What Is a Line Cook?

Understanding the line cook's role within the kitchen.

The line cook plays a key role in every restaurant kitchen, being responsible for taking the vision dictated by the executive chef and translating it into reality: delicious dishes for diners to enjoy. A line cook must be efficient, precise and consistent, and while they are likely to spend most of their shift preparing and firing dishes, they also may have auxiliary duties, such as restocking or taking inventory.

"The line cook is the back bone of the professional kitchen," says ICE Culinary Arts Chef-Instructor, Remy Forgues. "While the chef is the person that designs the menu, the line cooks are the ones that will execute it countlessly. For this reason, consistent line cooks become flawless in their specific task, sometimes even better than the chef."

Line Cook Duties and Responsibilities

A line cook (aka, the chef de partie in a traditional kitchen brigade system) can have a versatile range of duties in the kitchen including:

  • Assisting a head chef or sous chef
  • Stocking and setting up kitchen stations
  • Washing, chopping and preparing ingredients
  • Cooking and preparing dishes, including grilling, frying or sautéing
  • Preparing sauces
  • Preparing cold dishes, such as salads
  • Plating dishes
  • Keeping track of inventory and organizing ingredients

As every kitchen is different, these duties can vary from job to job. You may focus on a specific station, or you might cross-train and work in different capacities within the same kitchen. Over time, a line cook may gain enough experience to begin applying for higher-level roles, such as a sous chef.

"Our program starts with very fundamental skills and then progresses into putting these skills into dishes and eventually into menus," Chef Remy says. "It focuses on organization and skills more than executing recipes."

What Soft Skills Does a Line Cook Need?

If you’ve ever thought about working as a line cook, it’s helpful to know what employers are seeking. In addition to the responsibilities listed above, line cook jobs often require the following soft skills:

  • Organization: Line cooks need to keep their station tidy, prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively, even when the kitchen gets hectic.
  • Teamwork: Regardless of how big or small the kitchen staff is, you will collaborate with others, asking for help when needed and learning how to operate effectively as a team.
  • Patience: Even in the most organized of kitchens, mistakes happen and things are bound to go wrong from time to time. (After all, nobody’s perfect.) Like all restaurant employees, line cooks need to be able to keep their cool under pressure and not get flustered.

Additionally, many restaurants require that their cooks hold a certificate in food safety and handling. Some employers may cover the cost of this certification. A line cook job description may also indicate the establishment is seeking candidates with formal training in the culinary arts.

Job Outlook and Work Environment for Line Cooks

Aside from restaurants, line cooks can also work in other types of commercial kitchens in settings, such as:

  • Hotels and conference centers
  • College and university dining services
  • Catering companies
  • Specialty food stores
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a strong job outlook for cooks. The field is expected to grow by 26% from 2020 to 2030, adding up to over 400,000 job openings each year on average.

Find Your Culinary Voice in NY and LA

If you’re ready to pursue a culinary career, Institute of Culinary Education is here to help. With campuses in New York City and Los Angeles, our award-winning culinary school offers diploma programs in:

Students also can apply for our online Culinary Arts & Food Operations diploma program, offered in select states. ICE’s online courses are taught by passionate chef-instructors with diverse experience across the culinary arts. Our students benefit from a hands-on education, as well as real-world opportunities to apply their skills through our culinary externship program. For more details, request info or apply online today.

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