California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Cooks, Restaurant in San Diego County

May also be called: Broiler Cooks; Specialty Cooks; Banquet Cooks, and Dinner Cooks

What Would I Do?

Restaurants Cooks prepare, season, and cook soups, meats, vegetables, desserts, or other food items in restaurants. They may order supplies, keep records and accounts, and plan or price items on menus.

Restaurant Cooks prepare a wide selection of dishes to order. Those Cooks working in large restaurants or hotels may specialize in a particular meal or cooking technique, such as Breakfast Cook or Grill Cook. Cooks in other restaurants may specialize in ethnic dishes. Restaurant Cooks must be skilled in using kitchen equipment such as steamers, meat saws, smokers, rotisseries, ranges, pizza ovens, pasta cookers, commercial ovens, fryers, grinders, and slicers. Cooks use computer software to manage inventory, plan menus, and track sales.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Inspect food preparation and serving areas to ensure observance of safe, sanitary food-handling practices.Problem Sensitivity
Turn or stir foods to ensure even cooking.Manual Dexterity
Season and cook food according to recipes or personal judgment and experience.Information Ordering
Observe and test foods to determine if they have been cooked sufficiently, using methods such as tasting, smelling, or piercing them with utensils.Food Production
Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes or personal judgment, using various kitchen utensils and equipment.Reading Comprehension
Portion, arrange, and garnish food, and serve food to waiters or patrons.Customer and Personal Service
Regulate temperature of ovens, broilers, grills, and roasters.Coordination
Bake, roast, broil, and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods.Selective Attention
Bake breads, rolls, cakes, and pastries.Time Sharing
Estimate expected food consumption, requisition or purchase supplies, or procure food from storage.Deductive Reasoning
Carve and trim meats such as beef, veal, ham, pork, and lamb for hot or cold service, or for sandwiches.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Restaurant Cooks stand most of their work day in a warm kitchen environment. They often deal with the pressure of promptly producing meals that meet quality expectations. Restaurant Cooks normally work an eight-hour shift, five days or evenings a week, including weekends and most holidays. Cooks in small restaurants often work a split shift, such as both breakfast and dinner periods, for which they may receive extra pay. Some Cooks belong to unions such as the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Restaurant Cook will appeal to you if you are results oriented, pay attention to detail, have a passion for food, like hands-on work, and possess an excellent sense of taste and smell. This occupation satisfies people who are realistic and enterprising because it combines practical hands-on work with a variety of projects.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2017 for Cooks, Restaurant in California was $27,476 annually, or $13.21 hourly. The median wage for Cooks, Restaurant in San Diego County was $26,131 annually, or $12.56 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$23,142$26,131$31,174
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits will vary according to type of establishment, full- or part-time employment, and whether represented by a union. In some large hotels and restaurants, kitchen workers belong to unions. The principal unions are the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 53 employers in San Diego County, many provide medical insurance and vacation, and some provide dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, sick leave, retirement plan, and no benefits benefits to Cooks, Restaurant who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance53%6%
Dental Insurance40%6%
Vision Insurance36%4%
Life Insurance34%2%
Sick Leave26%4%
Retirement Plan26%6%
No benefits21%49%
Disability Insurance17%4%
Paid Time Off Bank11%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 30 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and some reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Cooks, Restaurant.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
Half or more61%33%
Less than Half29%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

Restaurant Cooks will be in demand to work in the growing number of casual-dining chain restaurants and independent fine-dining restaurants. The convenience of eating out appeals to busy, two-income families. In addition, a growing number of retired persons also show an interest in eating out and have the income to do so. Competition is expected to be high for jobs in the top kitchens of higher end restaurants.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Cooks, Restaurant is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Cooks, Restaurant are expected to increase by 36.9 percent, or 45,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Cooks, Restaurant is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Cooks, Restaurant are expected to increase by 26.0 percent, or 3,550 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Cooks, Restaurant
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 4,500 new job openings per year is expected for Cooks, Restaurant, plus an additional 3,230 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 7,730 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 355 new job openings per year is expected for Cooks, Restaurant, plus an additional 362 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 717 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Cooks, Restaurant
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Restaurant Cooks generally work their way up to the position from other food service occupations such as fast food cook or short order cook. Those who want to move up to larger or more upscale restaurants and hotels in the hospitality industry should obtain a high school diploma and formal culinary arts training.

Training in culinary arts is available throughout California in Regional Occupational Programs, community colleges, trade schools, and through professional trade associations. The demand for skilled Cooks is such that students often receive job offers before completing training. Since cooking jobs are needed around the clock, students can find employment that complements their class schedule.

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) recognizes and accredits ten culinary arts programs in California that meet established standards.

Early Career Planning

Students in high school or those thinking of becoming Restaurant Cooks might like to take the following classes:

  • Business math to develop skills for future ownership or management.
  • Culinary arts classes to develop skills in food handling and preparation.
  • Chemistry for a deeper understanding of ingredients and processes.
  • Computer classes to develop ease in using the computer as a tool in menu planning, pricing, and inventory.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

 For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.
California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). One such program is titled Restaurant Occupations. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Cooks who earn culinary certifications may be required to take continuing education courses to renew them.


Certification is optional and offered through the American Culinary Federation association. Certifications can be an asset in obtaining better paying jobs. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Cooks, Restaurant are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Full-Service Restaurants 86.6%
Accommodation 7.2%
Other Amusement & Recreation Industries 1.7%
Gambling Industries 1.3%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 53 employers in San Diego County which employ 1,120 Cooks, Restaurant. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and most employ part-time Cooks, Restaurant.

About Work Experience:  Of the 53 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all require new hires to have prior work experience as Cooks, Restaurant. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 2%
25 to 60 months 10%
13 to 24 months 41%
1 to 12 months 53%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 53 employers surveyed in San Diego County, many indicate it is easy to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while some indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Cooks, Restaurant.

About Hiring:  Of the 53 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all expect the number of Cooks, Restaurant they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 9%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 87%
Expect Employment to Decline 4%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 53 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 70 percent hired Cooks, Restaurant during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 81 percent filled existing vacancies, 22 percent filled newly created positions, and 5 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Restaurant Cooks have many choices about where they want to work. Do they want to work in a full-service restaurant or a limited-service restaurant? Full-service restaurants are those where you eat before paying for the meal. Limited-service restaurants are those where you pay before eating. Hotels and casinos follow closely as large employers of Restaurant Cooks. Restaurant Cooks may choose to take their cooking skills out of the restaurant environment and work for grocery stores or as personal chefs.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Cooks, Restaurant.

  • Caterers
  • Casinos
  • Food Service Management
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Restaurant Management

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Advancement opportunities for Restaurant Cooks depend on their training, work experience, and ability to learn and perform more responsible and sophisticated tasks. Restaurant Cooks who are eager to move up within the kitchen and accept greater responsibility, such as training or supervising newer or lesser skilled kitchen staff, can promote to Head Cook. Advancement often comes in the form of higher wages as Cooks move to positions in more prestigious restaurants.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Cooks, Restaurant with links to more information.

Chefs and Head CooksGuide
Dietetic TechniciansGuide
First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving WorkersGuide
Food Preparation WorkersProfile
Cooks, Private HouseholdGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification35-2014
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Cooks, Restaurant35-2014.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)REC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Cooking and Related Culinary Arts, General 120500
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Culinary Arts130630