This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
A line cook arranges a single kitchen workstation and prepares dishes from that station during restaurant service. When hiring a line cook, you must create a clear line cook job description template that reflects your particular restaurant type and the workstation they’ll be managing. To help you out, we’ve provided downloadable job description templates, as well as some tips to find the best candidate and an overview of the current job market for line cooks.
3 Free Line Cook Job Description Templates
Line cooks, in particular, are defined by their workstation on the kitchen line, so it is important to specify if you need a grill, pantry, or pastry cook for your operation. To customize your job description, you can use one of the three different templates here—for quick-service restaurants, full-service casual restaurants, or fine dining restaurants.
Quick service is the fastest-growing sector of the restaurant industry, and the 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 worker for this role is fast and good at working in tight spaces. If you need someone to wrangle multiple orders of burgers, Eggs Benedict, or crepes, then this is the template for you.
A full-service casual restaurant kitchen includes some of the challenges of both quick service and fine dining. A line cook in this type of 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.
Line cooks in a fine dining setting are typically looking for a challenging kitchen that will allow them to continue to grow their skillset. Restaurants looking for this type of talent 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.
If your restaurant uses HR software, then you may already have a great tool for creating a line cook job description. For example, besides integrating with POS systems to help create, communicate, and enforce staff schedules, employee scheduling software Homebase also offers editable job descriptions that post directly from the app to job listing websites.
What to Include in Line Cook Job Descriptions
There are some common points that all job descriptions should hit, regardless of the 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, and describe where this position fits within the overall restaurant operation.
If you’re looking for a more general guide, check out our article on how to write a job description.
Brief Description of the Restaurant
This section should be a couple of sentences to draw attention to your style of service and 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), mention any awards your restaurant has won, or 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, then that should also be included.
Having a basic understanding of the “brigade de cuisine” (the hierarchy system in restaurants) will help restaurant owners 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)
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 or 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 of experience in a job posting as a way to decrease the amount of training a new hire will require. However, applicants with more experience can get bored in unchallenging positions 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 upfront. 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 the 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.
Did You Know?
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.
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 applicants. 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. Make sure you convey these opportunities in your job description and throughout the hiring process.
Here are some other tips for hiring a line cook:
- 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 who receive little or no training. According to a LinkedIn study, employees’ top motivators for learning on the job are (1) it helps them stay up-to-date in their field, (2) it’s personalized specifically for their personal interests/career goals, and (3) it helps them to get a new job internally, get a promotion, or just reach their career goals.
- 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 that they know 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.
- Offer a good wage: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for line cooks is $14.00 per hour. If your restaurant offers an above-average wage, it can make your job ad stand out and the position more appealing.
Remember: 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, then word can easily spread to potential applicants that your restaurant is a place to avoid.
Best Places to Post Line Cook Job Openings
Like most of the working public, restaurant workers check job posting sites, like Indeed or ZipRecruiter. Candidates in the culinary field, however, may check industry-specific places first. By using these platforms, you’re sure to find employees you’ll love in no time.
Some good places to advertise your line cook job are:
- Culinary Agents: Pay-as-you-go posts run $49 per placement, but if you have several openings, they have a monthly subscription that’s $100 per month for four job postings. 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 $59 each, and if you’re looking to just fill individual shifts, the cost is $39 monthly per job post, plus the position’s hourly rate. 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 the 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 26% from 2020 to 2030 as the industry recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a much faster average growth rate than the general job market, which means that competition for strong line cook applicants will be stiff.
In addition to pandemic recovery, a greater demand for restaurant food, particularly more healthy foods, is expected because of population and income growth.
Savvy restaurant owners will make their businesses strong competitors for the best talent by creating a positive work environment, providing comprehensive training programs, and offering benefits like health insurance and commuter discounts, or perks like family meals and dining discounts.
One thing to note about the market: 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 their 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 ensure that your workers’ comp or general liability policy will cover the 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 $14.00 per hour, with a median annual income of $29,120. Half of the individuals employed as cooks in the US are paid more; half earn less. In a competitive market like New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, restaurant owners should budget between $25,000 to $35,000 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 it is not necessary to find work as a cook. The restaurant kitchen is still a place where a person can learn most of everything that they need 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.
Line cooks are the power that runs a restaurant kitchen—and a good one 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 and tips listed above are great tools to help you hire a strong line cook for your business.