How Can I Work in Food Preparation?

Food preparation workers support cooks and work in a team to provide quality meals to customers. Explore the job options in this field, and check the training you'll need to become a food preparation worker. Learn about the job duties, work environment and salary potential for food prep workers. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Duties of a Food Preparation Professional?

When you work in food preparation, your primary responsibility is to provide support services to a chef or cook. You assist in the preparation of entrees, appetizers, soups, salads and desserts. While cooks are responsible for selecting ingredients and following recipes, you are responsible for setting up kitchens and work spaces. This might include keeping ovens and stoves clean, fetching pots and pans, and unloading ingredients.

Your other main responsibility is to prepare ingredients for cooking. This might include chopping vegetables, cleaning fruits, trimming meats and thawing foods. As a food preparation worker, you are often responsible for making salads and handling side dishes that involve vegetables and uncooked ingredients. You might also monitor meals as they cook, stir soups and mix sauces.

Training Required On-the-job training is essential
Key Skills Attention to detail, basic skills with common kitchen tools, willingness to follow specific direction from cooks and other kitchen workers, good physical condition
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2014) $20,180*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education and Training Will I Need?

As a food preparation worker, you will most likely gain training through on-the-job experience; however, some restaurants do prefer to hire kitchen workers who have at least a high school diploma. If you're interested in completing some form of postsecondary education to give you an advantage in the field, you might consider courses in food safety or food service through a vocational school, community college or industry association.

A certificate program or training class in food service or food safety should provide you with a basic understanding of how to prepare, handle and cook foods. You can expect to learn the safe and proper way to slice meats, prevent cross-contamination and clean workspaces. You also learn the basics of nutrition and food safety regulations.

Where Might I Find a Job in the Field?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the great majority of food preparation workers employed in the country in 2015 worked for full-service restaurants. In such a position, you might be responsible for working with a team of other food preparation workers to help in the creation of breakfasts, lunch and dinners. Your position might be slightly more autonomous if you find employment as a food prep worker within a limited-service dining establishment, cafeteria, grocery store or nursing care facility. Such organizations sometimes hire food preparation workers to do the work of full-time chefs.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The BLS reported that food preparation workers in general held more than 862,000 jobs in 2015, and made a median annual salary of roughly $20,000. The food preparation workers earning the highest wages in that year were employed by department stores, wholesale retailers, and office administrative services. The top-paying states in the field included Alaska, the District of Columbia and Nevada.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other careers that only require on-the-job training include those of bakers, butchers and food and beverage serving workers. Bakers may work in manufacturing facilities or in businesses making baked goods such as breads and pastries. Butchers cut and prepare meat in processing plants or stores. Food and beverage serving workers typically perform job duties that include taking and preparing orders, serving food and drinks, and cleaning up drinking and dining establishments.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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