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’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.
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.