The line cook is the workhorse of the kitchen. They’re the ones working furiously to plate and sell orders when a kitchen is in the weeds.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the performance of line cooks is the most important part of nailing a busy shift. They are the unsung heroes of many restaurant operations in the hospitality industry.
So, if you don’t know what these heroes do, read on. We’ve even got a mock line cook resume to give you an idea of what makes a potential line cook a competitive candidate.
What Is a Line Cook? | Line Cook Definition
Line cooks cook and plate food under the supervision and direction of an executive chef, sous chef, or head cook. Restaurants typically have multiple line cooks, each working a different station based on that restaurant’s menu.
The reason they’re called “line cooks” is because of where they work: the line. It’s a bit of kitchen slang. A line cook might also be known as a "chef de partie," or a "station chef."
The line refers to the area in the kitchen where cooking happens. This is where the fryers, ranges, flat-top grills, and broilers are. And those are all typically set up horizontally, forming a line. Not unlike bar layout design. A cook who works at any one of these cooking stations is, then, called a line cook.
Prep Cook Vs Line Cook
A prep cook doesn’t work on the line, so they’re not actively cooking, plating, and selling dishes. Prep cooks do all the prep work behind the scenes: chopping vegetables, portioning ingredients, cutting meats, and making sauces. All that prep work is then handed off to the line cooks so it can be prepared into the final product.
Types of Line Cook
What does a line cook do? Lots of things. It depends on which part of the line they’re working.
Some line cooks are hired to specialize in one station. Other line cooks are hired to be jacks-of-all-trades and work any station needed. Of course, the more stations a line cook can competently handle, the more value they likely bring to the kitchen.
The saute station is reserved for one of the more competent line cooks in the kitchen. The saute cook works the kitchen’s gas range or stove top.
This involves the preparation of meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, and sauces. And they use pans. Lots and lots of pans. The reason why sauces fall to the saute cook is because the remnants of prior cooking often leave useful deglazing options for sauce preparation.
Flat Top Station
The flat top station is a cooking range that combines elements of a grill and a griddle. It doesn’t have a grate; it’s a flat cooking surface. In addition to cooking food directly on top of it, it can be used to heat and warm pots and pans. This is where most of the hot, non-grill cooking that doesn’t require a pan gets done.
The grill station is typically an open grill and/or a broiler. This is where steaks, kebabs, and other typical grill fare are cooked over an open fire.
This is widely considered to be the most difficult line cook station for two reasons. One, meats must be cooked to temp. A medium steak cooked well done is wasted. That’s not how to reduce cost in a restaurant.
And second, all those items the grill cook is cooking simultaneously? They all look the same. This is the station that requires the most experienced line cook.
The fry cook operates the deep fryer. They’re typically in charge of a small freezer (where many deep-fried goodies wait until their oil bath), along with fry baskets and tongs.
The fry station, along with the below pantry station, are the more entry-level line cook roles. Also, fry may also be rolled into another line cook’s duties if there aren’t many fried items on the menu. The grill cook, for example, may be in charge of dropping fries and onion rings in smaller kitchens.
Pantry is often the name used to refer to the dessert and salad station. This is where salads, desserts, and cold appetizers are prepared and sold.
Often, the pantry cook (not to be confused with a pastry chef) relies on other line cooks to be able to complete their dish. Think of a grilled steak salad that requires grilled steak from the grill cook. That makes time management and coordination skills important for a successful pantry cook.
It’s also a station with a lot of variety, as you can imagine—apps, desserts, and salads. It requires a good memory and the ability to pivot quickly.
Line Cook Job Description
Line cook job descriptions vary because line cooks may be needed for one or all of the cooking stations a kitchen uses. But, in general, a line cook job description that covers all possible cooking stations would look something like this:
Line Cook Duties and Responsibilities
Primary line cook duties and responsibilities are:
- Setting up cook stations and stocking them with the necessary prep supplies.
- Preparing food on the line, as needed, by cutting, mixing, chopping, and making sauces.
- Cooking items on the line by grilling, frying, chopping, sauteing, and broiling to quality guidelines and standardized recipes.
- Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene standards (like creating and following a restaurant cleaning checklist) that comply with state and local food safety and sanitation regulations.
- Handling and storing food safely and properly.
- Takes inventory counts before and after shifts, completes food inventory or storage sheets.
- Ability to work on weekends, stand for extended periods of time, and lift up to 50 pounds.
That’s a fairly comprehensive list of the duties and responsibilities of a line cook. It’s worth keeping the description open-ended like this in case one day you do have to move your saute cook over to grill. Keep your options open with the different types of chefs and cooks in your establishment.
Line Cook Salary: How Much Do Line Cooks Make?
According to Indeed, the average line cook pay (170) in the U.S. is $13.51 per hour. That’s about $28,100 per year.
Though line cooks with 3–5 years of experience pull in $14.27 per hour or $29,682 per year. And the average line cook pay for line cooks with more than 10 years of experience is $15.45 per hour or $32,136 per year.
Line Cook Resume Sample
Here’s an example of a concise, effective line cook resume:
When creating a line cook resume, make sure to emphasize any work with management around the optimization of processes, like setting par levels or reducing food cost. We’ve got some more great resources around hiring bar staff, too.
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