You love to cook and your family and friends say your meals are to die for. You’re great with knives and onions never make you cry! You’re organized and physically fit.
You don’t have a job and you need to earn a living. College isn’t an option right now. Sound familiar?
So why not become a professional cook and get paid for doing what you love? Start at the bottom and work your way up.
The position of prep cook is commonly an entry-level job and one that will help you get your foot in the door. Next step, line cook, then assistant cook … and you’re on your way to becoming a fully-fledged chef!
Maybe you’ve already been working in the industry for a while, perhaps as a waitron or even a prep cook. But you want a more interesting prep cook position that earns more pay.
You will find a complete sample resume for a prep cook towards the end of this article. It will help you craft a resume that will help to get the kind of prep cook job you want.
Resume objective for a prep cook
A resume objective for a prep cook will show your possible new employer that you know what the job is about – even if this is your first position.
Although the specific duties and job responsibilities might vary, there will be procedures that need to be followed, some of which relate to food quality. There are also stringent health and safety requirements that go with any prep cook job.
The skills required for any particular prep cook job will usually be detailed in the job opportunity advert. Make sure you consider these carefully when writing your resume objective. Ultimately, your objective needs to show that you have the motivation and abilities required for the job.
The sample objective below is based on the requirements for a prep cook who will be supervised by the sous chef at a popular hotel and vacation resort.
Prep chef ready to work according to the highest quality, health, and safety standards. Thorough knowledge of all food handling procedures. Well organized and responsible. Keen to work in an environment where energy conservation is vitally important.
Resume skills for prep cooks
With more than 2 million new jobs going begging at any one time, the restaurant industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the US. Not all jobs in the industry require prior training, though they do all need skills and knowledge, and basic education.
The primary skills a prep cook needs for the job usually revolve around food preparation. You will be expected to assess ingredients for freshness and quality and portion and prepare them for use in specific recipes.
You will also be required to measure and weigh, chop and peel, and generally make sure the chef has what he or she needs.
Other responsibilities might include maintaining time and temperature charts. If the restaurant is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), these may need to be in accordance with ANSI-approved ASI Food Safety regulations, specifically using Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) charts.
You will likely also have some contact with customers, and you may be asked to assume the role of waiter as well as prep cook, taking orders, and serving tables.
And it might not occur to you, but physical fitness and manual dexterity are other assets. Because a prep cook has to stand for long periods of time, continuously bend, reach, and twist, this “skill” is often listed in job advertisements.
Preparation and portioning | ASI HACCP time and temp charts | Correct handling procedures | Health and safety | Record keeping | Organizational skills | Time management | Fit and healthy | Excellent communication skills | Patience | Attention to detail
“When you reach that next role in a professional career track, don’t ever forget that your success will depend on those who continue to serve in the capacity of dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, server, bartender, and so on.”Paul Sorgule, chef and restaurateur, Olympic New England Culinary Olympic Team winner of a gold medal in 1988, American Culinary Federation’s Culinary Educator of the Year in 2001
Prep cook work experience
Even though many prep cook jobs provide entry-level opportunities for high school graduates, if you’re working your way up the ladder, a potential employer will probably require some sort of experience related to food preparation.
You could get this type of experience from short-term holiday jobs while at school or after you leave school. If you have taken the time to study for a college or culinary school certificate, you will have more opportunities to get prep cook experience.
Taking part-time prep cook jobs while in high school is an excellent way to get experience. Some restaurants and take-outs will hire prep cooks who are only 16 years old. Don’t expect to make much money though, the aim here would simply be to get some experience you can show on your resume.
A paid internship is another option.
Sample Work Experience
Chris Steak House
Prep Cook, 2018 – 2019
Prepared food items, preparation equipment, food ingredients, and garnishes. Assisted other kitchen personnel in food preparation according to prep lists.
- All work carried out strictly according to the restaurant chain’s standards and procedures
- Maintained the highest degree of sanitation and cleanliness when prepping tables and cleaning the kitchen and storage areas
- Commended for serving customers when the steak house was very busy
- Won first prize in company quiz about food preparation, seasoning, and cooking
Prep Cook, 2018
Got production sheets ready and executed all recipe procedures. Prepared foods using different preparation methods. Assigned prep work to stock. Followed company safety and sanitation policies and procedures.
- Labeled and stocked ingredients in the storeroom, even though not in my job description
- Tasked with ensuring compliance of stock rotation and food preparation
- Reviewed menus and made numerous changes that were accepted and implemented
- Received several referral bonuses
Prep cook education
Most prep cook job opportunities simply require a high school diploma. Other than that, there is no specific education that a prep cook needs to have.
If you are planning to move up the ladder to head cook, executive chef, sous chef, banquet chef, or any other more challenging and better-paid position, you might want to consider going to a culinary or cooking school.
With a food preparation or prep cook certificate or a basic culinary diploma behind you, you’re likely to climb that ladder much more quickly.
Generally, a diploma will take anything from eight to 12 months and will give you a good solid grounding of culinary arts. You won’t only learn about food preparation,
That said, there’s nothing much better than on-the-job training, and as a working prep cook, that’s what you are likely to get.
West Georgia Technical College, 2019
Prep Cook Certificate
The most important courses for any prep cook will be those that relate to safe food handling certification (see next section below). If you’ve got that, you’ve already got a potential advantage over other applicants for a prep cook job.
But like most things that relate to a prep cook, handling food safely is something you will learn – and might have already learned on-the-job.
If you are planning to get ServSafe certification, it’ll probably take a class that will last a couple of hours, followed by a test. This certification was developed and is run by the National Restaurant Association, and you can find invaluable practice tests free online. You’ll find a link in the resource list at the bottom of the article.
You should also make an effort to learn about the FDA-approved Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), an internationally recognized management system that addresses food safety. It’s very technical and generally only food safety or HACCP teams are required to become certified. But if you’re keen to learn more, sign up for an introductory course.
Other courses that you might find useful would include anything that aims to increase food safety and food preparation skills.
- Introductory HACCP
There are no compulsory certifications for prep cooks, but if you want to show you are committed to high standards in the kitchen you might consider becoming a Certified Kitchen Cook (CKC).
The US National Restaurant Association’s American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) offers an online CKC course that results in a certification that is supported by the Skills, Tasks, and Results Training (START) for the Kitchen Cook.
The certification program covers general knowledge including the soft skills needed in the hospitality industry. These include the correct use of basic kitchen tools and equipment, including the knives that a prep cook will use every day.
Other fundamental skills include conversion of standard recipes based on the number of portions and portion size, and all-important kitchen safety and sanitation guidelines.
Even if you’ve been working as a prep cook for a while, getting CKC will add credibility to your resume.
It usually takes no more than about three months to complete.
The National Restaurant Association offers various levels of ServSafe certification including the ServSafe Food Handler certificate that verifies employees handling food have the relevant basic food safety knowledge.
The program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the non-profit Conference for Food Protection that promotes food safety and consumer protection. Certification involves a relatively simple test and lasts for three years.
You can take the test after you’ve been working as a prep cook if you wish.
- Food handler’s certification
Complete prep cook resume sample
There are prep cook jobs, and then there are aspirational prep cook jobs like a banquet prep cook in an upmarket hotel. This is a job offer that we have chosen to use for the complete prep cook resume sample.
This really is a prep cook job with a difference, but it illustrates how you can move up the ladder quite quickly.
As long as you’ve got between three and six months experience working in food preparation, and either a 12-month certificate from a culinary school or college, or the equivalent education combined with experience (which we will claim for this example that you have), you’re good to take a punt.
Most duties are run-of-the-mill, but the “clean as you go” policy will rank for the employers if you can show you have commitment.
Banquet Prep Cook
Prep cook with a culinary school diploma and six months of experience as a prep cook. Eager to take the challenges a banquet prep cook position has to offer. Excellent prep skills and obsessive about food hygiene and environmental cleanliness.
Checklist procedures | Preparation to top standards | Time management | Good organizational skills | Health and food safety expertise | Excellent customer service skills | Driven to succeed | Hard working and professional | Fit and healthy
Cook, Prep, 2018 – 2019 (10 months)
Prepared food and served customers following federal, state, and local standards, guidelines, and regulations. Tasked with doing the daily production schedule, preparing items on production sheets, operating and cleaning equipment.
- Responsible for taking orders from customers and preparing items in addition to scheduling and other prep cook tasks
- Completed orders from grill and steam tables at multiple stations
- Took responsibility for reporting accidents and incidents in the kitchen
- Assisted with menu reviews, with most suggestions implemented
- ServSafe Food Handler
New York Institute of Culinary Education
Culinary Arts Diploma, 2019
- Completed the required 13 courses within the required time
- 210 hours externship course completed
There is no doubt that you can get a job as a prep cook with a high school diploma, but if you can show potential, extra learning, or experience, you are likely to get the edge on your competitors who haven’t made the extra effort.
- If you have talent as a cook and know the basics, you can potentially get a job. But you will need something to persuade your potential employer that you are the person he or she is searching for. A well-crafted resume can do the trick.
- The restaurant industry is huge and growing, and there are many openings for cooks and qualified chefs. You will need to identify the path you want to follow, and even if this resume is going to be crafted to enable you to get your first job ever, you will need to be persuasive and show why you are the best person for the job.
- While education is really not important, if you have bothered to learn about the industry, and can show this on your resume, you will gain an advantage.
- Education about food isn’t always taught, it is something that you can learn on your own, even by experimentation. But there are some basic rules in terms of hygiene and safety that are important.
Tips from Experts
“Being involved, learning firsthand and observing the craft and absorbing all you can, makes it easier to define what you want. It will also ultimately make you a better Chef. Culinary school, or even a single class, is a great bet too.” – Giada De Laurentiis, Italian chef and TV personality
“In order to become a prep cook, prospective employees should earn a high school diploma, obtain an entry-level position, receive on-the-job training, and look to advance their career through a certificate or degree program in addition to gaining extensive work experience.” – study.com
Generally, being a prep cook is going to take passion and a will to succeed, not just as a prep cook, but as a chef who will be recognized as someone who can prepare and cook good food.
While your resume will tell your potential employer what you have done, and partly what you want to do in the future, it is also a marketing tool that can get you the job you want.
Lots of people work as prep cooks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this is what you want to do forever. But don’t make the mistake of reaching for the stars before you’ve clinched this one.
Bottom line: An employer who is looking for a prep cook wants a prep cook – or perhaps a banquet prep cook. He/she is not looking for someone who hopes to be a banquet chef one day.
You should make it clear that you have aspirations, but make sure your resume targets the needs of your potential new employer.