by: Isaiah Bankhead

General Job Description

Cooks check the freshness of food and ingredients before cooking. Then, they weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes. Finally, cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods. This may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.

Some of the different types of cooks include:

  • Institution and cafeteria cooks
  • Restaurant cooks
  • Short-order cooks
  • Fast-food cooks
  • Private household cooks and personal chefs
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Work Environment-Work Schedules

Cooks work in restaurants, schools, hospitals, private households, and other places where food is served. They often work early mornings, late evenings, holidays, and weekends.

How To Become One

Short-term on-the-job training and work-related experience are the most common ways to become a cook.


-Professional culinary institutes, and college degree programs provide training for aspiring cooks. Programs generally last from a few months to 2 years.


--Training generally starts with learning kitchen basics and workplace safety and continues with handling and cooking food. Apprentices complete courses in food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. Most apprenticeships last 1 year.

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In May 2012, median hourly wages for cooks were as follows:

  • $11.29 for cooks, private household
  • $10.99 for cooks, institution and cafeteria
  • $10.59 for cooks, restaurant
  • $9.48 for cooks, short order
  • $8.85 for cooks, fast food
  • $11.18 for cooks, all other

Job Outlook

Employment of cooks is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities will result from the combination of employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Those seeking full-time positions at upscale restaurants, where the pay is often greater, should expect strong competition for jobs.

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