If you are interested in a career in the culinary industry and don’t have any particular training, you can consider the position of a prep cook.
This is an entry-level job where you can work your way up to a chef.
Starting from this position, it will be far easier to move up the career ladder than right after graduation.
In this article, you will find comprehensive information you need to know about the position, including the requirements, responsibilities, salary, and more.
Article Table of Contents
What Is a Prep Cook
The position of a prep cook in the kitchen is entry-level.
If you dream of becoming a chef one day, this is a good way to start and enter the field.
At this job, you can learn essential skills and gain valuable experience.
In the long run, you will acquire the necessary skills and experience to pursue the job of a chef.
As a prep cook, you will get a lot of on-the-job training and usually, prior specific training isn’t required.
However, having taken some basic culinary courses can be of great help.
You will work in a high-pressure environment under the supervision of senior kitchen staff.
With the specific setting in the kitchen, prep cooks should be comfortable accepting constructive criticism to improve their skills and work.
A prep cook should be able to work under pressure since they are the ones who will hear most of the people’s complaints.
They can come from the customer or senior chefs, and when something goes not as planned, the guy at the lower level is usually the one to blame first.
With the job being entry-level, it’s essential that you can admit that you may make mistakes and perceive them as a learning experience.
It will help you learn and grow in the position.
Even though a prep cook is a lower-level position, they are still an essential part of the team.
It’s important to keep in mind that the kitchen staff is a team.
They need to work together to succeed.
If you learn how to work in a team as a prep cook, you have outstanding chances to go far compared to those who prefer to work individually.
Other Titles of a Prep Cook
When you’re looking for a job as a prep cook, you can come across different titles that also define the position.
- Line cook.
- Banquet prep cook.
- Food preparation worker.
- Food preparer.
Responsibilities of a Prep Cook
Prep cook assists with meal preparation.
Their responsibilities include chopping up ingredients, making salads, and creating entrees.
Even though in this position, you won’t have actual cooking duties, you will have a chance to improve the various skills required for being a chef.
With extensive experience in the position of a prep cook, you will obtain essential skills that will help in the other kitchen positions.
For instance, familiarity with various kitchen tools and utensils.
Additionally to the food preparation, prep cooks have smaller duties.
They range from basic maintenance in the kitchen to the proper storage of the leftover food.
Here is the list of some duties of a prep cook:
- Assist with the organization of the dining area.
- Sanitize the kitchen and maintain it before and after use.
- Maintain kitchen equipment.
- Properly label the ingredients on the shelves.
- Follow the list laid out by the chefs.
- Put together simple dishes.
- Keep the ingredients and seasonings measurements for the evening cooking.
- Monitor the ingredients for the side dishes, and report inventory to the chefs.
- Be prepared for additional kitchen duties throughout the evening.
Prep Cook Qualifications
The qualifications a prep cook must meet are basic.
First, they need a high school diploma or GED.
At some companies, a minimum of two years of experience in food preparation in the food service area are required.
A flexible schedule is a necessity as the work can include holidays, weekends, and evenings regularly or occasionally.
Ability to follow instructions and communication skills are significant for a prep cook as well.
You have to be a team player, and be able to work quickly in a high-pressure environment as well as to adapt to changes on the go.
To keep up with the workload, you need to be in good health and have good stamina.
In this position, you will have to work on your feet for long hours including crouching and kneeling when needed.
You may also have to lift weights of as much as 50 pounds.
Excellent manual skills are also vital as you may work with dangerous utensils and cutting tools.
The work environment of a prep cook includes being in humid, wet, or hot conditions for a long time.
You will be surrounded by moving mechanical parts, smoke, some potentially toxic materials can be present as well.
During work hours, the noise levels in a kitchen are typically loud.
Training and Certification
The job of a prep cook requires basic education.
First, you need a high school diploma or equivalent, such as GED.
A college education isn’t mandatory though and neither is culinary training.
If it’s possible, the previous kitchen experience is important.
Depending on the company, you may be required to have one to two years of experience in a medium to high volume restaurant.
If you don’t have experience but wish to work at a nice restaurant, you can start working at a casual dining establishment as a prep cook which will help you gain the necessary experience to move up to a fancier place.
Depending on the location, you may need to obtain a Food Handler’s card from the health department of your county.
The requirements for kitchen workers differ from state to state.
Workplaces of a Prep Cook
There are multiple workplace options for prep cooks in different companies, locations, or venues:
- Casual dining establishments.
- Hotel restaurants.
- College campus cafeterias.
- Conference center kitchens.
- Hospital cafeterias.
- Fine dining restaurants.
Depending on the establishment, prep cooks may work different shifts at any time of the day or night.
However, mostly the job won’t go further than the second shift.
Later shifts may be available at casual dining facilities, hospital cafeterias, or hotel restaurants.
Since the prep cook position is entry-level, the average salary is $20,000 annually.
The lowest salary can be $17,000, and the highest, at $24,000.
The difference in the payment depends on the employer and location where a prep cook works.
If you are interested in a career in the culinary area, prep cook is an excellent position to start.
Your responsibilities will include chopping up ingredients and preparing simple food such as salads.
In the process, you will receive on-the-job training while learning from advanced chefs and working side-by-side with them.
After observing and learning new skills you will be able to advance your career in the future.