Cooks are employed primarily in companies in the hotel and catering industry, in hospitals, convalescent homes and nursing homes, but also in company canteens of large companies and organizations, educational institutions, etc., where they prepare dishes of all kinds and organize the work processes in the kitchen. They prepare menus and take care of the purchase and proper storage of food. Cooks assign kitchen staff and ensure compliance with hygiene regulations. They work in a team with colleagues, kitchen assistants and restaurant specialists and have contact with suppliers and their guests.
Chefs prepare all kinds of dishes: from home cooking to haute cuisine, from dietary dishes to vegetarian or vegan cuisine to dishes for luxury catering - the range of dishes is wide. Exotic dishes, regional specialties or meals made from organic products - chefs have to be able to put together a wide variety of dishes depending on demand. In restaurants in the upper price range or in so-called "hood restaurants", chefs also create new recipes or recipe variations.
In smaller kitchens, one chef is sometimes solely responsible for all steps of the process, planning the dishes, putting together the menu, purchasing the ingredients, and advising guests on the menus. Larger kitchens, on the other hand, employ several cooks who often specialize in particular dishes. For example, an entremetier is responsible for soups and side dishes, a gardemanger for cold dishes, and a saucier for meats, fish, and sauces.
The work of cooks/chefs does not begin with the cooking itself. They prepare menus, paying attention to balance and variety, as well as seasonal specialties or preferences of the guests. For example, they offer special asparagus dishes during the asparagus season or game specialties in the fall.
Cooks first prepare the individual foods: this includes chopping and cutting meat, gutting poultry, washing and cleaning vegetables, chopping ingredients, and preparing flour, fat, eggs, spices, etc. After they have prepared everything, they prepare the food according to the recipe. They fry, roast, grill or cook meat, fish or game, steam vegetables or cook pasta and prepare sauces and salads. Finally, they taste the food and arrange it on plates. Cooks always ensure that hygiene regulations are observed.
Cooks order the food they need, often already in stock, or buy it themselves. They inform themselves about conditions, prices and delivery terms. When the goods are delivered, they check their freshness and quality. They store perishable goods such as meat or fruit properly in cold storage rooms and monitor them constantly.
In order to prepare the service staff, but also in part to be able to inform guests personally, cooks must be well informed about the composition of the food, ingredients and possible intolerances and, if necessary, be able to offer alternatives, such as other side dishes. Aspects of sustainability are also becoming increasingly important in guest consulting; this includes knowing the origin of the food (e.g. regionality), knowing about seasonal offers and also knowing whether the food and ingredients were produced organically.
Cooks process food such as fruit, vegetables, fish and meat into tasty dishes. They use spices of all kinds as well as ingredients such as flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, etc. They operate kitchen equipment such as ovens, stoves, steamers, dough machines, mixers, vegetable choppers and handle pots, pans and knives. They also keep operating books, stock lists, order and purchase lists, (recipe) lists and work on computers with appropriate office software and with stock-keeping programs. In smaller restaurants, they sometimes take reservations themselves and operate the corresponding programs.
In large kitchens for hospitals, for example, it is becoming increasingly common for cooks to also have to operate automated logistics systems, for example by entering the destination coordinates for transport robots that bring the food to the stations.
Cooks work in kitchens of restaurants and hotels as well as in large kitchens of companies, hospitals, nursing homes, health resorts, canteens and cafeterias. As a rule, the scope of kitchen work is divided among several cooks and kitchen assistants, depending on the size of the company. Cooks are then specialized in certain areas or food groups. They are supported in their work by kitchen assistants (see kitchen assistant). They also work closely with restaurant specialists and buffet and bar staff (see Restaurant Specialist (Apprenticeship) and Buffet and Bar Staff).
Cooks do many things at the same time and are therefore often under time pressure. Appetizer, main course and dessert must be finished in the right order and at the right intervals. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, cooks must remain calm and be very well organized. Evenings, weekends, and holidays are busy times in many restaurants, so cooks must be prepared to work corresponding hours. Standing for long periods of time and walking a lot requires a certain level of physical fitness, and handling various kitchen tools and a wide variety of foods and ingredients requires a certain level of dexterity.
- create menus and menu sequences
- plan and organize the purchase or ordering of foodstuffs
- prepare purchasing and storage lists, store food properly
- control quality and quantity of delivered goods
- prepare ingredients: washing, chopping, weighing, etc.
- prepare food according to recipes using various cooking techniques, such as frying, grilling, baking, boiling, simmering
- season and taste the food
- organize the workflow in the kitchen
- create new recipes or recipe variations
- arrange the food on plates
- Small, medium and large enterprises of the hotel and catering industry
- Large kitchens of
- hospitals and nursing homes
- public institutions
A prerequisite for professional success is to keep up to date professionally and to continuously supplement one's own specialist knowledge through further training and to adapt it to new developments. For example, acquiring additional specialist knowledge (e.g. whole foods, dietary food, regional and international cuisine, vegetarian nutrition, beverage science, IT in commercial kitchens) is advantageous. Those who wish to gain international experience and work abroad can expand their foreign language skills and acquire international qualifications.
Further training opportunities are also available in the areas of related apprenticeships (e.g. confectioner*in, confectioner*in, restaurant specialist, meat processor*in). Educational events are offered by the Vocational Training Institute (WIFI) and the Economic Development Institute (bfi).
The bfi and the WIFI offer a wide variety of continuing education courses in addition to preparatory courses for the hospitality industry qualification examination.
The study of professional journals and books is recommended.
Further education opportunities and higher qualification:
Every profession requires very specific technical and specialist knowledge, which is taught during training. In addition, there are also a number of requirements that are important in practically all occupations. These include: Reliability, honesty and punctuality, accurate and careful work, independent work, enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility. It is also hard to imagine today without the ability and willingness to work with others (teamwork skills) and a willingness to learn.
What other skills and characteristics are expected in THIS profession can vary greatly from company to company. The following list gives you an overview of other requirements that are often asked for.
Remember: Many of these requirements are also part of the training.
Physical requirements: What physical attributes are important?
- good physical condition
- good sense of smell
- good sense of taste
- Insensitivity to odors
Expertise: what skills and knowledge am I expected to have?
- use and operation of digital tools
- good sense of proportion
Social competence: What do I need when dealing with others?
- critical faculties
- Customer / client orientation
Self-competence: What personal qualities should I have?
- Ability to work under pressure / Resilience
- Ability to make judgments / decisions
- Flexibility / willingness to change
- Health awareness
Other requirements: What else is important?
- well-groomed appearance
- Hygiene awareness
- freedom from infection
Methodological competence: Which working and thinking methods are important?
- Coordination skills
- Organizational skills
- Planning ability