How to Become a

Catering Cook

The complete career guide to be a Catering Cook: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $21,940
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -5.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

Catering cooks prepare food in advance that will be served at weddings, conventions, meetings, and other large events. Often, they’re responsible for preparing large quantities of food of many different styles and types. For example, they may work to prepare both entrees, appetizers, salads, and desserts.


What is a Catering Cook?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in catering cook roles:

  • Prepare large quantities of food to be served at weddings, conventions, meetings, and other large events or gatherings
  • Prepare foods of many different types and styles, including entrees, side dishes, appetizers, salads, soups, desserts, and pastries
  • Ensure prepared food is stored properly for delivery to the establishment where food is being catered
  • Adhere to proper food handling and preparation best practices to prevent foodborne illness

A Day in the Life

Catering cooks work for catering companies and prepare food for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of individuals attending large events and gatherings. Unlike cooks that work in restaurants and cook individual food from orders, catering cooks prepare foods in mass quantities to feed large groups of people. Generally, catering cooks make food in their catering company kitchen and prepare it for delivery to the event, though some catering cooks may be required to cook in the kitchen of the venue where the food is being served.

Catering cooks rarely, if ever, work directly with the people who eat the food they prepare. The food is typically served by catering servers, and often the catering cook is not even on site during the event. Catering cooks may have to work with multiple other cooks during shifts, however, due to the large quantities of food that must be prepared in advance to feed large gatherings of people.

Catering cooks may be expected to cook a wide variety of items. Though they generally work off of the menu provided by their catering company, they may spend time cooking entrees, side items, appetizers, salads, soups, desserts, and pastries. Because they’re required to cook so many different types of food, catering cooks are usually experienced cooks who’ve had multiple roles in different stations at full-service kitchens, and many may also have culinary degrees where they were formally educated as chefs.

Typical Work Schedule

Catering cooks—depending on the type of catering company they work for—may have to work both first and second shifts in order to accommodate events at different times of the day. Also, depending on the popularity of the catering company worked for, catering cooks may work part-time or full-time hours.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Prep Cook, Line Cook, Short-Order Cook
  • Mid-Career: Catering Cook, Catering Manager
  • Late Career: Caterer, Chef, Head Chef

Typical Employers

Catering cooks work for catering companies in the cities and towns they live in.


How To Become a Catering Cook

No formal higher education is required to become a catering cook. However, a catering cook position is considered a higher-level position than line or short-order cook in a full-service restaurant, so most catering cooks are required to have a decent amount of experience before being able to secure catering cook positions. Many start out as prep cooks, line cooks, or short order cooks at sit-down restaurants and learn how to cook different items for many years before qualifying for catering cook positions.

However, many catering cooks are aspiring caterers who want to run their own catering companies later in life. For these individuals, earning a culinary degree may be the better career path. With a culinary degree, you’re technically considered a chef and may be able to secure a role as a catering cook without former professional cooking experience. Taking business administration classes in college can also be beneficial for those who want to operate their own catering companies later in life.

Catering cooks with culinary degrees can go on to own their own catering companies, can work as chefs in full-service restaurants, and may also qualify for head chef or executive chef positions after earning many years of experience. While small or locally owned dining establishments and catering companies may hire chefs and managers with no formal culinary education, larger and more prestigious positions almost always look for candidates with culinary degrees from reputable institutions.


Catering Cook Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$18,470

Average

$21,940

High Range

$29,370

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$9/hr

Average

$11/hr

High Range

$14/hr

How do Catering Cook salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Catering Cook's can make an average annual salary of $21,940, or $11 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $18,470 or $9 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #800 Nationally for All Careers


Highest Education Among Catering Cooks

  • 0.2%   Doctorate
  • 0.6%   Masters
  • 4.6%   Bachelors
  • 5.2%   Associates
  • 18.2%   College
  • 40.3%   High School
  • 30.9%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

181,600

2024 Est. Jobs

172,300

Job Growth Rate

-5.1%

Est. New Jobs

-9,300

How does Catering Cook job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -9,300 jobs for a total of 172,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -5.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #700 Nationally for All Careers


What Companies Employ The Most Catering Cooks

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Full-service restaurants 73,800 -8,400 -8%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 15,400 300 0%
Grocery stores 9,700 500 0%

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