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Line Cook Job Profile: Become a Culinary Specialist

Job Profile

As a line cook, you'll work under a sous chef and specialize in a culinary component such as sauces, fish, roasting, grilling, frying, butchering, vegetables and side dishes, salads and appetizers, or pastry. Your job will be to prepare your specialty and arrange it attractively on the plate before it's served.

Line Cooks: A Day in the Life

Line cooks are on their feet at all times and work long hours, which may include weekends and holidays. Service periods, when large seatings of diners are ordering food, are especially hectic. However, one of the best aspects of working as a line cook is that you become the resident expert on your specialty. A good restaurant kitchen is like an efficient machine with no superfluous parts. Effective, efficient, knowledgeable line cooks are critical to the kitchen's operation. Line cooks are members of a tightly knit team and also experts in their specialty.

Most restaurants don't require line cooks to attend culinary school. Many cooks start out in entry-level jobs as waiters or dish washers and then gradually advance to line cook. Much of your training will take place on the job, and you may move from specialty to specialty. For instance, once you master fish preparation, you may learn the various ways to prepare beef or sauces.

Line Cook Culinary Training Requirements

Working as a line cook is a great step toward becoming a sous chef or executive chef. If your career dream is to advance to those jobs, you may want to consider culinary school. In a short training program lasting just a few months, you can learn about nutrition, food sanitation, and entry-level food preparation methods. If you decide to earn a two-year or four-year culinary degree, you'll take additional hands-on training courses in more complex cooking, banquets, catering, unique and popular foods around the world, purchasing, and accounting. Most two-year and four-year programs will require you to do an internship and will also help you find one.

Salary Information for Line Cooks

Your salary will depend on many factors, including the location and type of restaurant and your level of training and expertise. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2007 the median salary of restaurant cooks was $21,960. The lowest 10 percent earned $15,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30,000. To earn a bigger salary, you may want to take steps to become a sous chef or executive chef.

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