What does a prep cook do?

Beyond food prep

In addition to preparing food, you will be responsible for keeping the kitchen organized and clean. This means washing dishes, cleaning up spills, and ensuring that all surfaces are clean. You will also need to be able to follow recipes and measure ingredients accurately.

Following the chef's orders

As a prep cook, you will be working under the supervision of a head chef or sous chef. It is important that you are able to take direction well and complete tasks in a timely manner. The ability to work well under pressure is also essential, as kitchens tend to be fast-paced environments.

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What is the average salary of a prep cook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a prep cook is $28,780. This translates to an hourly wage of $13.81. There are many factors that will affect your earnings as a prep cook, including your experience, geographic location, and the type of establishment you work in. 


As with most jobs, your earnings as a prep cook will increase as you gain more experience. As an entry-level cook, expect to make around $23,000 a year. With a few years of experience under your belt, you will earn closer to $30,000 a year. And, if you become a head cook or sous chef, it's possible to earn upwards of $38,000 annually.


Where you work as a prep cook will also have an impact on your earnings. Those working in larger cities, such as New York or Los Angeles, tend to earn more than those working in smaller towns or rural areas. This is due to the higher cost of living in these metro areas. 

Type of establishment

Prep cooks working in restaurants tend to earn more than those working in institutional settings such as hospitals or schools. This is because restaurants are usually able to pay their employees more due to the higher prices they charge for their dishes. 

prep cook

Working as a prep cook

If you're interested in becoming a prep cook, there are a few things you should know about what the job entails. It's fast-paced, varied work requiring the skillful use of kitchen tools and appliances.

Prep cook job description

One of the main responsibilities of a prep cook is to get food ready for other cooks to use in their dishes. Firstly, from chopping vegetables to cooking meat and poultry, you'll be responsible for completing a variety of tasks. In some cases, you will also be responsible for more complex tasks, such as making sauces or baking bread. Secondly, you'll keep the kitchen organized and clean. This means washing dishes and cleaning up spills. Thirdly, you'll need to be able to follow recipes and measure ingredients accurately. Finally, if you work under the supervision of an executive chef, sous chef, or head cook, it's also important to take direction well and complete tasks in a timely manner. 

What type of equipment do prep cooks use?

First and foremost, as a prep cook, you'll be using a variety of equipment, including knives, cutting boards, pots, and pans. You'll also need to be familiar with how to use a stove, oven, and other kitchen appliances. Usually, the executive chef or sous chef will provide you with specific instructions on how to use the equipment in their kitchen. In some cases, you'll also use more specialized equipment such as food processors or mixers. You'll also need to be familiar with food safety and sanitation procedures. This means knowing how to properly clean and sanitize all surfaces as well as how to store food properly. Also, you'll be using a variety of tools like measuring cups and spoons to ensure that you're adding the correct amount of ingredients to each dish.

What is the work environment of a prep cook? 

Prep cooks usually work in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, hotels, or catering companies. The work environment is usually fast-paced and stressful, especially during busy periods, but this will depend on your organization. You'll be working with sharp knives and hot equipment, so it's important to be cautious and take all necessary safety precautions. Sometimes, you will also work with hazardous chemicals such as products for deep cleaning. 

Who are your colleagues as a prep cook?

As a prep cook, you'll be working with a team of other cooks. This team typically includes the head chef, sous chef, and line cooks. You'll be working closely with these colleagues to ensure that all dishes get prepared on time and meet the required standards. You'll also be working with dishwashers, servers, and other members of the front-of-house team. It's important to develop good working relationships with your colleagues, as you'll rely on them to help you complete your tasks. 

What is the work schedule of a prep cook?

Although this job is often rewarding for anyone who's passionate about it, it's important to understand that the work schedule of a prep cook will become very demanding from time to time. For instance, many establishments are open for long hours, and you will have to work late nights, weekends, and holidays. In some cases, you will also have to work split shifts, where you work a few hours in the morning and then again at night. Additionally, keep in mind that the amount of work will depend on how busy the establishment is. For instance, you will need to work overtime during peak periods, such as lunch and dinner rush.


What is the career outlook for a prep cook?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for this career is positive, with an expected growth of 6% by 2030. The question is, why? 

Population growth

Additionally, as the population continues to grow, there will be a greater demand for prepared foods. This is especially true for those who live in urban areas and do not have the time to cook meals from scratch. 

Increasing popularity of restaurant dining

The restaurant industry is growing at a rapid pace. As more and more people are eating out, there is an increasing demand for prep cooks. Additionally, the aging population is also driving up the demand for prep cooks. As baby boomers retire, they're replaced by millennials who are more likely to eat out than cook at home. 

Job opportunities in a variety of settings

Not only are there many vacancies for prep cooks in restaurants, but there are also opportunities in other food service settings, such as hospitals, schools, and corporate cafeterias. Additionally, as the economy continues to improve, there will be more opportunities for prep cooks in upscale restaurants and resorts. So, if you're interested in a career as a prep cook, now is the time to start. With the right training and experience, you’ll be on your way to a rewarding and fulfilling career in the food service industry.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a prep cook?

If you are actively looking for a job or just checking what's out there, Spherion is the answer. We will help you with your search for employment by matching you with a prep cook job that fits your skills. As one of the leading staffing companies, Spherion has connections with a wide range of businesses. The Spherion team offers plenty of networking opportunities, so you find the right office for your work style. Whether you prefer to work with a small family business or a major corporation, Spherion has options for you.

Working with Spherion offers you a number of advantages. For example:

  • A quick and seamless interviewing process
  • Weekly pay
  • Flexible work schedule
  • A contact person to help you with your job search
  • A wide range of jobs in your area 
  • Numerous training opportunities, so you can gain advanced culinary skills

What education do you need as a prep cook?

While there is no formal training or certification required to start as an entry-level prep cook, it is important to have some education.

Basic education for a prep cook

Most prep cook jobs will require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. However, if you are looking to work in a more upscale restaurant, you will need to have some postsecondary education, such as a culinary arts degree. Additionally, it is important to have basic math skills, as you will need to measure ingredients and calculate cooking times. 

Licensing and certification for a prep cook

In some states, you will need to obtain a food handler's license or certification. This is typically a one-time course that people complete online or in person. Additionally, many employers will require you to have CPR and first aid certification. 

Skills & competencies 

To advance in this job field, you will need to possess certain skills and competencies. One of the most important skills for a prep cook is the ability to follow recipes precisely. You will also need to work quickly and efficiently and have good organizational skills. This is important because you will need to keep track of a variety of tasks, such as cooking multiple dishes at the same time. Additionally, it is important to be able to work well under pressure, as a food service kitchen is a fast-paced environment. Last but not least, it is important to have good people skills. This is because you will be working closely with other kitchen staff, including the executive chef, sous chef, head cook, and/or line cooks.



A career as a prep cook is fairly easy to envision. However, there are still some questions that people often have about getting a prep cook job. 

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