Cooks (NOC 6322)

About this job

Preparing, cooking, as well as presenting meals and specialty foods is a big part of this job. Cooks may also oversee staff, plan menus or manage kitchen activities. They may work under the direction of dietitians or chefs. Cooks work in a wide range of establishments that serve food, from restaurants to hospitals to food trucks. Cooks need to know about safety, sanitation and food storage regulations, as well as other best practices.  

Cooks should be organized, able to work under pressure and enjoy working with their hands. It is important to have good communication skills since cooks often work with other kitchen and wait staff.

Apprentice cooks are included in this career.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a cook is like.

Common job titles
  • cook, construction camp / ship
  • cook, diet kitchen / dietary
  • cook, hospitality
  • cook, journeyman / journeywoman
  • cook, licensed
  • cook, specialty - ethnic / kosher / halal

Duties

In general, cooks:

  • Prepare and cook meals and individual dishes, including ethnic cuisine or specialty dishes 
  • Clean kitchen and work area
  • Set up and oversee buffets
  • Plan menus, determine size of food portions, estimate food requirements and costs, and monitor and order supplies
  • Maintain inventory and records of food, supplies and equipment

In addition, cooks may:

  • Prepare and cook special meals for patients as instructed by a dietitian 
  • Oversee kitchen operations
  • Schedule and supervise kitchen staff
  • Hire, train and fire kitchen staff

Work environment

Cooks work full-time, part-time, on contract or on call. The hours may include early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays. The work may also be seasonal, especially at resorts.

Cooks work in a wide range of establishments that serve food including restaurants, cafes, diners, hotels, resorts, hospitals, schools and other educational facilities. They may also work on cruise ships, for catering companies or in food trucks. Many large restaurants and institutional kitchens have modern equipment, convenient work areas and air conditioning. Older, smaller establishments may have less comfortable work settings. Kitchens must be clean, well ventilated, appropriately lit and properly equipped with sprinkler systems to protect against fires.

Sometimes, cooks must work in small places and may be surrounded by other kitchen staff during busy periods. They must be able to lift heavy objects, work near hot ovens and grills, and stand for long periods of time. 

Cooks usually work under time pressure and must make sure they follow quality, safety and sanitation guidelines. Safety is key for cooks because there are many risks in the kitchen, including slipping, falling, cuts and burns.

Insights from industry

The job of a cook has changed over the last 10 years. A cook can be a worker who makes simple meals or someone who runs a food truck offering specialty cuisine. Cooks who keep up with new food trends and consumer demand often have more employment opportunities. Food trucks have recently become popular and some cooks prefer to run a food truck than work in a more traditional restaurant.
 
It’s important to build good relationships with other cooks, kitchen workers and suppliers. A supportive industry where cooks and other kitchen professionals help each other is the key to success for the cook and the restaurant.
 
Cooks can be trained by going to culinary school or they can be trained on-the-job. There are opportunities to gain experience and learn cooking skills by working in different cities and in a variety of kitchens.
 
Some cooks use social media to become known. They use popular social media networks, such as Instagram, to share new dishes and skills. By growing a social media community and fan base, some cooks open their careers to write food-focused articles or books, or appear on cooking shows.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

There are many ways for cooks to take on more senior roles. With experience and training, a cook can move to a supervisory or more senior position, such as chef. Some cooks may also choose to open their own restaurant or food truck.

Additional resources