchen staff

Duties:

  • clean food preparation areas and maintain hygiene standards

  • set up staff workstations with the necessary ingredients and cooking equipment

  • prepare cooking ingredients (measure ingredients, chop and peel vegetables and cut meat)

  • prepare food using our approved recipes

  • maintain customer expectations and accommodate guests with allergies

  • monitor ingredient quality for freshness

  • monitor stock levels and place orders

  • liaise with front-of-house staff to ensure they serve hot food

  • operate kitchen appliances and cooking apparatus

  • portion and present food according to our expectations

  • supervise kitchen hands

What we're looking for:

  • experience in a busy restaurant with great food

  • a team player with a positive and professional communication style

  • a cook with a passion for Italian cuisine

  • exceptional attention to detail

  • adherence to health and safety standards

    Experience and qualifications:

  • a culinary certification and two years of work experience, or three years work experience for those without relevant qualifications

What does a cook do?

A cook's duties are to plan, prepare and cook meals to meet customer expectations and maintain their employer's reputation. Employers and customers expect cooks to maintain a high quality of service while often preparing numerous meals in short periods. They ensure sanitary food handling and storage and maintain an efficient and organised kitchen.

Common duties in a cook job description

A cook job description generally includes a range of daily tasks and responsibilities. Some of the daily duties may include:

  • planning menus and ordering ingredients

  • inspecting deliveries to ensure fresh produce

  • selecting and following recipes

  • measuring, weighing and mixing ingredients

  • chopping, slicing and seasoning food

  • baking, frying, grilling and boiling food

  • adjusting recipes to meet special dietary requirements

  • presenting attractive, appetising and garnished dishes

  • cleaning workspaces, utensils and dishes

  • maintaining a sanitary and safe work environment

  • managing food storage and stock levels

  • meeting food safety and sanitation regulations

  • training kitchen hands or apprentices

  • liaising with wait staff and management

Skills featured in a job description for a cook

Here's a list of some essential skills for cooks to develop and refine:

Culinary skills

The ability to cook appetising meals is the most important skill for a cook to develop. Culinary skills include a broad range of knowledge and techniques that cooks can use to create tasty dishes that satisfy customer expectations. Here are some of the culinary skills needed:

  • ingredient selection

  • food preparation

  • knife control and cutting skills

  • a keen sense of taste and smell

  • ability to match flavours and balance seasoning

  • proficient pastry making

  • food decoration and presentation

  • an understanding of nutrition

Attention to detail

Perfectly cooking a meal requires excellent attention to detail. Many recipes need exact measurements to ensure satisfying results. Cooking times are usually precise, and cooks may measure serving sizes to maintain budgets. Sometimes it's necessary for a cook to complete several meals simultaneously to serve them to a group of customers while still hot. This requires planning and precision to ensure cooks prepare meals in unison and to a high standard.

The ability to work under pressure

Cooks often work in fast-paced environments that require meeting the needs of multiple customers quickly. Customer and management expectations can be high, and cooks who can handle pressure well may excel. Cooks working in large, fast-paced kitchens can benefit from quick decision-making, problem-solving and initiative skills.

Creativity

Employers in some working environments ask cooks to enhance existing recipes, devise new recipes or improve menus. A creative menu can encourage repeat business and attract new customers. Cooks may experiment with recipes, food presentations and menus to continually improve the establishment's offering.

Adherence to hygiene and safety standards

Cleanliness and safe practices are crucial skills for cooks. All food-serving establishments are subject to stringent hygiene and safety regulations, so knowing how to clean a workspace, utensils and food storage areas is typically a part of a cook's job description. Maintaining safe work practices is also important to prevent employee or customer injury or illness. Examples of safe work practices include proper knife techniques to avoid injuries and safe food storage to avoid customer illness. Following health and safety practices also helps customers trust an establishment and maintain its reputation.

Teamwork

It's crucial to work well with others as cooks often work in teams. Besides working alongside other cooks, kitchen hands and head chefs, you may interact with wait staff, bartenders and establishment managers. Key skills that enhance teamwork include strong communication skills, empathy, compassion, the ability to give and receive constructive feedback and a sense of humour.

Related: What Skills Do Cooks Need? (And How to Improve Them)

A cook's work environment

Cooks work in various establishments, including restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, hospitals and educational facilities. Roles can be ongoing at a fixed location or temporary, such as work at specific events. A cook's work environment can range from small casual cafes to five-star restaurants and large-scale kitchens catering for corporate events and weddings. Cooks may use multiple ovens and stoves at once and regularly work in high temperatures. They may also experience high-pressure and fast-paced environments. In terms of hours, cooks often work in the evenings, on weekends and during holidays.

A cook's average salary

Employers may include a cook's salary in the job description. If the company hasn't stated salary information in the advertisement, you can research average salaries online to gain an idea of what to expect.

According to Indeed Salaries, the national average salary of a cook is $56,477 per year. How much a cook earns can vary significantly depending on the type of establishment they work in and level of experience they have. Cooks may earn more money working in high-quality restaurants than in casual establishments.

Related: 16 of the Highest-Paying Hospitality Jobs

How to become a cook

Working as a cook can be a fulfilling experience for people who are passionate about food. Here are four key steps to becoming a cook:

1. Get an education

Job candidates can review a cook's job description to learn which qualifications to take. In many instances, cooks don't require formal education beyond high school, though some employers prefer candidates with a certification or degree from a culinary school. Culinary schools teach students to follow recipes, master cooking techniques, use kitchen instruments and become familiar with the commonly used vocabulary in kitchens. You can also take classes in areas such as knife skills, kitchen safety, menu design and baking.

2. Gain experience

You may consider applying for work as a kitchen hand, dishwasher or server to learn more about the role of a cook. Some food establishments hire food preparation staff to help cooks with various tasks, such as chopping vegetables, slicing meat and making coffee. Working in these roles can be excellent training for working as a cook. Volunteering to help and shadow an experienced cook is another avenue you may follow to gain experience. Consider reviewing a number of cook job descriptions to see what kind of experience they require.

3. Create a compelling resume

When you're ready to begin a role as a cook, it's important to craft a concise resume that details your experience, qualifications and skills that are relevant to the job description. You can use a template to help you create a clear and comprehensive resume, including all the details that employers are likely to notice when assessing your application. You can tailor your resume for each role by reviewing the job description and highlighting how your skills match the employer's requirements.

Related: How to Create a Stand-Out Resume (With Template and Example)

4. Apply for jobs

You can use online job boards to find and apply for roles as a cook. After applying, it's good practice to follow up with an email or phone call if you don't receive a response in one or two weeks. With a casual restaurant or café, you can consider following up with a visit to the establishment to introduce yourself. Following up can be an effective way to show your keen interest in a position and dedication to your career.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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