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Is there a difference between a food prep and line cook?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm looking to change careers (from web dev), so I'm going to get a entry level job, is there a difference between a food prep and a line cook?
post #2 of 15
I have found that it depends on the state or area. In Florida most line cooks cannot prepare sauces, soups etc., and most prep cooks can't work the line. In New York you did both. Again there are exceptions to the rule. Also in Florida they pay so little that you wont find a guy who does both, willing to work for what they pay. Last thing owners of Florida restaurants want to do is pay a chef what they are worth, therefore they deserve what they get.
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post #3 of 15
In general, a food prep cook prepares food to be further cooked or combined with other ingredients. For example, in a casual dining restaurant like Bob Evans, a food prep cook:

* heats packaged soups and mashed potatoes
* makes packaged sauces, crepe batter, pancake batter, and waffle batter
* trays and bakes biscuits
* prepares scrambled egg mix
* chops greens and assembles the garden salad mix
* follows packaged instructions for the final assembly of ready made seasonal desserts like strawberry creamcheese pie
* Cleans, seasons, bakes, and hot holds baked potatoes
* Mixes, bakes, and holds meat loaf
* stocks cook work stations with all necessary ingredients and food supplies

The prep cook's job isn't that demanding provided the prep cook is organized and can anticipate the needs of the cook line. A good prep cook walks the line to see what supplies the cooks might be running low on. He then preps and holds these food products so that when the cooks run out, he can resupply them.

Line cooks have a more challenging job because they have to fill ticket orders. If the prep cooks have done their job and they have all the food supplies and ingredients they need, they have to knock out in-coming orders.

On busy days when there are fifteen tickets or more in the window with each ticket having 2, 3, and 4 orders, cooks have to keep their cool. They have got to work with a sense of urgency and they have got to be able to multitask.

Anyone can reheat the meatloaf made by the prep cook and plate it with mashed potatoes, corn, and gravy ... but when you've got three orders for meatloaf, four for burgers, 5 different types of omelets, 2 pancake orders, and 1 waffle to produce along with all the sides of crispy bacon, sasuage, whole wheat, rye, or white toast... and when a server is screaming at you because table 4 now has an add-on order ... you have GOT to keep your cool.

Food orders have to be expedited. Hot food has to go out hot. All of the food items on a specific ticket have to be produced and put in the window so that the server may serve all guests at a given table at the same time.

Working on the line can be a hot, sweaty, and stressful job with long hours and relatively low pay (especially compared to web development).

With this being said, line cooks make better money than prep cooks ... but the nature of their work is also more demanding.
post #4 of 15
IMO, prep cook is a more mellow introduction to the restaurant business. Line cook is more trial by fire, no pun intended.

If you have no experience in restaurants, I would suggest a job as a prep cook as a first step. That way you start to get an idea of the ebb and flow of a restaurant's work environment, the lingo, the equipment, etc. etc.

If a restaurant were compared to a swimming pool, prep cook is more the shallow end, and line cook is more the deep end.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #5 of 15
Working prep is how you get your foot in the door. From there you move up to the line. Prep cooks usually come to work early, do all the long tedious jobs so the line cooks can work on the more detailed items for service. In my restaurant I had 3 prep guys who made stocks, rolled dim sum, made the long cook items(short ribs, pork belly. The line cooks would pull what they needed for service and set up their stations, make specials....
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #6 of 15
Currently I do all the prep for the restaurant I work for including making all the bread, the soups, sauces, etc. I also open the restaurant, recieve all the product coming in, set up and work the expo station. I will go and work the hot line if needed...I also make very good money.
post #7 of 15
Salliem, you are also a Sous Chef according to your header an d as such you should be able to do the things you mentioned. There is a difference between doing prep in a restaurant and being a prep cook. I used to do the same as you as an owner and chef but I didn't consider myself a prep cook.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
thanks for the answers guys, I'm going to apply for a part time food prep job when I get back from vacation in January. When I'm searching for a food prep job, should I stray away from a chains/franchises?

I'll try it out for a couple month, if I like it, I may look into going to culinary school.
post #9 of 15
in quote below substitute chain/franchise for prep cook and substitute fine dining for line cook

Passion for culinary arts is more likely to be ignited in a fine dining environment.
Passion for the business and lifestyle, can just as easily be ignited in a chain/franchise, as in a fine dining one.

Passion, for either reason, is not a requirement in order to pursue a career, but highly recommended. If you try out the industry and neither passion is sparked, I would suggest another career path, as this one can be hugely demanding on a personal level.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #10 of 15
I don't consider myself a prep cook either.
post #11 of 15
a prep cook from what ive experienced and seen in restaurants is either a person who comes in before service and gets the mise en place ready for the line/banquets so when the line brigade comes in everything is done for them and they just start rollin.. i honestly think its better for me personally if i do all my own prep work for my section and then i cook on the line. I tend to feel much more comfortable knowing what exactly has been prepped and how it was prepped.... also with some very busy restaurants they even have prep cooks working all thru the day butchering, chopping etc. even while service is going on. This basically makes it so they dont run out of their menu items during the night, also so they can get prepped for the next day and so on....

one of the best quotes from a chef that is simple but i live by it is

"If your prepping for today, your a day behind."
post #12 of 15
definitely depends on the restaurant, I have been at places which have no prep person and everybody does it during slow time or its just on the fly. Another place had of course the morning staff that would prep but then for dinner service a dedicated prep guy would come and do whatever we needed.
Prep is more relaxed and to me ridiculously boring. Line you are going to be getting yelled at by everyone and running like a mad person. Either way a kitchen is FUN!
post #13 of 15
I get a bit defensive about my prep cooks.
They're basically doing all of the real cooking. The line cooks are just re-heating all of the food that has been prepared, except for the grilled proteins. Ya, that's right, I said it.
post #14 of 15
Maybe at Perkins... I rock only fresh ingredients and try to "prep" dishes as little as possible.

And plus, doesn't EVERYONE do prep, I try to make everybody at least have an understanding of everything in the kitchen.
post #15 of 15
If you're trying to work in "fine cuisine," the brigade position you're looking for is called commis or maybe even 'prenti (apprentice).

Chain or independent? Any job is better than no job. Apply everywhere. You're just that little bit too green to be choosy.

In the meantime, get yourself a Norton coarse/fine India stone or a King or Norton combi waterstone and learn to free hand sharpen a knife on it. A stone. No gimmicks or gizmos. Learn how to steel a knife too, steeling is not sharpening and sharpening is not honing -- they're different things. Those skills will improve the quality of your professional life immeasurably. And for heaven's sake, don't "invest" in a "set" of "professional" knives -- especially German.

BDL
(Ex-Pro)
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