Institution and Cafeteria Cooks

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Also known as:
Cafeteria Cook, Camp Cook, Galley Cook, Institutional Cook, Mess Cook, School Cook

Video transcript

For most of us, our first experience with a cafeteria is eating lunch at school. But many other institutions, such as hospitals and businesses, provide similar in-house food services. The people who prepare the meals are called institution and cafeteria cooks. Often referred to as food-service chefs or executive chefs, they have a big job to do. A large variety of foods need to be provided for hundreds, even thousands, of customers every day.

For each meal, cooks prepare menus that often include soups, salads, entrees, side dishes, and deserts. They work in huge kitchens usually assisted by a staff of helpers. In addition to giving orders, this job requires following written directions, such as recipes.

Being able to multi-task is important, since many items need to be prepared at the same time. Most of the shift is spent standing in front of hot stoves and ovens or at the cutting board. Because you're working with very large quantities, cookware is far heavier than what people use at home.

Skills can be learned in vocational school or on the job. And although a high school diploma is not required, it's recommended, especially for those planning a career as a cook. Hours vary and may include early mornings, late nights, holidays, and weekends.

This could be a good job for those seeking supplemental income, flexible hours, or variable schedules. Whether serving hungry students or employees grabbing a quick bite, large-scale food services depend on the special talent of institutional and cafeteria cooks.

Prepare and cook large quantities of food for institutions, such as schools, hospitals, or cafeterias.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Daily tasks

Train new employees.

Take inventory of supplies and equipment.

Clean, cut, and cook meat, fish, or poultry.

Requisition food supplies, kitchen equipment, and appliances, based on estimates of future needs.

Direct activities of one or more workers who assist in preparing and serving meals.

Rotate and store food supplies.

Clean and inspect galley equipment, kitchen appliances, and work areas to ensure cleanliness and functional operation.

Wash pots, pans, dishes, utensils, or other cooking equipment.

Apportion and serve food to facility residents, employees, or patrons.

Monitor and record food temperatures to ensure food safety.

Cook foodstuffs according to menus, special dietary or nutritional restrictions, or numbers of portions to be served.

Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Food Production Knowledge of techniques and equipment for planting, growing, and harvesting food products (both plant and animal) for consumption, including storage/handling techniques.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Production and Processing Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Quality Control Analysis Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
Operation Monitoring Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Coordination Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Complex Problem Solving Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.