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Welcome to the culinary world where passion meets skill and creativity meets organization! The good news is that you’ve taken the first step to learn what a line cook does, a vital role in any restaurant’s operation.

The job of a line cook is the backbone of many restaurants, from fast-food establishments to fine dining venues. In essence, line cooks work tirelessly to ensure that every dish is prepared and presented to perfection, contributing to the memorable dining experiences that customers enjoy.

But what does the job entail? What skills are required? And how do you train to become one? In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the fascinating world of line cooks. From understanding their duties, exploring the different types within a restaurant kitchen, to learning how to train one – we have got you covered. So, whether you are an aspiring chef or a restaurant owner looking to expand your team, this comprehensive guide will prove invaluable. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Line Cook?

Simply put, a line cook is a type of chef responsible for preparing and cooking food in a restaurant under the direction of an executive chef or sous chef. However, the line cook’s role extends beyond just cooking. It’s a position that demands a blend of creativity, dexterity, and endurance.

The line cook, also called chef de partie, is an integral part of the kitchen brigade system, a structured hierarchy within professional kitchens conceptualized by legendary chef Auguste Escoffier. Under this system, each line cook typically has a specialized station, such as the grill, saucier, or pantry, where they focus their efforts to ensure a smooth, synchronized service. They assist in executing the vision of the executive chef, upholding the restaurateur’s brand, and contributing to the overall dining experience.

Line cooks need to have a good understanding of various cooking techniques, food safety regulations, and should be able to handle the high-pressure environment that a busy restaurant kitchen often embodies. They are often the unsung heroes, their culinary skills, efficiency, and dedication directly impacting the restaurant’s success.

Though they may not be as visible as the executive chef, the work of line cooks is reflected in every delicious bite enjoyed by the restaurant’s guests.

What are a Line Cook’s Duties?

Station Setup

Before the restaurant opens its doors, a line cook’s day begins with setting up their station. This process involves ensuring they have all the ingredients they need for the menu items they’re responsible for. They efficiently organize everything to facilitate a smooth workflow when orders start coming in. Depending on the type of restaurant, a line cook may need to handle specific job preparations, such as making sauces or chopping vegetables.


The heart of a line cook’s duties lies in cooking. Whether it’s grilling, sautéing, baking, or frying, they must prepare food according to the restaurant’s recipes and the chef’s guidelines. They are also expected to adjust their cooking based on customer preferences, such as allergies or dietary restrictions. Additionally, in a fast-paced environment like a fast-food restaurant, line cooks must be adept at quickly and accurately assembling dishes.

Maintaining Health and Cleanliness

Food safety is paramount in any kitchen, and line cooks play a vital role in upholding these standards. This task includes regular hand-washing, proper food storage, and thorough cleaning of their workspace. Line cooks are also responsible for maintaining kitchen equipment and ensuring that their utensils are clean and ready to go.

Food Preparation

Food preparation is another key duty of a line cook. This task involves cleaning, chopping, and measuring ingredients, marinating meats, and even helping in the preparation of sauces. In larger restaurants, this task might also involve coordinating with assistant cooks or specialists who aid in food prep.

Types of Line Cooks in a Restaurant Kitchen

A line cook’s role isn’t a one-size-fits-all job. In larger kitchens, a line cook might specialize in a single station, gaining experience and working their way up the culinary hierarchy. Let’s explore these positions further:

Sauté Cook (Saucier Chef): often ranking as one of the higher positions in the kitchen, the saucier is responsible for sautéed items and most sauces. This position often assists with creating daily specials and requires a good understanding of flavor profiles and culinary techniques.

Roast Cook (Rotisseur): handles anything roasted or braised. This includes large cuts of meats, poultry, and sometimes even vegetables. This role requires strong time management skills due to the longer cooking times of their dishes.

Fry Cook (Friturier): specializes in fried foods. From appetizers to main dishes, they ensure that every fried item is crisp and golden, yet not overly greasy.

Grill Cook (Grillardin): manages the grill station, responsible for all grilled foods. This role often involves cooking with high heat and requires a good understanding of how different foods cook on a grill.

Butcher (Boucher): prepares meats and poultry before they are delivered to other stations. They also work closely with the saucier and rotisseur, providing them with the cuts they need for their dishes.

Fish Cook (Poissonnier): prepares fish dishes and often some or all seafood dishes. They may also create accompanying sauces.

Appetizer Cook (Entremetier): prepares appetizers, which may include salads and soups. In some kitchens, they also handle egg dishes and desserts.

Vegetable Cook (Legumier): is responsible for all vegetable dishes and sometimes soups and eggs, depending on the kitchen’s structure.

Soup Cook (Potager): in some kitchens, a specific cook, known as the potager, handles all soups.

Relief Cook (Chef de Tournant): steps in wherever help is needed. They must know how to work every station, making this role one of the most challenging.

Pantry Cook (Garde Manger): is in charge of cold dishes, including salads, cold appetizers, pâtés, and other charcuterie.

Pastry Chef (Patissier): while not technically a line cook, the patissier plays a crucial role in the kitchen, preparing all baked goods, pastries, and desserts.

Remember, entry-level positions can lead to higher roles as line cooks gain experience, knowledge, and skills in their chosen specialty.

What Makes a Great Line Cook?

While each restaurant may have unique requirements for their line cooks, certain qualities and skills are universally valued in this role. These characteristics can set an individual apart, making them a valuable asset in the kitchen.

Experience and Skills

No doubt, having previous experience and a high school diploma or a degree from culinary school will make a difference. But the key lies in the specific skills. A great line cook can multitask, work smoothly under pressure, and exhibit impressive speed without compromising on quality or safety.

Professional Soft Skills

Apart from the hard skills obtained from years of experience, line cooks also need a range of soft skills. Effective communication is crucial in the high-stakes, fast-paced kitchen environment, where everyone must work as a team. A good line cook also shows resilience, adaptability, and excellent problem-solving abilities to overcome unexpected challenges.

Passion for Cooking

It might seem obvious, but an intrinsic love for food and cooking is essential. Great line cooks are genuinely enthusiastic about their work, always eager to learn new techniques, try out new dishes, and continually improve their craft.

Strong Work Ethic

A great line cook must have a strong work ethic. Punctuality, dependability, and a willingness to assist where needed all contribute to the smooth running of a kitchen. Respect for the hierarchy in the kitchen is also crucial, as is taking responsibility for their station and tasks.

Health and Hygiene Consciousness

A great line cook is conscientious about personal and workspace cleanliness. They understand and follow food safety regulations diligently, knowing that the health of the customers and the reputation of the restaurant are in their hands.

Becoming a line cook might seem straightforward, but being a great line cook is not just about executing the job description. It’s about having the right blend of experience, skills, attitude, and passion. Whether a fast food restaurant, a fine dining establishment, pop-up restaurant, a line cook’s role is invaluable, and a great line cook can greatly enhance a restaurant’s success.

How Much Does a Line Cook Make?

A line cook’s salary can vary widely based on several factors, such as the type of restaurant, geographical location, and the individual’s years of experience and skills.

According to indeed, the average hourly salary for a line cook in the United States is $17.10.

On average, line cooks can expect to earn an entry-level wage, which can increase with experience, responsibilities, and performance. Some line cooks may also receive benefits from their employer, such as health insurance, paid time off, or meal discounts.

It’s also worth noting that line cooks who demonstrate skill, dedication, and reliability may have opportunities to move up the kitchen hierarchy, which can lead to higher earning potential. Always consider these factors when evaluating a line cook position or negotiating a salary.

How to Train a Line Cook

Training a line cook is an essential part of maintaining a well-oiled, efficient kitchen. However, it’s not just about teaching knife skills or rote memorization of recipes. It’s about fostering a sense of teamwork, communication, and understanding the fast-paced restaurant environment.

Step 1: The Interview Process

Before you even hire a line cook, it’s important to look for certain qualities during the interview process. You’re looking for someone with resilience, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic. Previous experience working in a kitchen is beneficial, but passion for food and the ability to learn quickly are just as important.

Step 2: Orientation and Basic Skills

Once you hire one, the first step in training a line cook is orienting them with the layout of the kitchen, safety protocols, and introduction to the kitchen brigade system. Following this, they should be taught basic skills like chopping, slicing, and food prep techniques.

Step 3: Station Training

After grasping basic skills, the cook is often assigned to a specific station. Here, they’ll learn the specific tasks of that station, whether it’s grilling, sautéing, or working the salad station. This helps them become an expert in their domain and facilitates smoother kitchen operations.

Step 4: Overlap and Mentorship

Having the new line cook overlap shifts with a seasoned cook is beneficial. This allows the new cook to observe and assist an experienced cook, gaining practical knowledge, understanding workflow, and adopting best practices.

Step 5: Constant Feedback

Like any job, the learning doesn’t stop once the training program ends. Regular feedback is crucial to help the line cook improve. This ensures they are continually growing and evolving in their role.

Remember, a well-trained line cook is not only an asset to a restaurant but also a stepping stone towards creating a strong and cohesive kitchen team.

Difference Between Prep Cook vs Line Cook

Understanding the distinction between a prep cook and a line cook is crucial if you’re interested in the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen. Both positions are integral to the operations of the kitchen but carry out distinctly different roles.

Role of a Prep Cook

Prep cooks are the foundation of the culinary process. They are responsible for the initial preparations that go into creating the menu items. This includes washing and chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, and performing other tasks that ensure the ingredients are ready for the line cooks.

The prep cook’s work is generally done before the restaurant opens or during slower periods, as their role is all about setting up the rest of the kitchen for success.

Role of a Line Cook

On the other hand, a line cook, also known as a station chef, takes the prepped ingredients and executes the dishes according to the restaurant’s menu. They work during service times, cooking and plating food under the watchful eye of the executive or sous chef. Line cook responsibilities include ensuring consistency in dish preparation, maintaining the pace of the kitchen, and adhering to the restaurateur’s culinary standards.

Key Differences

The main difference between the two positions lies in the timing and nature of their work. While prep cooks assist by setting the stage for successful meal service, line cooks are the ones directly engaged in the production of meals during service times.


Understanding the role and responsibilities of line cooks illuminates the complexity and teamwork behind the smooth operation of a restaurant. They’re the unsung heroes, translating the chef’s vision into reality, one dish at a time. Whether it’s their distinct tasks from prep cooks or the intense training they undergo, every facet contributes to the culinary symphony experienced by restaurant guests. By recognizing the value of line cooks, we not only appreciate the labor behind our meals, but also the artistry and passion that go into creating memorable dining experiences. They truly are the beating heart of every successful kitchen.

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