Food Preparation Worker

Food preparation workers, the largest segment of the culinary workforce, work under the supervision of chefs and cooks performing routine duties such as preparing ingredients, retrieving kitchen utensils, and chopping vegetables. Their tasks often include cleaning utensils, counters, and dishes.

Job Skills

Certain personal attributes are important for food preparation workers to possess. These include the ability to work quickly and efficiently, a well-developed sense of taste and smell, good personal hygiene, and a willingness to work with a team. Familiarity with a foreign language may also prove useful in communicating with other workers.


In 2002, food preparation workers earned a median hourly wage of $7.85. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $5.96 per hour, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $11.37 per hour. The highest median hourly earnings were found in elementary and secondary schools, and the lowest were found in limited-service eating places.

Training and Education

Most food preparation worker positions require little, if any, training or education. Entry-level positions do not require a high-school diploma; however, a diploma could be beneficial for those interested in a career as a cook. Most food preparation workers are trained on the job. Training ranges from basic sanitation and safety, to food handling and cooking techniques.


Out of the nearly 3 million culinary jobs in 2002, about 850,000 people were employed as food preparation workers.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of food preparation workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Due to general increases in population, household income, leisure time, and the number of double-income households, more people will be taking vacations and dining away from home. The number of food preparation workers in restaurants and stores that offer meals-to-go is expected to increase faster than the average.

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