How Do I Become a Prep Cook?
A prep cook, otherwise known as a food preparation worker, readies the cooking areas and foods that chefs need to complete meals. If you are organized, enjoy working with food, and are looking for an entry-level kitchen position, then a job as a prep cook might be for you.
Prep cooks don't do much actual cooking; instead, they're responsible for ensuring that chefs have the necessary ingredients at hand. They also help with serving and cleaning duties. Some prep cooks choose the position as a steppingstone to higher-level kitchen jobs, such as chef or food service manager, although some just enjoy working in a kitchen without the stress that top positions can bring. Either way, to become a prep cook you will need some food handling experience, whether in an educational setting or on the job.
Important Facts About Prep Cooks
|Median Salary (2018)||$23,730 (food preparation workers)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||8% growth (food preparation workers)*|
|On-the-Job Training||Short-term training required|
|Similar Occupations||Chef, baker, butcher, server|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
As a prep cook, you're responsible for everything from chopping vegetables to sweeping dining room floors. A typical day's duties might include checking the temperature of refrigerated foods, preparing salads, straining soups, placing prepared foods onto plates, pre-measuring ingredients, filling dishwashers, and alerting supervisors to low food quantities.
To prepare to work as a prep cook, you can begin working and receive on-the-job training or attend a community college, vocational college, or cooking school. Pursuing a higher education is often helpful if you wish to advance into senior kitchen positions.
As a potential prep cook, you might enroll in a food preparation or culinary arts certificate program, which will prepare you to handle food prep duties in a variety of settings. If you wish to advance beyond prep cook, you may consider an associate or bachelor's degree in culinary arts. Most of these culinary programs include courses like food preparation, food sanitation, hospitality management, and international cuisine. To ensure a high standard of education, you might check a program's accreditation status with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Education Foundation, which accredits culinary programs of all levels.
Prep cooks have several career advancement options. If you'd like to move from prep work to cooking, experience and training might earn you a position as a sous chef or head chef. You may also advance into food service management positions where you are responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of eating establishments. To stay current in the culinary field, you might join the ACF and receive access to networking opportunities, industry news, scholarship opportunities, and a career center for job hunters.