Food preparation workers perform routine tasks to assist cooks, chefs or food service managers in commercial kitchens. They weigh and measure ingredients, wash and chop vegetables and fruits, slice meat, and prepare condiments and dressings. Food preparation workers also clean, sanitise and arrange work areas, equipment, dishes and utensils. They may also be responsible for food storage, packing meals for delivery and restocking buffet tables.
Duties and responsibilities
- Wash, peel and cut vegetables and fruits for cooking or serving
- Prepare meat for cooking, including defrosting, slicing or grinding
- Defrost, clean and cut poultry and seafood for the day's menu as instructed
- Weigh or measure ingredients for recipes
- Make dressings, sauces and condiments
- Mix ingredients for salads and other cold dishes
- Arrange meals on warmers or trays for waitstaff, or in takeout containers for customer orders
- Prepare desserts
- Place ingredients or meals in storage containers and proper storage areas to prevent spoilage
- Monitor inventory and record temperature of food and food storage areas as directed
- Clean and sanitise work areas, kitchen equipment, dishes, utensils, pots and pans
- Assist chefs with any assigned tasks, including retrieving pots and stirring soups and sauces
- Use kitchen appliances and equipment, including automated slicers and dishwashers
- Prepare coffee, tea, soft drinks and other beverages
- Keep salad bars and buffet tables clean and stocked
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Nights, weekends and holidays
Food preparation workers typically find jobs in restaurants and other dining establishments such as hotels, bars and banquet halls. They may also work in delis, bakeries and other food and beverage stores. Some work in school, government or healthcare cafeterias.
Most food preparation workers take part-time shift work. Hours may include early mornings, nights, weekends and holidays. Those working in schools or seasonal resorts may have more regular schedules, but only for part of a calendar year.
Food preparation requires long hours of standing and may include heavy lifting and repetitive tasks. Commercial kitchens require high standards in a fast-paced environment, which can be very stressful. There are also potential safety hazards, including cuts, burns and falls. Most injuries aren't serious, and you can mitigate the danger by wearing gloves, aprons and non-slip shoes.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
There are no formal education requirements for food preparation workers. You will typically receive on-the-job training, either from the chef in charge or an experienced worker. Training may include lessons on safe handling, prep and storage of food as well as workplace safety and sanitation regulations.
On-the-job training and experience can lead to more advanced positions in food service, like line cook or assistant cook. You may consider using your skills in other related jobs, such as baker, butcher or bartender. With a high school diploma, you can work your way up to a more lucrative role as head cook or chef.