Line cooks are the backbone of any restaurant kitchen. They work independently on their tasks yet they need to be in tandem with each other to ensure that guests receive their meals exactly as expected and in a timely manner. If you want to know how to hire a line cook, the first step is determining what type of line cooks you’ll need for your restaurant.
Most Common Types of Line Cooks
Traditional Line Cook
Your restaurant might need a group of line cooks who can do it all, switching from one station to another each night. For restaurants that run like this, line cooks are often ranked on their level of experience and the higher-ranked line cooks may also serve as shift supervisors for the other line cooks.
Short Order Cook
Most commonly associated with old school diners, short order cooks work in restaurants that have simple menus which allow them to work at a much faster pace than line cooks in other restaurants. In addition to diners, short order cooks work in fast food or fast casual restaurants.
Prep cooks come into the restaurant well before service to help prepare ingredients and other elements ahead of time. A prep cook’s responsibilities include chopping vegetables and other ingredients for mise en place, defrosting ingredients from the freezer, prepping stocks or mother sauces, and more. Their work allows the service line cooks to work at a faster pace and get meals out of the kitchen quicker.
The fry cook is a type of short order cook who manages the deep fryer. Fry cooks are often found in fast food restaurants, but may also work in diners or casual full service restaurants. The fry cook may also man the grill, or there could be a line cook assigned to that as well, known as a grill cook.
A saute cook is responsible for any element on the menu that requires sauteing. Depending on the restaurant’s menu, the saute cook may also be the saucier, which is a type of line cook that creates sauces, stews, stocks, and gravies.
The salad cook is, of course, responsible for plating salads and vegetable sides. Additional responsibilities may include other side dishes or even hot appetizers. If their tasks include much more than just salads and vegetables, this position can also be called the appetizer cook.
How to Hire a Line Cook
Qualities of a Great Line Cook
Great line cooks need to be passionate about food and hospitality, work well under pressure, be organized, and (like any position in your restaurant) be reliable and responsible. When it’s time to hire a new line cook for your restaurant, first determine what you are looking for in the perfect candidate.
- Are you willing to train someone with less experience but a lot of passion and drive?
- Do you need someone who already has a particular skill set and is ready to hit the ground running?
- What personality traits should a new hire have to be a good culture fit for your business?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can get started on the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process.
Line Cook Job Description
Be clear with all the responsibilities and expectations of a line cook job in the job description. This helps the folks applying to know exactly what the job entails and helps you by weeding out any potential candidates who may be less qualified or excited about the job.
Line cook job descriptions should include:
- Any prep work they will be responsible for
- Food safety expectations and any licenses or permits you require
- Cooking skills needed
- Organization and attention to detail
- Working in a fast-paced environment
- Soft skills like work ethic, empathy, integrity, and good communication.
Line Cook Interview Questions
During a line cook interview, ask them a mix of questions to cover the topics above and see how their answers align with the qualities and skills you are looking for.
Some example questions include:
- What is your favorite dish to cook?
- What is your method for staying clean and organized as you work?
- What would you do if you saw a fellow line cook falling behind, but you are busy with your own work?
- How do you manage to be efficient while working at a fast pace?
- Ask them to cook a simple dish. Telling is different than showing, and this is the only way to establish their skills! Be sure to give them a dish based on their experience so that you are not setting them up for failure.
Line Cook Salary
As of May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average line cook salary in restaurants was $13.80 per hour or $28,700 annually. A line cook’s salary goes up in industries outside of restaurants like hotels ($33,280/year) and casinos ($30,230) but is lower in drinking establishments like bars and breweries ($27,340).
In order to hire and retain the best line cooks it’s important to offer them competitive salaries, benefits, and other perks that make the job a sustainable one for the line cook and their family.