Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria



Schools and Education

What's Needed:

  • Institutional cafeteria cooks have no set educational requirements — you may get on-the-job training.
  • You might attend culinary school to obtain a certificate or associate's degree to help with employability for larger employers.
  • Graduation from an accredited food service program can help those who want to move to supervisory positions or play roles in designing menus no states currently require it.

What you study:

  • Food safety
  • Stocks and sauces
  • Pastry preparation
  • Culinary math
  • Nutrition

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a cooking student getting ready for a career in large institutional or cafeteria settings.

Food TheoryIntroduces the fundamentals of professional cooking including: history; safety; sanitation; nutrition; food composition; equipment; ingredients; measurements; knives; flavoring; principles of heat cooking; baking; breakfasts; and menu planning.Provide building block knowledge for later more advanced studies and field experiences.
Cooking SkillsReviews basics of cooking skills including: preparation of meats poultry and seafood; creation of salads; use of equipment and utensils; organization of kitchen; sauces; soups; thickeners; potatoes and starches; and pastas.Teach fundamental cooking skills that are a basis for more advanced recipes and kitchens serving production levels of customers.
Principles of Sanitation and SafetyCover sanitation fundamentals including: value to food service industries; food spoilage; food-borne illness; reducing microbial contamination; maintaining clean and sanitary kitchen facilities; pest control; care of equipment; prevention of accidents; first aid; Material Safety Data Sheets; design of clean kitchens; applicable regulations; and training of employees.Help students ensure the cleanliness and safety of their kitchens. Also needed for certifications in some states.
Production BakingProvides knowledge of baking production of breads and other baked items. Teaches relevant processes and skills to produce a range of breads cakes pies and cookies. Covers underlying basics such as use of yeast doughs and formulas.Prepare students for baking of a wide variety of baked goods for their institutional and cafeteria customers.
Nutritional CookingExplores the preparation of food for maximum nutritional value. Presents relevant methods and techniques. Covers nutrition details such as: carbohydrates fats protein vitamins and changing recipes for lower calorie levels.Teach students how to meet the demanding nutritional requirements of customers in hospitals assisted living settings and institutions.
Purchasing and InventoryOverviews food costs and inventory concepts such as: purchasing methods for food and non-food items in high-volume kitchens; food buying considerations; flow of kitchen goods; legal and ethical considerations; recipe calculations; stock rotation; creating bid documents; quality testing received goods; and managing inventories.Ready students to take care of the business aspects of their food service operations.

Video Overview

Describes briefly what cafeteria and institutional cooks do. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

Certification in food safety or nutrition can be an asset for institutional cafeteria cooks but it is not required. For those who want to join the field above an entry-level position though certification can help. Cooks who take an active role in designing menus or overseeing school lunch programs should seek certification through the ACF.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Cafeteria workers typically work full-time but some schools that offer only lunch have part-time positions available. As with any kitchen job cafeteria work does not usually permit much flexibility with hours. Food takes time to prepare and there are no short cuts. However most cooks work with others who will switch shifts or cover for another cook in an emergency.

Work location:

Almost all institutional cafeteria workers work on premises. The specialized nature of kitchen work does not lend itself to off-site work or outsourcing.

Recommended Websites

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Cooks ? This site gives prospective cooks and chefs a broad overview of the profession. Because it provides information for cooks at every level of expertise and in every kind of professional kitchen it's a useful resource for visitors who want a brief summation of multiple food service options.
  • American Culinary Federation ? As the largest professional organization for chefs and cooks in the nation the ACF provides ongoing education and certification procedures for cooks in every line of kitchen work. The Partnerships tab has more information on other organizations and programs designed to help school and hospital cafeteria cooks create flavorful healthful menu options.
  • School Nutrition Association ? School cafeteria workers will find a wealth of resources for finding the latest government regulations on food services managing a school lunch program and teaching kids about nutrition. The Career tab gives insight into ongoing educational opportunities and professional development for school food service employees. The site is also an excellent source for news about legislative action that could affect school programs.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$33230$26K – $44K2500.14%
ALAnniston – Oxford$17890$16K – $22K2400.54%
ALAuburn – Opelika$19080$16K – $24K1800.37%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$18910$16K – $27K15200.31%
ALDecatur$17760$16K – $22K3400.64%
ALDothan$18020$16K – $23K2900.52%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$17970$16K – $26K2400.46%
ALGadsden$18070$16K – $22K900.26%
ALHuntsville$18800$16K – $29K5700.28%
ALMobile$19550$16K – $30K8300.49%
ALMontgomery$18190$16K – $24K6400.40%
ALTuscaloosa$18840$16K – $25K5200.58%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$20990$16K – $32K9600.47%
ARFort Smith$18330$16K – $24K9500.84%
ARHot Springs$19990$16K – $31K2000.57%
ARJonesboro$18290$16K – $24K3800.77%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$20590$16K – $29K18100.54%
ARPine Bluff$18160$16K – $23K2100.60%
AZFlagstaff$26320$20K – $39K2700.48%
AZLake Havasu City $ Kingman$21870$17K – $29K900.20%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$24130$18K – $32K32800.19%
AZPrescott$22230$17K – $34K2600.50%
AZTucson$23400$17K – $35K8800.25%
AZYuma$21310$17K – $28K1400.26%
CABakersfield – Delano$31280$21K – $45K4900.18%
CAChico$26980$21K – $39K2000.30%
CAEl Centro$33560$19K – $45K1300.25%
CAFresno$24340$20K – $37K5600.18%
CAHanford – Corcoran$42810$19K – $45K1500.41%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$27800$20K – $38K52600.14%
CAMadera – Chowchilla$36490$21K – $45K800.21%
CAMerced$27570$19K – $37K2500.41%
CAModesto$24420$18K – $34K3100.20%
CANapa$29660$22K – $44K1100.17%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$28750$21K – $42K15200.16%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$27170$19K – $39K8400.29%
CARedding$24190$18K – $35K2500.42%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$26980$19K – $45K20400.18%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$28290$21K – $42K11700.14%
CASalinas$36410$24K – $46K3000.20%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$26070$20K – $39K24300.19%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$34380$26K – $49K14300.14%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$28750$21K – $50K16900.19%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$30480$19K – $53K1800.18%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$27220$19K – $41K15500.11%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$29480$20K – $45K3400.21%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$23790$20K – $37K3000.36%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$32130$22K – $49K3400.20%
CAStockton$27110$21K – $45K3200.16%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$29670$20K – $49K3200.27%
CAVisalia – Porterville$28050$18K – $37K3000.23%
CAYuba City$25480$18K – $38K1100.30%
COBoulder$25930$20K – $36K5100.32%
COColorado Springs$26490$19K – $36K6400.26%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$26250$19K – $38K21100.17%
COFort Collins – Loveland$22990$18K – $35K2800.21%
COGrand Junction$23620$18K – $33K1500.25%
COGreeley$25370$20K – $34K2200.28%
COPueblo$22130$18K – $31K2200.41%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$34920$25K – $47K6200.15%
CTDanbury$34710$26K – $44K700.11%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$30720$25K – $44K15300.28%
CTNew Haven$33590$24K – $51K6900.26%
CTNorwich – New London$27880$21K – $38K6600.51%
CTWaterbury$33590$23K – $45K1400.22%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$28130$20K – $39K40000.17%
DEDover$27410$20K – $34K5600.95%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$28220$21K – $37K16800.52%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$26260$20K – $32K3100.15%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$22380$18K – $30K1600.22%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$23750$18K – $33K2600.17%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$24950$20K – $38K10600.15%
FLGainesville$22060$17K – $31K2200.18%
FLJacksonville$23080$18K – $30K9500.16%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$18170$16K – $23K13300.70%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$25340$18K – $37K17100.17%
FLNaples – Marco Island$30630$25K – $38K2200.19%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$26100$20K – $35K4700.20%
FLOcala$21110$17K – $27K1900.22%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$24460$19K – $32K10700.11%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$22590$19K – $30K5200.27%
FLPalm Coast$25290$18K – $35K300.19%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$21710$17K – $29K1300.18%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$21150$17K – $28K3300.22%
FLPort St. Lucie$24050$18K – $33K2800.23%
FLPunta Gorda$25230$20K – $32K1400.36%
FLSebastian – Vero Beach$22670$18K – $29K1800.39%
FLTallahassee$20930$17K – $30K2000.13%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$23400$18K – $33K21200.19%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$27500$21K – $36K6800.13%
GAAlbany$17760$16K – $23K2800.47%
GAAthens – Clarke County$18480$16K – $26K3500.45%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$19090$16K – $28K82600.37%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$19750$16K – $30K8200.41%
GABrunswick$20640$16K – $30K2700.72%
GAColumbus$19460$16K – $29K8700.79%
GADalton$18080$16K – $26K1500.23%
GAGainesville$21880$16K – $31K1500.21%
GAHinesville – Fort Stewart$17880$16K – $23K1100.66%
GAMacon$17890$16K – $23K5800.62%
GARome$18490$16K – $25K1300.37%
GASavannah$20250$16K – $28K7400.50%
GAValdosta$17700$16K – $23K2400.48%
GAWarner Robins$17460$16K – $19K3400.61%
HIHonolulu$34740$22K – $46K9000.21%
IAAmes$25610$17K – $36K$17K – $30K5500.40%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$21580$18K – $29K6000.34%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$23300$18K – $33K10300.32%
IADubuque$23320$17K – $29K1900.33%
IAIowa City$25940$17K – $37K3500.41%
IASioux City$21480$17K – $28K3100.45%
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$23070$18K – $33K3700.42%
IDBoise City – Nampa$21330$17K – $29K11500.44%
IDCoeur d'Alene ID$22940$20K – $30K2000.38%
IDIdaho Falls$18280$16K – $24K3000.60%
IDLewiston$22370$18K – $30K800.35%
IDPocatello$17980$16K – $24K1400.42%
ILBloomington – Normal$26740$20K – $36K3800.44%
ILChampaign – Urbana$25430$18K – $39K5000.53%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$25100$19K – $38K65100.18%

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