Line cooks work in restaurants preparing ingredients and cooking the dishes assigned to their workstations. Without a line cook, food wouldn’t get made in time, making them essential in a properly functioning kitchen. They work under the supervision of a head chef, making sure to follow their orders and prepare the dishes designed by the chef. This role can be considered an entry-level position in the restaurant industry, especially for junior line cooks. Due to the growing need for restaurant workers after the pandemic, this is a prime time to find your dream job in food service. This guide is designed to help you better understand the role of a line cook so you can decide whether this is the career for you and prepare a winning resume that’ll get your foot in the door. Ready to learn more about this job?
To begin, let's take a look at three resume examples by different line chefs.
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Job duties of a line cook
Line cooks are considered the backbone of the restaurant industry. They are responsible for preparing delicious food consistently and promptly to keep the restaurant operational. Each line cook is assigned a particular workstation and the duties specific to that area of the line. Despite the specifics of each workstation, some responsibilities are general to all line cook jobs.
Some of the typical duties for line chefs include:
Ensuring all pre-cooking preparations are complete, such as stocking up the workstation with the ingredients and preparing them for cooking by cutting, chopping and more.
Coordinating with other kitchen staff to prepare and deliver the meal at the right time and temperature.
Keeping the workstation clean and hygienic according to the set standards.
Managing the inventory of ingredients.
Reporting to the head chef for taste-testing and receiving feedback and instructions.
Operating different appliances used in their assigned process.
Measuring the accurate amount of ingredients needed for each portion to reduce leftovers.
Cleaning and maintaining appliances and equipment in optimal working order.
Line cook median salaries
As per PayScale, the annual median salary of a line cook is $29,656. However, pay is often commensurate with experience and credentials.
Top skills for line cooks
A line cook is responsible for preparing ingredients before the kitchen opens and cooking the dishes assigned to their station under the supervision of the head chef. This includes prepping and cooking, cleaning up areas, and ensuring the kitchen is fully stocked and ready to serve customers. Let’s take a look at some of the skills a line cook must possess:
- Skilled in prep work: Line cooks should prepare each ingredient and component of the menu in advance of the busy hours for meal service. This helps the kitchen produce the necessary volume of dishes on time.
- Excellent cooking skills: A line cook should love to cook, period. They should cook and prepare their part of the dish with minimal to no supervision, following the chef’s established recipe.
- Ability to follow instructions: Head chefs will give you instructions that you need to follow carefully. This can include performing particular tasks or receiving feedback on your cooking.
- Time management: As a line cook, you need to work well under pressure because customers can’t be made to wait long for their dishes. They expect high-quality food delivered at the correct temperature and precisely as ordered in as little time as possible. This means that you need to work quickly to have your part of the food ready to go.
- Safe handling of food: It is of utmost importance to follow all safety guidelines when preparing food. From avoiding cross-contamination to proper food storage and cleanliness and sterilization, a line cook must know how to preserve the freshness and quality of food and the prepared ingredients.
- Organization and cleanliness: Your station should be organized at all times. Ingredients must be kept in each container for easy access when cooking and to avoid possible cross-contamination. One of the most important responsibilities of a line chef is to always clean as you go.
Educational requirements for line cooks
Most employers do not require line cooks to have a formal education. However, proper education and training will help you advance in your career and differentiate you from the competition. Let's take a look at some options you may consider:
DegreeAlthough there is no formal education requirement for line cooks, some restaurants prefer candidates with a high school diploma or an equivalent degree — like a GED. And, of course, a degree in culinary arts will always be preferred.
The Northwest Culinary Institute, Ohio State University, The Culinary Institute of America, Glendale Community College and Hudson County Community College specialize in pastry areas by becoming a Certified Fundamentals Pastry Cook or a Certified Pastry Culinarian.
As for online certifications, the ACF launched its Online Learning Center with multiple opportunities for chefs to advance their careers and maintain their ACF certification.
Line cook resume-writing tips
You may be the most skilled cook, but you won’t get the chance to prove that if your resume doesn’t capture who you are. Writing an effective resume requires a few elements, such as the ones we’ll discuss below. Most importantly, a generic or one-size-fits-all resume won’t cut it; instead, you should take the time to tweak the information in your resume for each role to which you apply.
- Use the best keywords: Using the correct keywords increases the chance of getting selected for the applied position. Read the job description carefully and choose the ones that match your experience, skills and credentials to add them to your resume. Some possible keywords include:
- Grinding skills
- Chopping skills
- Hygiene maintenance
- Food presentation
- Food storage
- Cleaning and sanitation
- Culinary skills
- Team Player
- Capture the employer’s attention immediately: With only a maximum of 15-20 seconds to impress the recruiter, try to put everything in the first half of the resume itself. The ideal way to start your resume is with a strong and tailored objective statement or professional summary. Include two to three sentences that summarize:
Then, decide on the resume format that best suits your credentials and qualifications. Ideally, you’ll choose the one that prioritizes your strongest attributes.
- Look closely at the job description and identify the required and nice-to-have skills that match your own. Remember: Skills don’t come just from work experience. You likely have valuable job-related skills from volunteer work, classes, travel, parenting and hobbies, too.
- Your top skills that were mentioned in the job ad.
- Your most noteworthy achievement in cooking or a previous job.
- Pick the top-five technical, soft and transferable skills, and describe exactly how you can use each on the job and how they will help the company succeed.
- Quantify your achievements. The most compelling resumes not only show off the job seeker’s accomplishments, they use numbers for real impact. To do this, think about your work or school history and identify specific work you did that you’re most proud of. Did you save the company thousands of dollars? How? Maybe you created a process that improved workflow efficiency by 30%. Show at least one of these measurable achievements for each job in your work history, or list them along with matching skills if you don’t have a work history.
Can a line cook get promoted into a chef?
Yes, a cook can be promoted into a chef. However, there are many different types of chefs. The hierarchy in the kitchen is set up in a way that first, you would have to work your way up to a chef de partie (aka, station chef), then into a sous chef, a chef de cuisine and finally an executive chef. For each of these higher-up positions, you’ll need the appropriate training and experience.
Does a line cook need to wear a uniform?
Generally speaking, all the staff in a restaurant or a food service establishment need to be in uniforms representing the establishment’s brand. Despite a line cook’s job being in the back-end, which does not require them to present themselves in front of customers, most restaurants and food service stations have stringent norms that mandate wearing uniforms at all times.