|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Nature of the Work
* About 40 percent of cooks and 60 percent of other kitchen and food preparation workers were on part-time schedules, approximately two and three times the proportion for all workers throughout the economy.
* Many young people work in these occupationsover 20 percent of food preparation workers are 16-19 years old.
* Job openings are expected to be plentiful through the year 2006, reflecting substantial turnovercharacteristic of occupations attractive to people seeking a short-term source of income rather than a career.
A reputation for serving good food is essential to any restaurant or hotel, whether it prides itself on exotic cuisine or hamburgers. Chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers are largely responsible for the reputation a restaurant acquires. Some restaurants offer a varied menu featuring meals that are time-consuming and difficult to prepare, requiring highly skilled employees. Other restaurants emphasize fast service, offering hamburgers and other food that can be prepared in advance or in a few minutes by a fast-food or short-order cook, with limited cooking skills.
Chefs and cooks are responsible for preparing meals that are pleasing to the palate and the eye. Chefs are the most highly skilled and trained of all kitchen workers. Although the terms chef and cook are still used interchangeably, cooks are less skilled. Due to their skillful preparation of traditional dishes and refreshing twists in creating new ones, many chefs have earned fame for both themselves and the establishments where they work. (For information on executive chefs, see the Handbook statement on restaurant and food service managers.)
Institutional chefs and cooks work in the kitchens of schools, industrial cafeterias, hospitals, and other institutions. For each meal, they prepare a small selection, but large quantity, of entrees, vegetables, and desserts. Restaurant chefs and cooks generally prepare a wide selection of dishes for each meal, cooking most orders individually. Whether in institutions or restaurants, chefs and cooks measure, mix, and cook ingredients according to recipes. In the course of their work they use a variety of pots, pans, cutlery, and other equipment, including ovens, broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders. They are often responsible for directing the work of other kitchen workers, estimating food requirements, and ordering food supplies. Some chefs and cooks also assist in planning meals and developing menus.
Bread and pastry bakers, called pastry chefs in some kitchens, produce baked goods for restaurants, institutions, and retail bakery shops. Unlike bakers who work in large, automated industrial bakeries, bread and pastry bakers need only to supply the customers who visit their establishment. They bake small quantities of breads, rolls, pastries, pies, and cakes, doing most of the work by hand. They measure and mix ingredients, shape and bake the dough, and apply fillings and decorations.
Short-order cooks prepare foods to order in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service. They grill and garnish hamburgers, prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time. Prior to busy periods, short-order cooks slice meats and cheeses and prepare coleslaw or potato salad. During slow periods, they may clean the grill, food preparation surfaces, counters, and floors.
Specialty fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package batches of food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, which are prepared to order or kept warm until sold.
Some workers are employed in coffee houses which may also serve pastries or other snacks. These workers operate specialized equipment such as cappuccino and expresso machines. Some food products are made on the premises, while others are delivered daily.
Other kitchen workers, under the direction of chefs and cooks, perform tasks requiring less skill. They weigh and measure ingredients, fetch pots and pans, and stir and strain soups and sauces. These workers also clean, peel, and slice potatoes, other vegetables, and fruits and make salads. They may cut and grind meats, poultry, and seafood in preparation for cooking. And their responsibilities also include cleaning work areas, equipment, utensils, dishes, and silverware.
The number and types of workers employed in kitchens depends on the type of establishment. For example, fast-food outlets offer only a few items, which are prepared by fast-food cooks. Small, full-service restaurants offering casual dining often feature a limited number of easy-to-prepare items, supplemented by short-order specialties and ready-made desserts. Typically, one cook prepares all the food with the help of a short-order cook and one or two other kitchen workers.
Large eating places tend to have varied menus and employ kitchen workers who prepare much more of the food they serve from scratch. Kitchen staffs often include several chefs and cooks, sometimes called assistant or apprentice chefs and cooks; a bread and pastry baker; and many less-skilled kitchen workers. Each chef or cook usually has a special assignment and often a special job titlevegetable, fry, or sauce cook, for example. Executive chefs coordinate the work of the kitchen staff and often direct the preparation of certain foods. They decide the size of servings, sometimes plan menus, and buy food supplies. They often adjust their menu in response to changes in dietary standards or food consumption.
Many restaurant and institutional kitchens have modern equipment, convenient work areas, and air-conditioning; but in older and smaller eating places, the kitchens often are not as well equipped. Working conditions depend on the type and quantity of food being prepared and the local laws governing food service operations. Workers generally must withstand the pressure and strain of working in close quarters, standing for hours at a time, lifting heavy pots and kettles, and working near hot ovens and grills. Job hazards include slips and falls, cuts, and burns, but injuries are seldom serious.
Work hours in restaurants may include early mornings, late evenings, holidays, and weekends, while hours in factory and school cafeterias may be more regular. Over 4 out of 10 cooks and 6 out of 10 other kitchen and food preparation workers were on part-time schedules, compared to 1 out of 4 workers throughout the economy. The wide range in dining hours creates work opportunities attractive to homemakers, students, and other individuals seeking supplemental income. For example, well over 20 percent of food preparation workers are 16-19 years old. Kitchen workers employed by public and private schools may work during the school year only, usually for 9 or 10 months. Similarly, establishments at vacation resorts generally only offer seasonal employment.
Chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers held more than 3.4 million jobs in 1996. Short-order and fast-food cooks held 804,000 of the jobs; restaurant cooks, 727,000; institutional cooks, 435,000; bread and pastry bakers, 182,000; and other kitchen workers, 1,252,000.
About three-fifths of all chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers were employed in restaurants and other retail eating and drinking places. One-fifth worked in institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals, and nursing homes. The remainder were employed by grocery stores, hotels, and many other organizations.
Most kitchen workers start as fast-food or short-order cooks, or in another low-skilled kitchen position. These positions require little education or training and most skills are learned on the job. After acquiring some basic food handling, preparation, and cooking skills, these workers may be able to advance to an assistant cook or short-order cook position. To achieve the level of skill required of an executive chef or cook in a fine restaurant, many years of training and experience are necessary. Although a high school diploma is not required for beginning jobs, it is recommended for those planning a career as a cook or chef. High school or vocational school courses in business arithmetic and business administration are particularly helpful. Large corporations in the food service and entertainment industries also offer paid internships and summer jobs, which can provide valuable experience.
Many school districts, in cooperation with State departments of education, provide on-the-job training and sometimes summer workshops for cafeteria kitchen workers with aspirations of becoming cooks. Employees who have participated in these training programs are often selected for jobs as cooks.
An increasing number of chefs and cooks obtain their training through high school, post-high school vocational programs, or 2- or 4-year colleges. Chefs and cooks also may be trained in apprenticeship programs offered by professional culinary institutes, industry associations, and trade unions. An example is the 3-year apprenticeship program administered by local chapters of the American Culinary Federation in cooperation with local employers and junior colleges or vocational education institutions. In addition, some large hotels and restaurants operate their own training programs for cooks and chefs.
People who have had courses in commercial food preparation may be able to start in a cook or chef job without having to spend time in a lower-skilled kitchen job. Their education may give them an advantage, when looking for jobs in better restaurants and hotels, where hiring standards often are high. Although some vocational programs in high schools offer this kind of training, employers usually prefer training given by trade schools, vocational centers, colleges, professional associations, or trade unions. Postsecondary courses range from a few months to 2 years or more, and are open in some cases only to high school graduates. The Armed Forces are also a good source of training and experience.
Although curricula may vary, students usually spend most of their time learning to prepare food through actual practice. They learn to bake, broil, and otherwise prepare food, and to use and care for kitchen equipment. Training programs often include courses in menu planning, determination of portion size, food cost control, purchasing food supplies in quantity, selection and storage of food, and use of leftover food to minimize waste. Students also learn hotel and restaurant sanitation and public health rules for handling food. Training in supervisory and management skills sometimes is emphasized in courses offered by private vocational schools, professional associations, and university programs.
Culinary courses are offered by 700 schools across the Nation. The American Culinary Federation accredited about 100 programs in 1996. Accreditation is an indication that a culinary program meets recognized standards regarding course content, facilities, and quality of instruction. The American Culinary Federation has been accrediting culinary programs for a relatively short time; many programs have yet to seek accreditation.
Certification provides valuable formal recognition of the skills of a chef or cook. The American Culinary Federation certifies chefs and cooks at the levels of cook, working chef, executive chef, and master chef. It also certifies pastry professionals and culinary educators. Certification standards are based primarily on experience and formal training.
Important qualifications for chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers include the ability to work as part of a team, possessing a keen sense of taste and smell, and personal cleanliness. Most States require health certificates indicating workers are free from communicable diseases.
Advancement opportunities for chefs and cooks are better than for most other food and beverage preparation and service occupations. Many acquire high-paying positions and new cooking skills by moving from one job to another. Besides culinary skills, advancement also depends on ability to supervise less-skilled workers and limit food costs, by minimizing waste and accurately anticipating the amount of perishable supplies needed. Some cooks and chefs gradually advance to executive chef positions or supervisory or management positions, particularly in hotels, clubs, or larger, more elegant restaurants. Some eventually go into business as caterers or restaurant owners, while others become instructors in vocational programs in high schools, community colleges, or other academic institutions.
Job openings for chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers are expected to be plentiful through the year 2006. While job growth will create new positions, the overwhelming majority of job openings will stem from replacement needs. There is substantial turnover in many of these jobs because of the minimal educational and training requirements. The occupation also offers many part-time positions, attractive to people seeking a short-term source of income rather than a career. Many workers who leave these jobs transfer to other occupations, while others stop working to assume household responsibilities or to attend school full time.
Overall employment of chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Employment growth will be spurred by increases in population, household income, and leisure time that will allow people to dine out and take vacations more often. In addition, as the number of two-income households grows, more families may find dining out a convenience.
Projected employment varies by specialty, however. As the number of families grows and as the more affluent, 55-and-older population increases rapidly, demand will grow for restaurants that offer table service and more varied menusrequiring more higher-skilled cooks and chefs. The popularity of fresh baked breads and pastries should ensure continued rapid growth in the employment of bakers. Employment of short-order and specialty fast-food cooks, most of whom work in fast-food restaurants, is also expected to increase in response to growth of the 16-24 year-old population and the continuing fast-pace lifestyle of many Americans. Employment of institutional and cafeteria chefs and cooks, on the other hand, will grow more slowly than other types of cooks. Their employment will not keep pace with the rapid growth in the educational and health services industrieswhere their employment is concentrated. Many high schools and hospitals are trying to make "institutional food" more attractive to students, staff, visitors, and patients. While some establishments employ more highly trained chefs and cooks to prepare more appealing meals, many contract out their food services. Many of the contracted companies emphasize fast food and employ short-order and fast-food cooks, instead of institutional and cafeteria cooks.
Wages of chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers depend greatly on the part of the country and the type of establishment in which they are employed. Wages generally are highest in elegant restaurants and hotels, where many executive chefs earn over $38,000 annually, according to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association. Median hourly earnings of cooks were less than $7.00 in 1995, with most earning between $6.00 and $8.00. Assistant cooks had median hourly earnings of $6.25, with most earning between $5.50 and $7.00.
The same survey indicated that short-order cooks had median hourly earnings of $6.50 in 1995; most earned between $5.50 and $7.25. Median hourly earnings of bread and pastry bakers were $6.50; most earned between $6.00 and $7.75. Salad preparation workers generally earned less, with median hourly earnings of $5.50; most earned between $5.25 and $6.50.
Some employers provide employees with uniforms and free meals, but Federal law permits employers to deduct from their employees' wages the cost or fair value of any meals or lodging provided, and some employers do so. Chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers who work full time often receive typical benefits, but part-time workers generally do not.
In some large hotels and restaurants, kitchen workers belong to unions. The principal unions are the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union.
Workers who perform tasks similar to those of chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers include butchers and meat cutters, cannery workers, and industrial bakers.
Information about job opportunities may be obtained from local employers and local offices of the State employment service.
Career information about chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers, as well as a directory of 2- and 4-year colleges that offer courses or programs that prepare persons for food service careers, is available from:
The National Restaurant Association, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington, DC 20036-3097.
For information on the American Culinary Federation's apprenticeship and certification programs for cooks, as well as a list of accredited culinary programs, send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
American Culinary Federation, P.O. Box 3466, St. Augustine, FL 32085.
For general information on hospitality careers, write to:
Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington, DC 20036-3097.
For general career information and a directory of accredited private career and technical schools offering programs in the culinary arts, write to:
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, 2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201.
|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|