Line cooks – also known as chefs de parties – are the linchpins of your back-of-house restaurant operations. They keep the kitchen running efficiently and feed your guests, all while facing the pressures of the kitchen.
Finding qualified staff is one of the most important components of running a restaurant, but it can also be the biggest struggle. This guide will help you find the most talented line cooks for your restaurant and teach you how to keep them happy.
In this article you’ll learn:
Line cooks are the chefs responsible for operating a single station at a restaurant. Line cook stations are typically divided by type of food (such as butcher, fish, vegetable, etc.) or by preparation method (sauté, roast, grill, etc.).
Line cooks are typically responsible for their stations from start to finish, from making sure the supplies are fresh to preparing ingredients to cooking. In larger restaurants, a line cook may have several assistants working under them.
Other common names for line cooks are “chef de partie” and “station chef.”
In the restaurant world, pecking order matters.
The following is the brigade de cuisine, or restaurant hierarchy, for line cook positions. You’ll learn common types of line cooks, their French names (which are often used in fine dining establishments), and their responsibilities.
Sauté cook (saucier): On top of sautéeing all dishes that need sautéeing (obviously), this line cook is also responsible for preparing the sauces that accompany those dishes, preparing hot appetizers, and (sometimes) preparing fish dishes. The saucier is the most coveted and esteemed line cook position.
Roast cook (rotisseur): On top of braising and roasting meats, the roast cook is also responsible for preparing the sauces that accompany these dishes. At large restaurants, this may role may be broken down even further:
Butcher (boucher): Responsible for butchering – and sometimes breading – meats.
Fish cook (poissonnier): Responsible for butchering, creating sauces for, and cooking fish.
Appetizer cook (entremetier): Responsible for preparing soups, pastas, and vegetables, in addition to hot appetizers. This role is typically referred to as “vegetable cook” when there is no legumier (see below). At large establishments, it’s common to have also have:
Pantry cook (garde manger): Responsible for preparing cold dishes such as charcuterie, salads, cold hors d’oeuvres, etc.
Roundsman, swing, or relief cook (tourant): Responsible for assisting various stations throughout the kitchen or filling in as needed.
Pastry chef (patissier): Responsible for preparing baked goods, pastries, and desserts. At large restaurants, the pastry chef will have a team consisting of:
The types of line cooks you need will depend on what kind of restaurant you have. A classic French restaurant may employ all of the above, while a restaurant with a smaller menu may have more limited staffing needs.
It’s a full-time job just to keep it all straight.
Since there are so many of them, job titles in the culinary world can get confusing – especially when the responsibilities overlap. Let’s clarify the differences between a line cook, prep cook, and short order cook.
Knowing the differences between a line cook, prep cook, and short order cook will help you attract the right talent for the role you’re trying to fill.
On top of confusing job titles, the words “chef” and “cook” are often used interchangeably, which can make it difficult to decipher the differences between their roles.
Traditionally, the title chef refers to someone who manages the back-of-house team. A kitchen could have several chefs, including the executive chef (chef de cuisine) and sous chef (second in command).
If a chef is responsible for managing the back-of-house team, cooks are responsible for the cooking. A kitchen’s cooks work together to execute the chef’s vision and prepare food for guests.
A quick way to remember:
Chef = Management
Cook = Execution
How do you reel in the best line cook talent, hook, line, and sinker?
Now that you understand what a line cook is and what types of line cooks you may need to recruit, it’s time to learn how to find – and keep – rockstar line cooks for your restaurant.
Finding the most talented line cooks for your restaurant requires attracting the right candidates with a specific job description that outlines the role’s duties and the ideal candidate’s qualifications.
The role of a line cook goes far beyond just cooking. Here are some responsibilities you should include in the job description for a line cook for your restaurant.
When listed on a job description, the following line cook qualifications and skills should help you attract the best talent in your area.
An effective line cook job description will help you build a strong pool of qualified candidates and review their applications to find the right fit.
From the resume to the interview to the reference check, there are a few key things to keep in mind when hiring line cooks for your restaurant.
A line cook’s resume should indicate that they meet most of the requirements in your job description. But beyond the obvious, you should also look at:
Reading resumes will give you a basic understanding of a line cook candidate’s aptitude, but it’s not enough to determine whom to hire. You’ve got to be ready to go a little deeper.
After you’ve selected the top line cook candidates based on their resumes, you need to interview them to get a better idea of their skills, personality, and work ethic to narrow down your selection.
Not sure where to start? Here are some line cook job interview questions to get you talking:
On top of some of these universal questions, ask each candidate specific questions related to their resume and previous experience.
When you’ve decided to move on with a candidate or two, you’ll want to ask for references. Talking to a candidate’s references should help you confirm that you’ve made the right pick – or reveal any red flags you may not have caught earlier in the hiring process.
Talking to a previous manager at a restaurant will give you the most useful information. Here are some questions you should ask references:
You can find more great tips for checking references from Harvard Business Review.
You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to hire a fantastic team of line cooks – don’t risk losing them to the competition!
With high turnover rates costing the restaurant industry lots more money each year, you need to work hard to stay ahead of the high turnover trends.
The good news? There are some simple things you can do to make your line cooks happy in their jobs, so that they work for you as long as possible – and aren’t tempted when the competition comes knocking.
Use this knowledge, follow these tips, and you’ll be able to hire and retain the top line cooks in your city.