Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods—from soups, snacks, and salads to entrees, side dishes, and desserts. They work in a variety of restaurants and other food services establishments. Chefs and cooks create recipes and prepare meals, while food preparation workers peel and cut vegetables, trim meat, prepare poultry, and perform other duties, such as keeping work areas clean and monitoring temperatures of ovens and stovetops.
Hours: Work hours in restaurants may include early mornings, late evenings, holidays, and weekends. Work schedules of chefs, cooks and other kitchen workers in factory and school cafeterias may be more regular. In 2006, about 29 percent of cooks and 44 percent of food preparation workers had part-time schedules, compared to 15 percent of workers throughout the economy. Work schedules in fine-dining restaurants, however, tend to be longer because of the time required to prepare ingredients in advance. Many executive chefs regularly work 12-hour days because they oversee the delivery of foodstuffs early in the day, plan the menu, and prepare those menu items that take the most skill.
Opportunities: Job opportunities for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers are expected to be plentiful because of the continued growth and expansion of food services outlets, resulting in average employment growth, and because of the large numbers of workers who leave these occupations and need to be replaced. However, those seeking the highest-paying positions will face keen competition.
Pay: Median annual wage-and-salary earnings of chefs and head cooks were $34,370 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,910 and $46,040. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,730.
Training: On-the-job training is most common for fast-food cooks, short-order cooks, and food preparation workers. Chefs and others with more advanced cooking duties often attend cooking school. Vocational training programs are available to many high school students, but advanced positions usually require training after high school. Experience, an ability to develop and enhance cooking skills, and a strong desire to cook are the most common requirements for advancement.
Citation: Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition , Chefs, Cooks, and Food Preparation Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos161.htm (visited July 22, 2009 ).
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