How do I Become a Prep Cook?

M.C. Huguelet

Contrary to what the title suggests, a restaurant prep cook rarely performs actual cooking duties. Instead, his main purpose is to prepare a range of ingredients so they can be quickly and easily used in recipes by the restaurant’s chefs. Though many of the skills required for the position are learned on the job, there are certain preliminary steps you can take to help you become a prep cook. These include taking training courses in food preparation and safety as well as evaluating your personality to determine whether you can cope in a high-pressure kitchen environment.

A prep cook.
A prep cook.

A prep cook’s job can be challenging. He often arrives at work before the other kitchen staff and remains there after the other staff members have gone home for the night. In many cases, he is responsible for disagreeable or mundane tasks such as taking out messy kitchen waste or washing dishes, and he is normally paid at or just above minimum wage. Nevertheless, a restaurant’s kitchen is usually hierarchical, and if you would like a high-level cooking job you often must first become a prep cook.

A prep cook working.
A prep cook working.

The chief task of the prep cook is cleaning, chopping, and organizing vegetables, fruits, meats, garnishes, and seasonings so each recipe’s ingredients are ready as the cook needs them. You must be able to prepare all items efficiently while ensuring that the results are aesthetically pleasing. Thus you may consider taking some food preparation classes if you would like to become a prep cook. These classes may be available through your local culinary school, community college, or adult education institute.

One of the most useful classes for anyone who wishes to become a prep cook is knife training. Through a knife skills class, you will learn the uses of each type of knife. You will also obtain practice in many different cutting and chopping techniques.

As a prep cook, you must always ensure that ingredients are handled safely to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Thus, you may also consider taking a class in food safety. Through this class, you will likely learn how to clean all foods properly. You will also be taught how to sterilize your work area as well as your hands to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

Another important consideration if you would like to become a prep cook is the high amount of stress that can often accompany the job. During mealtimes, work in a kitchen often moves very quickly. While you are learning your restaurant’s routine, you may be subject to frequent constructive criticism from senior staff. Before you take on a prep cook position, you may want to consider these pressures and decide whether you are capable of working through them.

A prep cook may be responsible for washing dishes.
A prep cook may be responsible for washing dishes.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@raynbow- Not only world a position as a prep cook give your friend kitchen experience, but it would also teach him other vital skills needed to work as a cook in any type of restaurant.

My brother use to be a prep cook, and just as the article say, it is a fast-paced, stressful position. However, this type of work teaches an individual how to work quickly, which is important in the restaurant industry.

Since a prep cook is preparing items for other staff members, this type of work also gives a person an idea of how important teamwork is on the job. It also shows him or her how to get a long with other co-workers. All these skills are important when it comes to being a cook, and can be learned by starting out as a prep cook.


Is a position as a prep cook a good stepping-stone for other types of careers in the cooking industry? I have a friend who wants to eventually work as a cook in a high-end restaurant, but he knows he has to get some hands-on experience first. There are a lot of prep cooks jobs in his area, which I think would give him some basic cooking skills even though he doesn't want to work to do that type of work for a long time.

Post your comments
Forgot password?