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A line cook is a cook who supervises a specific area of the kitchen, rather than the kitchen as a whole. He or she reports to the head cook, who is in charge of overall quality control within the kitchen. The duties of this cook vary, depending on the type of restaurant he or she is employed at. Levels of training are also variable, since different jobs demand different things from their line cooks.
Chef de partie is an alternate name for a line cook, as is “station cook.” He or she oversees a small part of the greater whole. Some common stations manned by line cooks include grill, saute, fry, and cold foods. This cook may also specialize in pastry, butchering, or vegetables. Everything that comes out of that area of the kitchen is the responsibility of the line cook, and the job can come with extremely high pressure, especially in a busy kitchen.
In many kitchens, the line cook works alone in his or her section. In others, he or she oversees a small staff, which requires management and people skills. The cook must also coordinate with the rest of the kitchen, to ensure that food comes out simultaneously and in a timely fashion. During the height of service, this may mean that the person works on multiple orders at once, often fulfilling complex requests.
In addition to cooking, a line cook also stocks his or her station at the beginning and end of each shift. In some cases, he or she may also place product orders, especially if he or she develops recipes. Each cook is responsible for ensuring that his or her station is properly equipped with tools and food before the start of the shift. He or she must also produce food of a consistent high quality, and the cook will have to answer to the head chef if there are any problems with food preparation.
It is not uncommon for a line cook to receive a trial by fire when he or she starts working. In order for a restaurant to run smoothly, all of the staff must work together, from bus boys to the head chef. A line cook may be put on the line in the middle of service, to see how she or he performs when the level of activity in the kitchen is high. If a trial cook cannot pull his weight with the rest of the kitchen, the position is not offered on a permanent basis.