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How to Train a Cook

How to Train a Cook

Picture of Nikol Moen
Nikol Moen

Training a new restaurant cook takes more than shoulder-to-shoulder training. Learn how to implement effective, modern teaching techniques into your cook training program to ensure your back-of-house team provides a quality dining experience for every guest.

Running a successful restaurant is like orchestrating a symphony: each team member contributes in their own unique way to create a harmonious experience for guests. Servers provide warmth and connection. Bussers create a neat and tidy place setting. And at the heart of this ensemble is the restaurant cook. Their performance may arguably have the largest impact on customer experience compared to other roles, leaving guests satiated — or not.

Just like a conductor ensures each musician is well-prepared, restaurant owners and managers are responsible for training their staff members to meet high high standards and maintain seamless operations. In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of training kitchen staff, effective methods for training your kitchen team, and what to include in your restaurant chef training program. By the end, you’ll walk away with a clear roadmap to develop an effective training program that ensures your cooks are ready to contribute to the symphony of flavors that define your restaurant. Let’s begin!

Why you need cook training for new hires

Before diving into the course materials needed to create an effective chef training program, let’s explore why training is so crucial for back-of-house staff.

Creates consistency

One of the foundational reasons to train your kitchen staff? Food consistency. Whether you have one location or several, you need to provide a consistent food quality across all shifts to create a positive guest experience. When your cooks know the recipes and techniques inside out, they can meet customer expectations for both taste and presentation, creating a reliable dining experience that keeps patrons coming back.

Ensures food safety

Another reason why you need to provide thorough training for cooks: safety and food hygiene. As you already know, adhering to health regulations is non-negotiable in the food industry. Comprehensive training ensures that your staff is knowledgeable about food safety standards, helping to prevent accidents and foodborne illnesses. A clean and safe kitchen protects both your employees and your customers, fostering trust and loyalty.

Maintains a positive reputation

Finally, you’ll want to develop a comprehensive training program for your cooks to keep a positive  reputation. Your restaurant’s reputation is built on the quality of service and the satisfaction of your customers. When you provide consistently excellent food and service, your restaurant is more likely to receive positive customer reviews and word-of-mouth marketing — the most invaluable way to attract new patrons and retaining existing ones. By investing in your kitchen staff’s training, you are investing in the long-term success and reputation of your restaurant.

Guide

Running A Restaurant Commissary: Best Practices for Consistency and Efficiency

5 Tips When Training a Restaurant Cook

While most restaurants rely on traditional training methods, like shoulder-to-shoulder training and recipe cards, the most successful restaurant brands have stepped up their training game to provide real-time courses, resources, support, and coaching from day one. Here are five training techniques to help your cooks be successful in the kitchen: 

  1. Digitize your training. Using an online training platform to train your staff not only streamlines the learning process, it provides a digital reference guide that’s always accessible on your team’s mobile devices. Online training modules, videos, digital recipe cards, and interactive simulations can provide cooks with a flexible and accessible way to learn at their own pace. Plus, digital training platforms can also track progress and ensure that all team members complete necessary courses, maintaining consistency in training for every hire at every location.

     

  2. Provide reference materials. Having readily available reference materials, such as job aids, recipe cards, and cooking manuals, can be invaluable for your kitchen staff. These resources serve as quick guides that cooks can refer to during their shifts, ensuring they follow standardized procedures and recipes. Job aids can also include visual aids and step-by-step instructions, making it easier for cooks to understand and replicate complex dishes.

     

  3. Implement hybrid training. While digital tools and reference materials are essential, hands-on training remains a critical component of culinary education. Pair new cooks with experienced chefs for on-the-job training, allowing them to learn techniques and best practices in a real-world setting. This mentorship approach not only enhances skills but also fosters teamwork and collaboration within the kitchen. Plus, with the right digital training platform, you can track hands-on training opportunities online to ensure new cooks are completing their in-person training requirements.

     

  4. Provide multilingual training opportunities. In a diverse workforce, language barriers can hinder effective training. Offering multilingual training opportunities ensures that all staff members, regardless of their native language, can understand and absorb the training materials. Some digital training platforms offer AI-translated courses, so your team members can automatically translate course material into the language of their choice without any translation services needed from you. This inclusivity promotes better communication and reduces misunderstandings, leading to a more efficient and harmonious kitchen environment.

     

  5. Conduct regular assessments and feedback sessions. Continuous improvement is key to maintaining high standards in the kitchen. Regular assessments and feedback sessions help identify areas where cooks may need additional training or support. Constructive feedback and periodic evaluations ensure that staff members are always developing their skills and adhering to the restaurant’s quality standards.

What to include in your restaurant cook training

When it comes to building a comprehensive training program for your restaurant cooks, here are some suggested modules and courses to include. Make sure to modify this course material to adhere to any brand and safety standards your kitchen staff must follow.

Onboarding

Begin with a thorough onboarding process that introduces new hires to your restaurant’s culture, values, and expectations. This should include:

  • A tour of the kitchen
  • Introductions to team members
  • An overview of health and safety protocols
  • Scheduling best practices and how to request time off

 

Onboarding sets the foundation for new cooks, helping them feel welcomed and informed from the start.

Mentor shadowing

Hands-on training is crucial for cooks to learn practical skills and techniques. Pair new hires with experienced chefs for a shadowing period, where they can observe and practice under guidance. This mentorship approach allows new cooks to learn the ins and outs of your kitchen operations, gaining confidence and competence through real-world experience.

Kitchen equipment and safety skills

From learning knife skills 101 to understanding how your food processors work to achieving food safety certifications, your training program should comprehensively include kitchen skills, cooking techniques, food preparation methods, and safety procedures. Since modern kitchens rely on a variety of tools to develop dishes, train your cooks on how to properly use kitchen equipment, such as sous-vide machines, digital thermometers, and food processors. Teaching the right food handling skills from the getgo not only keeps your kitchen staff safe from cuts, spills, and burns, but can protect diners from getting any foodborne illnesses as well.

Standardized recipes and procedures

Consistency is key in any successful restaurant. Provide standardized recipes and procedures to ensure that every dish is prepared to the same high standard, regardless of who is cooking. Cooks should have access to recipes and procedures via visual job aids posted around the kitchen as well as real-time digital access through your digital training program. Providing both a printed and digital version of job aids and recipe cards allows cooks to consume learning material when and where they need it most.

Technology and tools

Your cooks should be as familiar with your operations technology as they are with the equipment in the kitchen. Provide thorough training on the following software and digital tools: 

  • Inventory management
  • Recipe storage
  • Order processing
  • Scheduling
  • Training
  • Team communication tools

Feedback and performance reviews

Finally, educate your staff on expectations around feedback and performance reviews. Help cooks understand when to expect constructive feedback and how it can help identify their strengths and areas for improvement. Additionally, provide a timeline for their quarterly or annual performance review. By setting feedback expectations early and often, you can create a strong, solutions-oriented culture from the back-of-the-house to the front.

Elevate your training today

As you develop a well-orchestrated training program, keep in mind the ultimate goal of onboarding new restaurant cooks: to create a culture of excellence, inclusivity, and teamwork. And don’t forget: creating a comprehensive training program doesn’t have to fall completely on your shoulders. A training platform that has readymade industry courses, translation capabilities, and AI-generated courses based on your needs can save you time and resources when implementing training for your cooks and the rest of your team. At the end of the day, with the right training, your cooks will be the virtuosos that bring your restaurant’s symphony of flavors to life, delighting guests and securing a positive reputation for your restaurant.

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