How Much Should I Pay a Line Cook?

A line cook is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a successful kitchen. However, determining the cost of bringing a skilled line cook goes beyond just their pay.

What is the Cost of Hiring a Line Cook?

Hiring the right line cook is crucial for the success of any restaurant. However, determining the cost of bringing a skilled line cook goes beyond just their pay. In this blog, we’ll delve into the various factors that contribute to the overall cost of hiring a line cook.

What is a Line Cook?

A line cook is a kitchen staff member who is responsible for preparing and cooking various dishes in a restaurant. The term “line” refers to the kitchen’s assembly line-style setup, where different stations handle different aspects of the food preparation process. 

Line cooks work on a specific station, such as the grill, saute, fryer, or salad station, and are skilled in the techniques and recipes associated with their assigned area.

Key responsibilities of a line cook include:

  • Preparation: Line cooks are responsible for preparing and portioning ingredients for their assigned station. This involves chopping, slicing, and marinating ingredients as needed.
  • Cooking: Line cooks prepare and assemble dishes according to the restaurant’s menu and specifications. They must be skilled in using various cooking techniques, such as grilling, sauteing, frying, and baking. 
  • Timing: Timing is crucial in a restaurant kitchen, and line cooks must coordinate with other members of the kitchen to ensure that all components of a dish are ready to be plated at the same time. 
  • Quality Control: Line cooks are responsible for maintaining the quality and consistency of the dishes they prepare. This includes adhering to recipe standards and ensuring that food safety and hygiene standards are followed.
  • Communication: Effective communication is essential in a busy kitchen. Line cooks need to communicate with the head chef, sous chefs, and other kitchen staff to coordinate the flow of orders and maintain a smooth operation.
  • Cleanliness: Keeping a clean and organized workstation is crucial for food safety and efficiency. Line cooks are responsible for cleaning and sanitizing their equipment and work area throughout the shift.

What Does a Line Cook Make?

According to Indeed, the average hourly rate for a line cook in the United States is $17.34.

A line cook’s pay will vary by the number of years of experience and their skill set. Data from Indeed shows that the average hourly rate for a line cook is as follows:

  • Less than one year of experience is $16.99 per hour 
  • Three to five years of experience earns an average of $18.32 per hour 
  • More than ten years of experience earns an average of $19.83.

Based on Indeed data, the highest-paying cities for line cooks in the United States are:

  • New York, NY - $20.32/hr
  • Los Angeles, CA - $19.24/hr
  • Chicago, IL - $19.11/hr
  • Philadelphia, PA - $17.61/hr
  • Pittsburgh, PA - $16.99/hr
  • Indianapolis, IN - $16.62/hr
  • Las Vegas, NV - $16.58/hr
  • Orlando, FL - $16.40/hr
  • Cleveland, OH - $16.37

On an annual salary basis, the average base salary for a line cook in the United States is $50,628.

Interview Questions for Line Cooks

A line cook is a skilled position that can make or break the success of a kitchen. When interviewing line cook candidates, it’s important to ask questions that provide a comprehensive understanding of not only their experience but also their training, skillset, working style, and ability to remain calm in high-stress situations.

Here are some examples of questions that can help you understand whether a candidate is a good fit:

  • Can you tell me about your experience working in a kitchen?
  • Can you share some details about your training as a line cook?
  • What types of kitchens or restaurants do you have experience working in?
  • How do you ensure food quality and consistency during a rush?
  • How do you stay up to date on new cooking techniques?
  • Have you worked with specific cuisines or cooking styles?
  • Are you comfortable with the expected work hours and schedule for this position?
  • How do you stay calm under pressure during busy service times?
  • How familiar are you with the ingredients commonly used in our menu?
  • What is your favorite dish to make?
  • How do you handle negative feedback and what steps do you take to improve?

How to Find a Line Cook

Finding a qualified line cook involves a combination of active recruiting strategies, networking, and utilizing online platforms. Here are some effective ways to find a line cook:

  • Online Job Platforms: Post the job opening on popular online job platforms such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
  • Gig Economy Apps: Gig economy apps are on the rise in the hospitality industry as they connect businesses with shift workers on demand. Posting open shifts on a gig platform can provide an avenue for you to trial run workers before making a full-time hire.
  • Social Media: Utilize your restaurant's social media channels to announce job openings. You can also join local culinary groups or forums to connect with potential candidates.
  • Networking: Attend local culinary events, workshops, or industry meet-ups to network with chefs and culinary professionals. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool in finding qualified candidates.
  • Culinary Schools and Training Programs: Reach out to local culinary schools or training programs to inquire about recent graduates or students looking for employment opportunities.
  • Word of Mouth: Ask your current kitchen staff or industry contacts if they know of any experienced line cooks looking for new opportunities.
  • Staff Referral Programs: Implement a referral program for your existing staff, offering incentives for referring qualified candidates.
  • Local Community Centers: Check with local community centers or employment agencies that may assist in connecting job seekers with employers.
  • Job Fairs: Participate in local job fairs, especially those focused on the hospitality and culinary industry.
  • Classified Ads: Place ads in local newspapers, community bulletin boards, or trade publications to reach a broader audience.
  • Create a Compelling Job Description: Craft a clear and detailed job description outlining the responsibilities, required skills, and qualifications. This will attract candidates who are the best fit for the position.
  • Offer Competitive Compensation: Ensure that your compensation package is competitive within the industry. Competitive pay and benefits can make your job posting more appealing to potential candidates.

Finding the Right Fit for Your Kitchen

The cost of hiring a line cook isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating candidates and what they should be compensated. 

As you seek out the right fit for your business, cost is an important consideration. You must not only consider your business’ hiring budget but also the experience level and skillset of who you’re looking to hire. It’s also important to understand the appropriate compensation range based on your location and the type of business you operate. 

A line cook is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a successful kitchen. Taking a diligent approach to not only evaluation but also compensation of your new hire will help ensure you make the right hire.

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