What Does an Assistant Cook Do? (Plus Helpful Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 June 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.

Assistant cooks are some of the many professionals that large commercial kitchens employ. These professionals assist senior cooks and chefs with a range of tasks, including food prep and clean-up. If you're looking for a job in hospitality, it might be helpful to learn more about assistant cooks and what they do. In this article, we explain what assistant cooks do, list their skills, describe the job's requirements, discuss an assistant cook's work environment and share helpful tips for working in this role.

What does an assistant cook do?

The answer to the question, What does an assistant cook do?' is they're a junior culinary professional who helps senior cooks prepare food in restaurants and hotels. This is often an entry-level position for individuals interested in a hospitality career. Assistant cooks often help prepare food, complete cleaning tasks and may manage inventory.

Here are some common tasks for these professionals:

Food preparation

One of the most common tasks for assistant cooks is food preparation. Unlike more senior cooks, they're rarely responsible for preparing or coordinating entire dishes and usually focus on simple tasks like peeling and chopping vegetables, prepping and cutting meat, mixing ingredients and sometimes making sauces. This work requires assistant cooks to use knives, mixers, food processors, slicers and other tools safely.

Since kitchens often prepare many of their ingredients well in advance, it's important for assistant cooks to store food safely when they finish their tasks. This requires a good knowledge of health and safety regulations and attention to detail. Besides their prep work, assistant cooks are responsible for working alongside other cooks and providing them with whatever they need during their restaurants' operating hours.

Related: Top 10 Jobs with Food (Including Salaries and Duties)

Clean up

Regular cleaning is an essential part of food safety and is a common task for assistant cooks. They're often responsible for cleaning and sanitising all work surfaces and utensils before and after food preparation begins. Assistant cooks also provide ongoing cleaning during their shifts and help prevent cross-contamination. It's important for them to have a good understanding of local food safety regulations and adhere to them closely in their work.

Related: 16 of the Highest-Paying Hospitality Jobs

Check stock and inventory

Commercial kitchens rely on large inventories of ingredients that require proper storage. Assistant cooks are often responsible for stocking pantries, refrigerators and freezers when their restaurants receive deliveries. They may check orders to ensure that they're complete and can assist kitchen managers with maintaining sufficient inventory. When stocking food, assistant cooks are required to pay special attention to the safe storage requirements of each item.

Related: Cook Resume Examples (With Resume Tips and a Template)

Assistant cook skills

Assistant cooks require a range of skills to be successful in their work, including:

  • Collaboration: Commercial kitchens are busy places, and as an assistant cook, you may work alongside a range of cooks, kitchen hands, food expeditors, waiters and managers. Collaboration skills can help you work alongside these professionals effectively and resolve any conflicts that arise.

  • Safety consciousness: As an assistant cook, you may use a variety of sharp tools and work with hot foods and liquids. Caution and concern for the safety of others can help you avoid injuries and keep your colleagues safe in the kitchen.

  • Attention to detail: Attention to detail is important when preparing ingredients to exact specifications and can help you work more effectively with other cooks. It can also help you store foods safely and create clean and sanitary workspaces.

  • Communication: During busy kitchen shifts, communication may become challenging and mistakes can occur. Prioritising clear verbal communication is a good way to avoid errors and build better working relationships with your peers.

  • Stamina: Unlike professionals in other industries, cooks spend much of their time standing. Physical stamina can help you complete long kitchen shifts without experiencing burnout or excessive fatigue.

  • Culinary experience: Although assistant cook is often an entry-level position, it's still important to have some basic culinary experience. This includes knowing how to handle food safely, how to chop vegetables and how to clean work areas.

  • Knowledge of food safety regulations: One of an assistant cook's most important tasks is to ensure the safety of customers. This includes having an excellent understanding of all food and beverage safety regulations in their area.

  • Time management: Kitchens work on tight schedules to ensure that customers receive their food in a timely manner. It's important for assistant cooks to complete all their assigned tasks quickly and efficiently without making mistakes.

  • Creativity: Although assistant cooks are usually responsible for preparing recipes developed by the head chef of a restaurant, they may sometimes help create new dishes. A talent for creativity can help them find new and delicious ways to prepare food.

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

Assistant cook requirements

Requirements for assistant cook positions can vary widely based on the employer. Most of these positions are entry-level, although many restaurants prefer candidates with some experience in food preparation. This is especially true in high-end establishments. If you want to work as an assistant cook, it might be beneficial to get some experience as a kitchen hand or food expeditor before you apply. Unlike professionals in many other industries, cooks don't require university degrees. If you have studied in a culinary program, it can make you more competitive in the hospitality industry.

Related: What's the Key Difference Between a Chef and a Cook?

Work environment for assistant cooks

The most common place for assistant cooks to work is in commercial kitchens at restaurants, hotels or events centres. These kitchens are often staffed by a range of chefs, cooks, managers, waiters and other food service professionals. Here, assistant cooks can expect a highly collaborative and team-centred work experience. Unlike professionals in other industries, assistant cooks often work on weekends, due to increased demand in restaurants and hotels. Depending on where they work, assistant cooks can work full or part-time and can expect to start and end their shifts later that professionals in other industries.

Related: What Does a Line Cook Do? (With Skills and Certifications)

Tips for working as an assistant cook

Here are a few tips that can help you get a job as an assistant cook and succeed in your career:

Explore certifications

As an assistant cook, maintaining proper food safety may be one of your most important tasks. One of the best ways to increase your knowledge of safe food handling is by earning a certification. Entities like the Australian Institute of Food Safety offer complete food handling courses you can complete easily online. Besides enhancing your own knowledge of food safety, these certifications can also make you a more competitive candidate. Some restaurants may also require these certifications, making it a good idea to earn yours beforehand.

Related: What Does a Kitchen Assistant Do? (With Skills and Salary)

Ask questions

When you start your job, chances are that you're unfamiliar with many of the restaurant's recipes, procedures and techniques. It's important to take advantage of experienced staff members and ask them to explain anything you're confused about. This can help you avoid making simple mistakes and build good working relationships with your colleagues.

Do some research

Before you apply for an assistant cook position, it might be a good idea to do some research. Look up the restaurant or hotel online and explore their staff pages. Next, you can look over their menus and drink lists. This can be a good way to familiarise you with their offerings and can give you a head start when you begin training.

Adapt yourself to the new environment

Each kitchen is different, and chefs often have unique processes for preparing their signature dishes. When you enter a new kitchen, it's important to let go of your old training and learn more about your colleagues' preferences. This can help you assimilate more quickly and become a valuable part of the team.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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