A prep cook is an entry level kitchen position ideally suited for an aspiring chef. An aspiring chef will gain invaluable experience as a prep cook that will, in time, prepare him or her to advance to the next level of the kitchen ladder, also known as the chef hierarchy.
Although a prep cook receives a great amount of on-the-job training, it is often useful in landing this type of job to have already taken some basic training courses in the culinary arts. Prep cooks usually work under the command of a senior member of the kitchen staff. In light of this fact, it is important for a prep cook to be able to accept constructive criticism, even when under pressure, as is often the case in a busy kitchen.
Yes, a kitchen can be a high-pressure work environment, and a prep cook will need to have a skin that is thick enough to deal with the inevitable complaints – from customers as well as from more senior chefs. A prep cook must also accept that they will inevitably make a lot of mistakes in this entry level position, and must be able to view those mistakes as invaluable learning experiences as opposed to setbacks.
Despite being at the bottom of the kitchen ladder, the prep cook is an integral member of the kitchen staff. Although a prep cook has less responsibility than other kitchen staff members, the work that they perform is nevertheless crucial to the overall success of the kitchen. For this reason, the successful prep cook will learn how to work well in a team, will take responsibility for their actions, and will consistently pay attention to details.
A prep cook’s role is to assist in the preparation of meals by chopping vegetables, making salads, and putting together entrees. Although this role generally does not include any cooking duties, it provides the ideal opportunity to develop many other types of skills essential to becoming a chef. Such skills include proficiently being able to utilize a wide range of kitchen tools and utensils, include chopping knives and vegetable grinders.
In addition to his or her food preparation duties, a prep cook may also be responsible for completing a large number of smaller tasks. Such tasks could include ensuring that leftover food is stored properly, performing kitchen maintenance tasks such as emptying the trash and washing dishes, and testing the temperature of food at specified intervals. Rarely, certain restaurants and other establishments will require their prep cooks to also prepare tables and deliver dishes to dining patrons.
A prep cook can expect to earn about $8 to $10 per hour, or about $17,000 to $20,000 a year. This is admittedly low pay. However, a prep cook job is an entry level position that is best viewed as a stepping stone to greater opportunities. A prep cook that takes care to develop their skills while in this position and shows promise to become a talented chef should be able to quickly advance up the chef’s ladder into a position with greater responsibility and increased pay.
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