Food Service Career
Employment growth in the food service industry will be spurred by increases in
population, household income, and leisure time that will allow people to more
often dine out and take vacations. In addition, the large number of two-income
households will lead more families to opt for the convenience of dining out.
Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers prepare, season, and cook a wide
range of foods - from soups, snacks, and salads to entrees, side dishes, and
desserts - in a variety of restaurants and other food services establishments.
Chefs and cooks create recipes and prepare meals, while food preparation workers
peel and cut vegetables, trim meat, prepare poultry, and perform other duties
such as keeping work areas clean and monitoring temperatures of ovens and stovetops.
Chefs and head cooks also are responsible for directing the work of other
kitchen workers, estimating food requirements, and ordering food supplies.
Executive chefs and head cooks coordinate the work of the kitchen staff and
direct the preparation of meals. Chefs tend to be more highly skilled and better
trained than cooks.
The specific responsibilities of most cooks are determined by a number of
factors, including the type of restaurant in which they work.
Most fast-food or short-order cooks and food preparation workers require little
education or training; most skills are learned on the job. Training generally
starts with basic sanitation and workplace safety subjects and continues with
instruction on food handling, preparation, and cooking procedures.
Large corporations in the food services and hospitality industries also offer
paid internships and summer jobs to those just starting out in the field.
Internships provide valuable experience and can lead to placement in more formal
chef training programs.
Some chefs and cooks may start their training in high school or post-high school
vocational programs. Others may receive formal training through independent
cooking schools, professional culinary institutes, or 2 or 4 year college degree
programs in hospitality or culinary arts. In addition, some large hotels and
restaurants operate their own training and job-placement programs for chefs and
cooks. People who have had courses in commercial food preparation may start in a
cook or chef job without spending a lot of time in lower-skilled kitchen jobs.
Important characteristics for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers include
working well as part of a team, having a keen sense of taste and smell, and
working efficiently to turn out meals rapidly. Personal cleanliness is essential
because most States require health certificates indicating that workers are free
from communicable diseases. Knowledge of a foreign language can be an asset
because it may improve communication with other restaurant staff, vendors, and
the restaurant's clientele.