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By Dana Krook
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.).
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.
The name line cook comes from the term “line,” which refers to the horizontal kitchen space set up that’s common in restaurants. In a restaurant, the phrase “on the line” means you are a working line cook. Other common names for the role 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 culinary 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 person 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, this person is also responsible for preparing the sauces that accompany these dishes. At large restaurants, this may role may be broken down even further:
Fry cook (friturier): Responsible for frying dishes.
Grill cook (grillardin): Responsible for grilling dishes.
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:
Vegetable cook (legumier): At large restaurants, this person is responsible for preparing vegetables.
Soup cook (potager): At large restaurants, this person is responsible for preparing soups.
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 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 kitchen 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, prep, and short order cooks.
Knowing the differences between cooks 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. Here’s a little primer on a chef vs a cook job description.
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 = ManagementCook = Execution
How do you reel in the best talent, hook, line, and sinker?
Finding the most talented line cooks for your restaurant requires attracting the right candidates with a specific job description that outlines the necessary line cook duties and the ideal candidate’s qualifications.
The job of a line cook goes far beyond just cooking. Here are some line cook responsibilities you should include in the job description.
When listed on a job description, the following line cook qualifications and skills should help you attract and staff line cooks that fit your venue’s needs.
An effective job description with clearly defined responsibilities will help you build a strong pool of qualified candidates and review their applications to find the right fit for the job.
From the resume to the interview to the reference check, there are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing line cooks for your restaurant.
A rospective candidate’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 candidate’s aptitude and whether they can complete basic line cook tasks, 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 candidates based on their resumes, you need to interview them to get a better idea of their skills, personality, and passion to narrow down your selection.
Not sure where to start? Here are some line cook interview questions to get you talking:
On top of some of these universal questions, ask each candidate specific questions related to their resume, previous experience, and the new job they’re applying for.
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 for the job – or reveal any red flags you may not have caught earlier in the interview 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’ve gone to a lot of trouble to hire a fantastic team – don’t risk losing them to the competition!
With high turnover rates costing the restaurant industry lots more money each year, you need to make an effort 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 stay on your team as long as possible.
Use this knowledge, follow these tips, and you’ll be able to hire and retain the top line cooks in your city.
Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.
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