A successful restaurant or any eating joint for that matter, needs to have dedicated chefs and cooks with various skill levels to work together as a team. To have a good service, be it for lunch or dinner, each and every member of the kitchen have to work as a team.
Cooking a meal at home for oneself or family is very different from cooking for customers who are going to pay for the meal served. Working in a professional restaurant kitchen is a very high pressure job and there is no doubt that every individual in the kitchen have to perform well to keep customers satisfied. The reputation of a restaurant can be made or marred by the food that goes out of the kitchen. In a kitchen, the cooking hierarchy is always maintained.
On the top of the chain is the head chef, followed by the executive chef, sous chef, expediter, pastry chef, line cooks and prep chef. The prep chef comes last in the kitchen ladder, but he is an important member in the kitchen. It is an entry-level job and to become a prep chef a person does not require to have any special education.
What is a Prep Cook
A prep cook is a person who does not do the actual cooking of the dishes, but rather prepares the food items that are required for cooking a particular dish. For an amateur cook who wants to work in a restaurant, but does not have a formal degree in culinary arts, working as a prep cook is a great way to start his/her culinary career. As mentioned earlier a prep cook does not require any formal training to work in a professional kitchen. All that is required is a passion for cooking and learning and a positive attitude.
Of course, one also needs to develop skills to handle the pressure that this job imposes. It is no secret that even some of the best chefs can be demanding and pushing, particularly with when they are working to serve guests within a limited time frame. So a prep cook should be able to take any constructive criticism in his stride and be able to forge ahead with his colleagues to provide a good dinner or lunch service.
Job Description of a Prep Cook
The job description of a prep cook includes preparing various food ingredients so that line cooks or pastry chefs can cook them. Washing vegetables and fruits, chopping vegetables, slicing fruits, peeling potatoes are all a prep cook's duties. He/she also needs to gut fish, shuck oysters and debone poultry. A prep cook is responsible for preparing all the raw ingredients and food components that are required for cooking a meal in a restaurant. A good prep cook should have good knife skills so that he can cut ingredients according to the size that is specified by the sous chef. Also a prep cook should be able to work quickly and efficiently while preparing dishes.
Other duties of a prep cook includes storing items in the pantry and refrigerator, fetching components of a particular dish to the head chef and helping in plating up of appetizers, entrée and desserts. A prep cook might also be required to make certain components of a dish like salad dressings, marinades for fish, vegetables and meats and garnishes that are to be made ahead. Sometimes a prep cook might also be required to clean kitchen equipment and work stations and make sure that all the appliances are working properly.
A prep cook who is able to do his work efficiently can quickly advance his way up the kitchen ladder and acquire a more senior position in the restaurant world. Being a prep cook is a great way to know if you can survive in the high pressure restaurant business. It helps a person to learn everything about a professional kitchen and know how it actually works. A person who loves everything about food, is passionate about cooking and has the desire to learn is a good candidate for a prep cook.