If you love the restaurant industry and don’t mind working your “station” in a commercial kitchen buzzing with activity then you can consider working as a line cook. In this profession, you will find yourself typically under the supervision of a sous chef who reports directly to the restaurant’s head chef. In larger establishments, you may have culinary assistants under you or in smaller eating places, you may be the lowest-ranked cook in the hierarchy.
As a line cook, you will be tasked to prepare a particular portion of a dish in your own station. Restaurants are organized in such a manner that there are different areas for salads, desserts, fish, meat and pasta. This arrangement does not only keep the kitchen organized but prevents cross-contamination among different food ingredients as well. Even before the lunch or dinner hour rush begins, you must already have prepared the ingredients in your station.
Culinary skill is going to be necessary since you will find yourself chopping, slicing, deboning and preparing sauces, among others. You don’t get to experiment with food recipes in this career because restaurants typically have a menu and a standard by which all cooks must adhere to—from the taste and size of the meat for a particular dish to the plate that it must be served on to how it should be garnished.
When the orders start coming in, you will be cooking the ingredient in your station and together with other line cooks, you will be assembling the food following the established standards of the restaurant. All throughout your shift, you are required to meet the standards for cleanliness and hygiene. That means that you should constantly practice proper hand washing procedures and keeping your equipment and station sanitized.
To succeed as a line cook, you need to be physically fit and strong since you’ll be standing for long hours preparing food in a busy and hot kitchen. You also need to follow even the minutest details of a recipe so that you can maintain the standards of the establishment. You should also be able to take constructive criticism especially if customers return their orders because of one reason or another. Needless to say, strong culinary skills are needed in this profession.
Why Become A Line Cook
Individuals who are passionate about cooking and enjoy the challenge that a fast- paced commercial kitchen environment offers will find this profession to be quite satisfying. Another reason to become a line cook is that it is often one of the best training grounds to advance to higher level positions like that of a sous chef or a head chef. Employment opportunities are also expected to be good for cooks in general in the coming years.
Line Cook Work Environment
Line cooks mainly work for restaurants and other eating establishments like fast food places, hotels, school cafeterias and even for private households. They may also work in hospitals and other healthcare settings. The kitchen can be a dangerous place if the cooks are not careful because hot ovens could burn and scald, knives and other sharp objects could cut and slippery floors can lead to slips and falls. Thus, line cooks must see to it that they handle the materials and equipment well and wear nonslip shoes and aprons to minimize the risks. Line cooks usually work fulltime and often in shifts which include evenings, weekends and holidays.
Line Cook Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that cooks, line cooks included, earned mean annual wages of $22,440. The highest paid restaurant cooks work in the District of Columbia ($29,400), Hawaii ($29,250), Alaska ($28,660), Massachusetts ($28,020) and Nevada ($27,450).
Line Cook Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a positive job outlook for cooks, including line cooks, in the coming years. In the decade covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of cooks is expected to increase 10 percent. This rate is faster than the average for all job types. The continued need for people for food will spur the demand for these professionals. The cost-cutting efforts of some restaurants will further spawn the need for cooks since they will be preferred over chefs and head cooks that have to be paid a much higher salary.
Line cooks typically enter the profession holding a certificate or degree from a culinary institute or vocational cooking school. Others get hired after undergoing a year-long apprenticeship program which fuses technical training and actual work experience. High school graduates who are at least 17 years old and have passed substance abuse screening can qualify for these apprenticeships offered by industry associations, culinary institutes and trade unions.