If you love food and cooking, thrive under pressure, work well as part of a team and like a changing work environment, consider a career as a line cook. Line cooks prepare the menu items in a restaurant and may advance to become a sous chef or head chef. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, line cooks averaged a salary of $24,000 in 2008.
Line cooks need to bend, twist, turn and lift heavy objects as part of routine work. Line cooks stand on their feet for eight hours or more at a time, frequently in narrow or confined spaces. Cooks should have good spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity.
Line cooks prepare all components for their station on the line, and using knives is a frequent part of the job. Line cooks should know how to butcher meat and fish quickly and efficiently, with little waste. Line cooks should also be able to dice and chop vegetables rapidly and accurately. Some positions call for fine uniform cuts, which require precision.
A good line cook needs to follow proper food safety protocol. This can be learned by taking a course in food handling and is a part of culinary school curriculum. Food safety encompasses proper storage of fresh food in the refrigerator and freezer, proper handing of raw meats and seafood, standards of service for buffet and room-temperature food, proper inventory and rotation procedures and safe cooking of meat.
Since line cooks spend most of their time cooking, a broad knowledge of cooking techniques is essential. Line cooks should be familiar with roasting, frying, sauteeing, braising, grilling, oven-roasting, poaching, marinating and curing techniques. Cooks can learn individual skills on the job but must be comfortable operating ovens, gas ranges and other cooking equipment.
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