It’s a simple fact: In order for your business to grow, you’ll need to eventually stop trying to handle 100% of the cooking duties yourself, and learn to delegate responsibility for some tasks and some dishes to other capable, qualified people, who you can trust to execute your vision consistently without burning your kitchen to the ground. Today, I’m going to take you through the steps to hire a line cook without experience.

In a high-end commercial kitchen, the different tasks of various staff members are broken down into a hierarchy of very specific tasks. Fancy restaurants will have dedicated teams members whose only functions are, for example, to blanch vegetables (called a “legumier,”) or scoop ice cream into precious chilled dishes (a “glacier”).

But we’re guessing that if your restaurant or food truck is ready to hire line cooks with such specialized skills, you probably don’t need this guide. Instead, we’re going to focus on hiring that first (or second) line cook for your establishment, the person that will help ease the burden of some of your responsibilities and, with luck, develop into an indispensable member of your team.

First, let’s get some of our terminology squared away. You can also jump straight to the section of content most applicable to your situation below.

Line Cook vs. Prep Cook vs. Short Order Cook

Before starting the search for your next “beast mode” employee to step in and save service when the tickets start rolling in, it’s important to know exactly what you are looking for. In the restaurant business, the terms Line Cook, Prep Cook, and Short Order Cook are sometimes used interchangeably and incorrectly. Let’s take a quick look at the functions of each.

Line cooks make up the bulk of most restaurant cooks. Though they may work in a specific station in higher-end restaurants with whole armies of staff, they also can perform almost any task in the kitchen at a moment’s notice. Line cooks are typically already skilled and experienced, and their ranking in the kitchen is based on that experience.

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Prep cooks tend to handle many of the less glamorous kitchen tasks, usually in the service of making a line cook’s job easier. Prep cooks can be expected to chop produce, portion ingredients, or otherwise keep a line cook working more efficiently by prepping ingredients for them. Prep cooks are typically inexperienced and new to restaurant work, and their positions help them learn the basic skills of working in a commercial kitchen environment.

Short order cooks tend to be less skilled than line cooks in terms of technical ability, but they are often hired for one major area of excellence: Speed. Short order cooks assemble quick-service meals that may require less technical skill, but which need to be prepared quickly and under pressure. Short order cooks are a great fit for burger places, diners, or simple neighborhood breakfast places.

What Makes a Rockstar Line Cook?

Does this look like a rockstar line cook?

For the purposes of this guide, let’s make a few assumptions. First, you don’t have an army of staff already in place, whereok. you’re looking to simply fill a slot. Let’s assume that your new line cook hire is going to be one of the foundational members of your growing team. Let’s also assume that, like almost everywhere in the restaurant world these days, finding and retaining staff is difficult. What are some of the qualities you should look for in your new hire?

First and probably foremost, a line cook needs to show up. It may seem like a simple requirement, but finding a reliable line cook can be challenging; you need to find someone who will show up to every scheduled shift, and ideally not too crippled by hangover to perform to the best of their ability. No-shows are a rampant problem in this business, and the last thing you need as you’re gearing up for a frantic night of service is a last-minute gap in service coverage.

Related Reading: Cooking is My Passion. Should I Start a Restaurant?

Line cooks need to be able to “work clean,” maintain high levels of organization, and perform well under pressure or when things start to go off the rails in the kitchen. Great line cooks consistently keep their stations clean and tidy, keeping ingredients and tools in order and surfaces wiped as they work.

Outside of Ancho Honey.

They need to plan ahead to anticipate needs, since stopping mid-service to chop a bunch of onions can quickly derail the flow of the kitchen. Finally, when tickets begin to pile up, good line cooks steadily and calmly work through the problem, while consistently turning out high-quality food that meets your standards, without stomping around and throwing frying pans at the dishwasher.

Ideally, line cooks should be passionate about producing your food and working at your business. Beware of “burned out” line cooks that show up simply to collect a paycheck, who don’t care about the food you’re producing, and who may cut corners on things like prep and plating.

Inspire a culture in your kitchen that makes your line cooks proud to work for you; this can be accomplished with a decent pay rate, consistent scheduling, perks like staff meals, or a combination of all of the above (more on this later).

Finally, and this is kind of a tough thing to quantify, but you need to find a line cook that can kind of get inside your head. If you’re going to be working in the kitchen alongside your new line cook, finding someone that can quickly learn your style and anticipate your needs can be a godsend.

Where did you put those chopped scallions? They’re right there in front of you, because your line cook identified that you were running low and replaced them without being asked. Need an extra three minutes on a sear for a table that’s already been waiting too long? Your line cook will wordlessly stall the components of the dish he or she is working on, ensuring that everything hits the plate at the same time.

This kind of telepathic connection with your line cook can be rare and difficult to find, but once you have it, it’s hard to imagine how you ever functioned in the kitchen on your own.

How to Hire a Line Cook with No Experience 

The first step to finding your dream candidate for your new line cook position is being very clear about the qualifications you are looking for in an applicant. Begin by reaching out to your existing network of restaurant colleagues, to find out if anyone on their staff needs to pick up an extra shift, needs additional hours, or is looking for a change, since they will be able to provide you the best insight into your new potential hire.

Related Reading: How I Opened a Restaurant with No Money and a 540 Credit Score

Next, craft a detailed “help wanted” ad to post on Facebook and on your l