Essential skills for success as a cook

Cooks use Essential Skills to complete trade-related tasks. Use this fact sheet to:

  • learn how Essential Skills are used on the job;
  • find out the skills you need to succeed in your trade; and
  • help prepare yourself for your career.


  • Read instructions about operating appliances and equipment, such as dishwashers, deep fryers and ovens.
  • Read rules for keeping cooking and preparation areas clean.
  • Read and follow recipes to prepare food.
  • Read and interpret supplier purchase agreements.

Document use

  • Interpret Occupational Health and Safety hazard symbols.
  • Read product labels to identify ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction or that must be excluded from restricted diets.
  • Check off items and quantities on delivery checklists.
  • Complete reports for the chef on the number of entrées prepared.
  • Use supply checklists when placing orders.
  • Draw diagrams showing the arrangement of food items on a plate.
  • Interpret customer satisfaction ratings displayed on charts.
  • Read and prepare customer orders.
  • Read event confirmation sheets.
  • Refer to market reports regarding the availability and cost of goods in order to make appropriate menu decisions.


  • Estimate the amount of food in different sized containers.
  • Analyze ordering patterns to determine if customer preferences are changing.
  • Measure ingredients according to menu specifications and the number of people to be served.
  • Compare quantities of ingredients used in various recipes by converting between metric and imperial measurements.
  • Prepare bills for catering functions, including taxes.
  • Estimate the quantity of various menu items that will be ordered during a shift.
  • Establish catering budgets and weekly budgets that include expenses, such as fresh produce, pantry items and staff salaries.


  • Communicate with co-workers, supervisors and management through email.
  • Write orders for ingredients and kitchen supplies.
  • Write suggestions for future menus.
  • Write short memos to management requesting repair work or suggesting the purchase of new equipment.
  • Write a summary after a catered event describing the range of services provided, prices and dates.
  • Write accident reports.

Oral communication

  • Place orders by phone.
  • Call maintenance to request repair work.
  • Talk briefly to customers to determine their level of satisfaction with the food served.
  • Interact with servers to clarify orders or to explain how to serve specialty dishes.
  • Talk to dishwashers about cleanup or the availability of dishes and cutlery.
  • Interact with delivery personnel.
  • Discuss work schedules to coordinate the sharing of equipment and work space.

Working with others

  • Coordinate the sharing of work space and equipment with co-workers.
  • Offer suggestions for improving work processes during discussion groups.
  • Inform or demonstrate how to perform tasks to other workers.
  • Orient new employees.


  • Decide what supplies to order and when.
  • Rearrange staff schedules when an employee is late or absent.
  • Make adjustments to recipes, such as adding another ingredient and remixing, when the food does not turn out as expected.
  • Make menu decisions based on factors such as the seasonal availability of ingredients and marketing trends.
  • Refer to various cookbooks and trade magazines to find information on food preparation and presentation.
  • Start cooking an order so that it will be ready at the same time as another order.

Computer use

  • Type emails or memos to co-workers to share recipe ideas.
  • Use the Internet to search for recipes.
  • Use spreadsheets to track inventory and order information.

Continuous learning

  • Read trade books and magazines, search the Internet and watch cooking programs.
  • Learn by watching co-workers on the job.
  • Learn by trying new recipes.
  • Attend customer service seminars or demonstrations hosted by food suppliers.
  • Attend trade shows, workshops and participate in cooking competitions.
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