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What is a Prep Cook?

A prep cook, short for "preparation cook," is a kitchen staff member in a restaurant, catering company, or food service establishment responsible for a range of food preparation tasks that help streamline the cooking process and ensure the smooth operation of the kitchen. Prep cooks work behind the scenes, and their work is crucial in supporting the chefs and cooks who prepare dishes for customers. Here are some key responsibilities and tasks typically associated with the role of a prep cook:

  1. Ingredient Preparation: Prep cooks are responsible for chopping, dicing, slicing, and portioning ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood. They ensure that these ingredients are prepared and organized, making it easier for the cooking staff to access them during the service.

  2. Meal Components: They may prepare meal components, such as sauces, dressings, marinades, and stocks, following recipes and guidelines provided by the kitchen or head chef.

  3. Food Storage: Prep cooks handle food storage by labeling, dating, and properly storing ingredients to maintain freshness and food safety. They also monitor ingredient levels and inform the kitchen manager or chef when supplies need to be replenished.

  4. Cleaning and Organization: Prep cooks keep their workstations clean and organized, adhering to strict hygiene and sanitation standards. This includes washing and sanitizing utensils, cutting boards, and equipment after use.

  5. Inventory Management: They assist in inventory management by conducting regular stock checks and informing the kitchen manager or chef about ingredient shortages or items that need restocking.

  6. Kitchen Support: Prep cooks provide support to the kitchen team during service hours by assisting with assembling dishes, garnishing plates, and ensuring that ingredients are readily available for the line cooks and chefs.

  7. Mise en Place: The term "mise en place" refers to the practice of setting up and organizing everything needed for cooking before service begins. Prep cooks play a key role in ensuring that the kitchen is properly prepped for a smooth service.

  8. Dishwashing: In some kitchens, prep cooks may be responsible for washing dishes, pots, pans, and other cooking equipment to maintain a clean and orderly kitchen environment.

  9. Multi-Tasking: Prep cooks often work on multiple tasks simultaneously, as they may be responsible for preparing ingredients for several dishes at once.

  10. Efficiency: Efficiency and speed are essential qualities for prep cooks, as their work directly impacts the pace and quality of service in the kitchen.

While prep cooks do not typically engage in the final cooking, their role is fundamental in supporting the kitchen brigade and ensuring that the kitchen runs smoothly. Many professional chefs and cooks start their culinary careers as prep cooks, gaining valuable experience and skills that are foundational to their culinary journeys.


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