A line cook arranges a single kitchen workstation and prepares dishes from that station during restaurant service. Line cooks are mid-level in the kitchen hierarchy, reporting to the sous-chefs, and ultimately the chef. A line cook job description should include a list of required daily tasks, as well as the experience required for the job.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for line cooks is $12.12 per hour. If your restaurant is offering an above average wage, it can make your job posting stand out. If you are looking to hire a line cook, check out the templates and tips below to help you with your search.
Line Cook Job Description Templates
One important aspect of restaurant management is procuring the right talent for your kitchen. The needs of each restaurant will vary, so it is important that your job description reflects exactly what your kitchen requires. Line cooks, in particular, are defined by their workstation on the kitchen line, so it is important to specify if you need a grill cook, a cook for the pantry, or pastry area of your operation. To customize your job description, you can use one of the three different templates here; one for quick service restaurants, a second for full service casual restaurants, and a final one for fine dining restaurants.
1. Quick Service Restaurant Template
Quick service is the fastest growing sector of the restaurant industry. Competition for cooks is very high. A line cook at a quick service restaurant usually operates like a short order cook, handling several orders at a time. An ideal quick service line cook is fast and good at working in tight spaces. If you need someone to wrangle multiple orders of burgers, or eggs Benedict, or crepes, this is the template for you.
2. Full Service Casual Restaurant
A full service casual restaurant kitchen includes some of the challenges of both quick service and fine dining. A line cook in a full service casual restaurant needs the speed and flexibility of a quick service cook combined with the high-polish attention to detail expected in fine dining. A desire to work through multiple stations is also useful in a full service setting. This template is ideal for kitchens that have a few stations—salads, grill, and saute’ for example—but don’t staff a full brigade of chefs.
3. Full Service Fine Dining Restaurant
Line cooks in a fine dining setting are typically looking for a challenging kitchen that will allow them to continue to grow as cooks. Fine dining restaurants seeking line cooks will want to show off the credentials of their head chef or their menu offerings. The ability to work under the mentorship of a respected member of the culinary community will draw in the best applicants.
Fine dining restaurants usually have the greatest number of possible kitchen stations as well as room for a floating line cook that cross trains to fill in on every station when needed.
Line Cook Job Description Template Alternative
If your restaurant uses a third party app for employee scheduling, you may already have a great tool for creating a line cook job description. A scheduling app like Homebase includes editable job descriptions that post directly from the app to job listing websites. In addition to job descriptions, Homebase integrates with several POS systems to help restaurant owners create, communicate, and enforce staff schedules as well as generate real-time labor reports to help control labor costs. Plus, you can get a free trial to see if you like it.
What All Line Cook Job Descriptions Should Include
There are some common points that all job descriptions should hit, regardless of service style. A strong job description will give a brief description of the restaurant, clearly outline the daily tasks the cook will be expected to perform, list minimum professional requirements for the job, as well as describe where this position fits within the overall restaurant operation.
Brief Description of the Restaurant
This section should be a couple of sentences to draw attention to your style of service, style of cuisine, as well as brand identity. This is a good place to list the short version of your restaurant’s vision if you have one, to mention any awards your restaurant has won, or to showcase the mentorship possibilities that your kitchen team can offer.
Clear Outline of Daily Tasks
This is the meat of the job description. If your kitchen has multiple stations, your job description should clarify what specific station this line cook will work. Will this cook be handling all the fried items on the menu, all the grilled items, or all the cold things like salads and desserts? Being descriptive here will help ensure that applicants responding to your job posting are interested in the job and have the skills necessary to perform it. If you need this line cook to assist with monthly inventory counts, or make chicken stock once a week, that should also be included.
Minimum Requirements for the Job
It is important to be realistic with your requirements. Quick service restaurants that sell hundreds of daily orders of their signature breakfast sandwich need a seasoned cook with a year of more experience cooking eggs in multiple styles. A casual place looking for a pantry cook to plate salads and slices of cake could train a recent culinary school graduate. Think about what experience your ideal candidate will have and put that in the job description.
It might be tempting to request three years’ experience in a job posting as a way to decrease the amount of training a new hire will require. Applicants with more experience, however, can get bored in positions that don’t challenge them and leave, forcing a restaurant to restart the recruiting and hiring process.
Description of the Role Within Your Overall Operation
If you know that your kitchen needs extra hands for dinner services Tuesday through Saturday, as well as every major holiday, let applicants know up front. If this grill cook position is expected to learn the saute’ station as well, mention it. If you did not list them in your restaurant description, this is also a great place to illustrate the perks of working in your kitchen. Things like an ability to learn a new cuisine, work with cutting edge equipment, or gain a well-known chef as a mentor are all compelling to potential applicants.
Tips For Hiring a Line Cook
The line cook position is just above the middle of the kitchen chain of command. Some line cooks are satisfied to remain at the line cook level for the remainder of their career—it allows them to focus on cooking rather than take on leadership responsibilities expected of sous chefs and chefs de cuisine. Most line cooks, though, expect to continue to build their experience and get promoted up the line.
The ability to gain worthwhile experience in your kitchen will be tempting to most line cooks. With that comes the obligation that you or your kitchen team will actively work to help line cooks develop new skills. This can include cross-training on a new station when there are lulls in service, or providing training in placing orders, receiving deliveries, performing inventory, or team leadership skills.
- Look for passion: Passionate cooks are constantly learning on their own time. An entry-level cook who is eager to learn may require more training than a cook with years of experience. If they are excited to be part of your team, however, a novice cook can bring positive energy into your kitchen.
- Train the cook you need: Savvy restaurant owners look for people they can teach. Employees that receive comprehensive training are more likely to stay in their jobs longer than those that receive little or no training. According to a LinkedIn study, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company if it invested in their careers.
- Reach out to your community: The best cooks find jobs through former supervisors. Usually this takes the form of a chef at one restaurant referring strong cooks he knows to another chef who is opening a new restaurant. Chef communities tend to be very close-knit, so if you are having trouble finding the cook you need, ask a chef you respect for a referral.
Smart restaurant owners remember that the community network can cut both ways. Maintaining positive relationships with the cooks that have come through your kitchen allows you to reach out to them for referrals. However, if your kitchen team is experiencing high turnover because of a negative work environment, word can easily spread to potential applicants that your restaurant is a place to avoid.
Understand The Brigade de Cuisine
The line cook role is just above the middle of what is known as the brigade de cuisine. If that sounds rather military, that’s because it is. The system was designed by French Army veteran and “Emperor of Cuisine,” Auguste Escoffier to reflect the organizational efficiency he experienced in World War I. Escoffier broke down the cooking process into tasks, then designed staff positions to perform each of those tasks.
In Escoffier’s day, the roles were sharply defined, but modern kitchens are generally more open to cross-training and cross-utilizing staff. Having a basic understanding of the modern kitchen brigade will help restaurant owners communicate efficiently to their back of house teams, as well as ensure that they are hiring staff with the correct skill set.
Most modern kitchens function with some form of the following Brigade de Cuisine:
- Chef (chef de cuisine)
- Sous chef
- Line Cook (also known as Chef de Partie)
- Prep Cook (also known as Commis Chef)
- Kitchen Porter
- Dishwasher (aka Plongeur)
While some cooks go to culinary school to earn chef credentials, the brigade system makes it easy for many cooks to work their way up the line from dishwasher to porter to prep cook and beyond. There is an expectation that working as a line cook is a step along the spectrum of professional development. Most line cooks do not remain line cooks as the final stop of their career. A restaurant owner should expect to hire new line cooks every year or two at a minimum. There are other food prep job titles that may better fit what you’re looking for, such as bartender or baker.
Best Places to Post Line Cook Job Openings
Some good places to post your line cook job are:
- Culinary Agents: Pay-as-you-go posts run $49 per placement, but if you have several openings, they have monthly subscriptions that range from $100-$200 per month. This site also has an “I want to work here” feature that allows applicants to find your restaurant when you do not have any openings.
- Poached Jobs: Single job posts that last 30 days are $49 each. Employers with a monthly membership ($10 per month) receive a 20% discount on posting fees. Poached jobs also cross-posts your listing with Indeed, Glassdoor, and Ziprecruiter, and includes other features like an interview scheduler.
- Local culinary school job boards: Culinary schools are eager to help their graduates find work. If your restaurant is located near a culinary school, reach out to their career services department.
What to Expect: Line Cooks in Today’s Market
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the occupation of restaurant cooks will grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028. This is more than twice the projected growth rate of the general job market, which means that competition for strong line cook applicants will be stiff. Savvy restaurant owners will make their businesses strong competitors for the best talent by creating a positive work environment, creating comprehensive training programs, and offering benefits like health insurance and commuter discounts, or perks like family meals and dining discounts.
Among cooks that have come up the ranks in fine dining kitchens or culinary programs, there is the tradition of the “stage” (rhymes with “dodge”). A stage is an opportunity to appear as a guest-cook. In a typical stage, a cook that wants to gain experience will ask to work for free for a range of time, from a single service to a couple of weeks. This allows the cook to learn from more senior chefs as well as show his or her skills to a chef they hope to work with.
Restaurant owners allowing stages should be sure that staging cooks are covered by their insurance policies. Should a staging chef injure himself while in your facility you want to be sure that your workers’ comp or general liability policy will cover their injury. Some local labor laws ban working for free, so you may need to create clear lines for stages that honor local laws, or offer some form of compensation. This can be a nominal wage per shift, or course credit toward the cook’s course work at a culinary school.
Line Cook Job Description Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Understanding the basic functions of a line cook in the restaurant kitchen is a big piece of the job description puzzle, but there are some finer points to consider.
How much does a line cook make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for cooks is $12.12 per hour, with a median annual income of $25,200. Half of individuals employed as cooks in the United States are paid more; half earn less. In a competitive market like New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, restaurant owners should budget between $20,000 to $30,000 annually for a full time line cook. Keep in mind, however, that payroll taxes, insurance, overtime, bonuses, and benefits are not included in that number.
What training/education does a line cook need?
A culinary degree is nice to have, but is not necessary to find work as a cook. The restaurant kitchen is still a place where a person can learn most everything he or she needs through on-the-job training. Many chefs, in fact, prefer to train cooks themselves. A line cook that already knows the five mother sauces is a great addition to a restaurant team, but a cook who is eager to learn, who learns quickly, and who shows up on time when needed is priceless.
What is a “stage”?
The stage (rhymes with “dodge”) is a restaurant tradition of permitting an unknown cook to work for free in your kitchen for a shift. Restaurant owners operating at a certain level may receive phone calls from culinary students requesting to stage at their restaurant. There are two perceived benefits to this system: staging allows less experienced chefs to learn how various kitchens operate, as well as providing an opportunity to show their skills to a chef that they hope to work for one day.
Bottom Line – Line Cook Job Description
Line cooks are the power that runs a restaurant kitchen. A good line cook will keep your restaurant running efficiently with a positive attitude. A well-written line cook job description will include not only the daily tasks the cook will be expected to perform but also showcase the opportunities for growth that your restaurant offers. The templates listed above provide a great foundation for creating a line cook job description.
Alternatively, a scheduling app like Homebase includes editable job descriptions that you can post directly to popular job listing sites. Pricing for the Plus membership is $40 per month, and also includes scheduling features and labor analytics that sync with a wide array of POS systems. Considering that single job postings on niche job sites can run $49 each, this can be an affordable option for restaurants currently seeking staff.