What is a Line Cook?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

A line cook has a specific responsibility for part of the kitchen rather than the whole operation.
A line cook has a specific responsibility for part of the kitchen rather than the whole operation.

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.

A line cook may be tasked with preparing salads and entres.
A line cook may be tasked with preparing salads and entres.

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.

A line cook a mid-level chef who oversees a specific area of the kitchen.
A line cook a mid-level chef who oversees a specific area of the kitchen.

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.

A line cook may be tested to evaluate how she or he performs under stress.
A line cook may be tested to evaluate how she or he performs under stress.

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.

Each line cook will report to the head chef, who is in charge over the entire kitchen.
Each line cook will report to the head chef, who is in charge over the entire kitchen.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I've been a line cook for 16 years. I've been a sous chef and a kitchen manager as well as an expo. It's hard, dirty work, especially in a busy restaurant, yet it's worth it if you love what you do.

There have been many times, even whole years where I had enough and wanted out. but the truth is, it is rewarding to send out perfect dishes to hungry people who are probably paying too much for the meal anyway. You do get a sense of purpose from it.

The feeling of being under stress to accomplish a purpose with a team of fellow line grunts is quite exhilarating when deep down you love your work. If you're born to be a line cook, you'll stay a line cook, going from my own experience. It's a love-hate relationship I wouldn't change for the world.


After a couple of weeks of work, you will have learned the menu, and you will just be banging everything out as quick as possible. A line chef, or chef de partie's job, is a piece of crap. Most of it is common sense. Catering attracts a lot of dumb people due to the awful pay.


There is a height requirement for the line cook. I've worked in the restaurant bar before and it's multitasking. I do everything. Can I qualify even if I'm not a culinary arts graduate?


Being a line cook is a love hate thing for me. I started as a fry cook/dishwasher and within barely a year, I was running saute. You work long, tiring hours. Sometimes on weekends you might pull 12-13 hour shifts. I work at one of the busiest places in town and its not uncommon for us to do 500-650 covers on a good saturday night. You go in earlier than a lot of your co-workers and you stay later. It's one of the most under appreciated and under-paid professions out there.

You'll work twice as many hours a week as the front of the house employees and make less money than they do. You have to constantly deal with servers making mistakes and when they screw up, normally it's the cooks who pay the price. Not everyone is cut out for this line of work. It's stressful and you must be able to multi-task, often cooking 7-10 dishes at one time, keep a level head under pressure, roll with the punches, and not get overwhelmed.

Attention to detail is critical and consistency is key. Every dish must go out the same as the last. You have to coordinate with the other cooks, so that tickets are ready to sell at the same time, and if one cook gets overwhelmed and starts to go down, the whole line is affected. However, the adrenaline rush of being in the heat of the dinner service on a busy saturday night is like no other. You're down in the trenches taking grenades with your fellow cooks for countless hours, pumping out massive volumes of food. and there's no greater feeling, than when every dish goes out perfect, everything is running smoothly, every one of your moves has a purpose, and the entire kitchen from dish to the line is running like a well-oiled machine.

One must be extremely passionate about food and cooking to be able to survive as a line cook.


i would like to have an example of a line cook chef de partie.


i love the way you group the cooking work. In my country only one person does all most all the cooking work, but from the way you explain the work of a line cook, it's like they carry a major part of the kitchen work. where can i put myself because i do that and i still cook the food and serve it also, although i enjoy it when I'm under pressure. I love the work I'm doing.


yes i agree. i work for three different restaurants and it's very stressful but entertaining to me. You have to have be able to maintain at least four tickets or more and be on our next three. after that, if you know what i mean is, that you have to be ahead of your game.


I work as a line chef in a really busy restaurant.

Just so you get an idea, in the summer time, we do between 300 and 400 tickets a day, so I'm talking about more than 1200 meals in an eight or nine hour shift.

It's not easy, but I love, it particularly when I'm under pressure. I can honestly say that I do the job I that I like. Kind regards.


Q: What is the difference Between a FT line cook 1 and a Line cook.

A: An FT line cook 1 is the same as a line cook. What FT means is Full-Time, line cook is the position and the "1" is sort of an indication where you are in the hierarchy of the work place. So, if you were to take the FT Line Cook 1 position, you would be a full time line cook who will probably have one of the least amounts of demanding work, and will more than likely be one of the lesser skilled workers in the kitchen (unless of course your skills exceed the requirements of the position).


As everyone else said, working at a line cook can be grueling. I work in a fairly busy kitchen, where its not uncommon to do over 300 covers during dinner (six hours), and as many as 450 on some of the busiest nights.

There are times where you will have multiple tables up, some with a few, and some with many covers. You just have to remain calm and collected and make sure you pay attention to detail, while maintaining a steady rhythm and working together with the rest of the staff.


What is the difference Between a FT line cook 1 and a Line cook.


Origami is right most people don't understand. also the type of people you work with and the owners themselves can add a lot more stress to an already stressful situation.


"what are the line cook's key skills?"

Ability to work under pressure and the ability to multitask and a lot of patience. if you're a hot head in the real world you will crack and fail being a line cook.

Personally I can't stand being a line cook. my family has owned and still owns a restaurant and I was in charge of the grill and packing takeout orders. Sounds easy but during the rush you're working constantly in four-hour periods with six or more orders. Your brain gets fried.


what are the line cook's key skills?


it is extremely difficult to be a line cook -- no doubt about that, but if you love to cook and want to produce great food, there is nothing else like it. The adrenaline rush, and sense of accomplishment when a dish is done perfectly are incredible. -tieds


Origami is right. Cooking in a busy restaurant is grueling. If you're the only cook working on the line and you're working on four tickets, it is nerve-wracking. It's not all like LaGasse, Flay, etc.


I don't think most people realize how grueling it is to be a professional cook. of course this isn't always the case, and its usually only an issue at busier restaurants.

if most restaurant-goers would serve as a professional cook for a few days, i think they would get a new respect for how difficult it is as a profession.

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