American National Restaurant Association reports that the restaurant industry will employ 15.6 million people in 2020, i.e., 1 of 10 working Americans, and it will add 1.6 million jobs by 2030. This sphere has created middle-class jobs faster than the overall economy in recent years. It is also considered as one of the perfect supporters of workforce diversity since restaurants provide jobs for people of varying gender, age, cultural background, education, etc.
Given this, your cooking job is likely already waiting for you. You just need to find out how to get it.
How to Get Your First Job as a Cook
Each chef has their own “how to get a culinary job” recipe. The ingredients can vary but mainly include hard-work, passion, full commitment, and willingness to self-development.
Below, we will share useful and practical tips to help you get a job as a cook even if you don’t have the necessary qualifications.
Choose You Perfect Position
To build a strategy for your career, you need to understand the kitchen’s hierarchy. We will start with entry-level positions and move up to the high-level ones.
This person is responsible for washing dishes, glasses, and food preparation equipment, as well as cleaning the kitchen and collecting garbage after the restaurant is closed.
- Prep Cook
These workers help with simple tasks like washing and chopping vegetables and fruits, cleaning fish, carving meat, etc.
- Commis Chef
This junior employee works under supervision and assists the Chef de Partie. This position usually consists of candidates who have recently completed or are taking culinary courses.
- Chef de Partie
Also known as Line Chef or Line Cook. These workers are responsible for preparing the ingredients and cooking dishes at a specific section of the kitchen. They are divided into different categories: Butcher Chef, Fish Chef, Fry Chef, Grill Chef, Pastry Chef, Sauté Chef, Vegetable Chef, etc.
Depending on the restaurant’s size, Line Cooks may have several personal assistants and different requirements. Small and midsize restaurants and cafes may hire culinary newbies, making it possible for you to get a line cook job with no experience. Entry-level line cooks are often assigned to the fry section and can advance to the sauté section, where more sophisticated dishes are cooked.
- Sous Chef
Sous Chef is the number two person in the kitchen. This Chef not only controls Chefs de Partie but is also actively involved in the kitchen’s day-to-day running.
- Head Chef or Chef de Cuisine
The Head Chef controls the entire kitchen, including managing the kitchen staff, monitoring kitchen expenses, cooperating with suppliers, and creating menus.
- Executive Chef
The Executive Chef is the highest managerial position in the largest branches. In many cases they are also an owner in the restaurant. The main tasks include supervision of kitchen operation and the development of strategies and menus. In most cases, the Executive Chef doesn’t perform cooking.
Having decided which position to choose, we recommend that you prepare a solid application, including a customized cover letter. One of the easiest ways to craft a proper document is to use the Internet. You can find some tips on writing a cover letter by yourself, or you can use an online builder www.getcoverletter.com and have a PDF document ready in just 8 minutes.
If you want to get a job in a restaurant kitchen with no practical experience, we recommend emphasizing your knowledge of recipes, cooking tools, and devices. Mention that you know how to cook certain types of food and combine ingredients, as well as understand basic cooking methods, such as roasting, sauteing, or baking.
Kitchen jargon can be confusing at first, but knowing it can better prepare you for the working environment. This list of 101 culinary terms with definitions will help you understand what’s going on around you and what your employer wants.
You can also focus on skills that can be transferred from non-culinary roles, like time-management, communication, or attention to details, and explain how they can be used in your new position.
Hone your skills
The competitive world of culinary requires aspiring professional chefs who are continuously improving their cooking skills and techniques. Here are 5 simple tips for entry-level cooks to grow as a professional:
- Work with your knife skills and try to cut everything to the same size.
- Smell spices to become familiar with them and notice how they differ.
- Taste everything to develop an extremely well-tuned palette of flavors.
- Use your hands to improve your sense of touch, paying attention to how different products feel at different levels.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment to learn what works when you cook and what doesn’t. As Chef Auguste Gusteau once said in the Ratatouille movie, “Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”
For a professional cook, it is crucial to expand the culinary repertoire. So while searching for employment, you can take a step towards your dream job and join an online cooking course. We’ve found 3 of the most interesting ones for you:
- Gordon Ramsay’s Masterclass
Through 20 exclusive video lessons, you will master the basics, improve your knife skills, and learn how to cook such sophisticated dishes as Beef Wellington.
- Udemy classes
The Udemy platform offers a variety of culinary courses from basic skills to the art of Indian cooking and pastry baking courses. Using these tools, you can work on specific areas of cooking.
- The Kitchn’s Cooking School
This 20-day, 20-lesson program provides students with an opportunity to learn essential topics of cooking daily and even assigns homework.
If you want to combine different learning methods, consider adding these books:
The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America, 2011. Besides offering nearly 1000 modern and classic recipes, this book reviews the ingredients, equipment, and skills of the professional culinary specialist.
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, 2008. This book is a guide to using thousands of different food ingredients that will allow you to create incredible taste combinations.
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal, 2008. Here you will find a detailed description of the recipes of The Fat Duck restaurant, famous for its modern culinary developments, such as food pairing, flavor encapsulation, and multi-sensory cooking. Additionally, the book contains a collection of articles and essays on food science.
Use Your Network
Networking can help you find potential employment opportunities. If you’ve attended a culinary school or classes, your tutors and course mates may have some connections and can offer you a decent first job.
If you already know in which restaurant you want to work, you can contact the manager and check if they have job openings. Be ready to start small as a Dishwasher, Prep Cook or Commis Chef, and then work your way up to higher positions. If they don’t have an open position, you can offer yourself as an intern to learn more and get some practice in a professional kitchen.
Check Restaurant Job Posting Websites
Popular online platforms, such as Indeed or Glassdoor, can be a quick way to find a job in the kitchen. The following job posting sites focus on restaurant employment:
- Culinary Agents
- Restaurant Careers
- Only Restaurant Jobs
A Bit of Motivation in the End
Jamie Oliver, an English cook and restaurateur, came to the kitchen when he was just eight years old. At that time, he chopped vegetables for one pound per hour. Today, he is the owner of a chain of restaurants that span the world.
Thomas Keller, American cook, restaurateur, and author of cookbooks, started his career washing dishes at Palm Beach Yacht Club.
Gordon Ramsay, the British chef with 16 Michelin stars, planned to be a football player before getting injured. He entered school to study hotel management before getting involved in cooking.
Alexa Atala, Brazilian chef ranked fourth-best in the world by Restaurant Magazine, enrolled in a culinary school to extend her visa while living in Europe.
Nancy Silverton, the American chef who won an Outstanding Chef award in 2014, began cooking to impress partners.
As you can see, great chefs started their careers in the kitchen in different ways and with different motivations. But most important is that many of them managed to do this without experience. So nothing is impossible if your heart is willing. You only need a little courage to get started.