Line Cook: Skills and Career Paths
Deb Ward / APRIL 13 2021

What does a Line Cook do? Line cooks work under a head chef to prepare ingredients, condiments, and sauces or garnishes for a variety of dishes. Also known as Prep Cooks, they are often assigned a specific place on the line, such as grill or vegetable prep station.  Typical duties include:

  • Ensuring the prep station and the kitchen is set up and stocked
  • Preparing simple components of each dish on the menu
  • Reporting to the executive chef and following instructions
  • Making sure the food preparation and storage areas meet health and safety guidelines
  • Cleaning prep areas and storing leftovers
  • Stocking inventory and supplies
  • Cooking menu items with the support of other kitchen staff

Hard skills that are valued in this role include:

  • Training in vegetable preparation
  • Butchering of meat and seafood
  • Cooking sauces 
  • Making recipes and translating instructions into finished dishes
  • Being comfortable with a wide range of kitchen equipment
  • Understanding food safety and sanitation
  • Keeping utensils and knives clean and sharp
  • Ability to lift heavy objects

To be successful in this role, you don’t need additional culinary training, just a high school diploma as you often learn on the job. Having a few year’s experience in a similar role is preferred along with a strong knowledge of restaurant best practices and cooking methods. Some candidates have an associate’s degree in culinary arts and it is a good idea to get certified in food safetyThe American Culinary Federation and the Culinary Institute of America also offer certifications for cooks at all levels of experience.

In addition to the hard skills required to do the job, important soft skills are:

  • Great teamwork and collaboration
  • Clear communication with your team
  • Attention to detail at every step of the cooking process
  • Customer service focus to satisfy guest’s expectations
  • Time management skills and the ability to multi-task
  • Creativity to contribute to menu development
  • Strong organizational skills to keep everything at your station running smoothly
  • Commitment: be willing to work hard and be dedicated
  • Find a great head chef to work with – someone who will teach you
  • Take care of yourself so you can remain strong and focused

Possible career paths to pursue with your line cook experience include:

  • Customer Service Representative: In this position, you interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and provide information about your restaurant’s products and services. Typically, you would listen to customer questions and concerns and provide answers and handle complaints.
  • Cashier: Cashiers manage cash and sales transactions including promoting services, improving customer satisfaction, answering inquiries, and greeting customers.
  • Chef: As a chef, your job is to mentor and lead the culinary team. You develop and plan menus and daily specials as well as manage food costing and inventory.
  • Executive Chef: The executive chef creates and maintains the menu and identity of your restaurant. They take the lead to ensure all food is prepared properly and safely as well as managing the kitchen operations.
  • Kitchen Manager: A kitchen manager is in charge of managing the staff, planning and evaluating all department activities, and training employees. They are also responsible for ensuring a safe, secure and legal work environment and helping to develop personal growth opportunities for kitchen staff.

Interested in a career as a line cook? Find jobs here