If you want a career in the culinary industry that doesn’t necessarily require formal training, you should consider working as a line cook. Professional kitchens are always in need of professionals who can do everything from chopping and dicing to sautéing and broiling, so you will likely have many job prospects in this field if you’re good at what you do. For those who can stand the heat, the kitchen is a great place to be for a line cook.
Should you decide to pursue a career as a line cook, you will start right in the kitchen, although some professionals start as dishwashers or busboys before they get on the line as cooks. If you have no prior experience, you may start by interning, or you might take one of these entry-level jobs and try to spend time with the cooks and chefs and get a feel for what they do, either before or after your shifts. You don’t need to be formally trained to be a line cook, but you do need to be proficient at all the basic cooking skills, so the kitchen can rely on you to prepare attractive, uniform food in a timely and graceful manner.
These are a few of the skills that most line cooks have learned before they start their first day in the kitchen:
- Chopping, dicing and cooking techniques, such as baking, broiling and frying
- Basic knowledge of a large variety of food types
- Inventory management
- Plate presentation
- Portion control
- Sanitation rules and regulations
Some line cooks have at least a technical certificate or associate’s degree in culinary arts, which helps in the job market, but isn’t required. Many line cooks have simply worked their way up and gotten training on the job, allowing them to move to more advanced positions at finer restaurants over time. Not all line cooks work in restaurants, though. Some also work in catering company kitchens, cruise ship kitchens, elderly care facilities, hospitals, school cafeterias and dining halls, and many other places where food is served.
Wherever you end up working as a line cook, you will need to be quick on your feet, able to work well with others and ready to give your best at all times. The good news is that the culinary industry is constantly growing and there are many jobs in this field. The National Restaurant Association reports that the restaurant industry currently employs 12.8 million Americans.