Cafeteria Cook

Prepare large amounts of food that's served in a dining hall.
picture of Cafeteria Cook

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$16,000 – $35,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Cafeteria Cooks do?

Cafeterias are a hub of activity in any school campus, hospital, retirement village, or other large institution. People grab lunch on the go, or meet with colleagues over a meal. Regardless of the reason they’re there, customers expect a variety of hot, healthy, tasty food choices to fulfill their nutritional needs. So the Cafeteria Cook works behind the scenes, making sure they get exactly what they crave.

A Cafeteria Cook’s job begins hours before the first customer picks up a plate. As Cafeteria Cook, you prep meals by washing, cutting, slicing, dicing, and chopping foods. Soups boil, sauces simmer, and meats are prepped for the oven.

Once customers begin to shuffle through the line, you keep an eye on how many pieces of fried chicken are left, and get more in the fryer before it runs out. You restock salads, and make sure there’s a variety of desserts on display.

Kitchen safety and cleanliness are key components of your job. You scrutinize equipment, countertops, cookware, ovens, and refrigeration systems, and clean them on a regular basis. The floor is kept free of debris and spills to avoid trips or falls. In some kitchens, Cafeteria Cooks are in charge of doing the dishes and planning the menus as well.

When you’re not concocting giant vats of soup or mass-producing muffins, you take inventory of your supplies, place orders, and put deliveries away when they arrive. This is a fast-paced job that will keep your hands in constant motion and your mind in organization mode.

Should I be a Cafeteria Cook?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.
  • Levelheaded: You hold your emotions in check, even in tough situations.

  • Also known as: Cafeteria Worker, Cook, School Cafeteria, School Cafeteria Cook

    How to become a Cafeteria Cook

    Most Cafeteria Cooks have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9oaaaa&chl=no+college+%2881%25%29|certificate+%2819%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,81,81
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