Cook – National Occupational Analysis (NOA)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this National Occupational Analysis (NOA) as the national standard for the occupation of cook trade.

Occupational Analyses Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Cuisinier/cuisinière

NOC: 6242

Designation Year: 1964

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Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Cook

Use this self-assessment tool (PDF, 746 KB) to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information

Scope

“Cook” is this trade’s official “Red Seal” occupational title approved by the CCDA. This analysis covers tasks performed by cooks whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:

NL

NS

PE

NB

QC

ON

MB

SK

AB

BC

NT

YT

NU

Cook

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x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Cooks prepare, cook, season and present a wide variety of foods such as meat, fish, poultry, game, pasta, pulses, grains, nuts, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruit, stocks, soups, sauces, salads, desserts and baked goods. They provide complete meals or individual dishes. Cooks plan menus, determine the size of food portions and estimate food requirements and cost, as well as monitor and order supplies, and oversee others in the preparation, cooking and handling of food.

They must also be thoroughly familiar with safety requirements, safe work practices and with health regulations pertaining to food handling, preparation and service.

Areas of specialization vary according to where the cook is employed. Cooks may also specialize in ethnic food preparation, or in preparing meals according to dietary recommendations and varying nutritional requirements. Cooks are generally employed in the hospitality and tourism sector (for example in restaurants, hotels, resorts, catering establishments, country clubs and aboard ships) or in institutional settings (for example: hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutes, correctional facilities, camps and military bases).

While some cooks may have conventional work schedules, most cooks work shift work, including early mornings, late evenings, holidays and weekends, and the number of hours worked each week varies depending on the type of position and in which establishment the cook is employed.

Cooks often come under a great deal of pressure to provide quick and quality service. They must, at all times, maintain quality of food and ensure that food safety and sanitation guidelines be followed. Workplaces are clean and well lit, but can be hot and space-restricted. Cooks must be able to stand for extended periods of time, to function in close quarters, and to lift heavy objects such as pots and heavy bags. Occupational hazards include burns, cuts, slips and falls. Cooks that work at camps in remote areas must be able to work under adverse environmental conditions and can be away from family for extended periods of time.

Creativity, a keen sense of taste and smell, interest in precision work and a good memory for details are key attributes for people entering this trade. Cooks must be able to remember recipes and be able to adapt them to available supplies and to the current need. They must be conscious of health information such as dietary requirements and allergies. Cooks must also be able to work independently and as part of a team, have good organizational skills and have the ability to multi-task to effectively do their jobs. Other important abilities for cooks include solid mathematical, communication and customer service skills. Cooks should be versatile enough to assist with any task that needs doing within the kitchen.

With experience, cooks may act as mentors and trainers to apprentices in the trade. They can also move into other positions such as sous-chefs, kitchen managers, chefs, executive chefs, banquet managers, food service administrators and coordinators, general managers or food editors. They can also own their own restaurant.

This analysis recognizes similarities or overlaps with the work of bakers and butchers.

Occupational Observations

Health-related issues and diet requirements have become increasingly important to the cooking trade and the food manufacturing industry. Consumer health concerns in all demographics regarding food allergies and sensitivities, diabetes, heart health and sodium content are becoming more common. Due to these concerns and customer perceptions there is an increase in the use of ingredients such as organics, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, oats, soy and gluten-free products. More often cooks are required to manage information and respond to customer inquiries related to the nutritional aspects of products and where the ingredients come from. There is a growing demand to meet requirements of various consumers, both for health and cultural/religious (kosher, halal, vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, lacto-ovo, raw) reasons.

The food supply processing and manufacturing industry is rapidly changing and adapting their methods and products which are driven by industry and consumer demands. Cooks must be versatile in adapting to these ever changing products in their establishments.

Cooks often find themselves in high-stress situations, and must constantly manage competing priorities.

Because of the specialization of menus and consumer demands, cooks are now expected to utilize a broader range of skills. However, because of rising food and labour costs, it may be difficult for entry-level cooks to practice the full scope of the trade at one establishment. Labour mobility, therefore, is very important.

Consumers are becoming more demanding due to the increase of knowledge put forth by media sources and the increased emphasis on using local and fresh foods in their meals, and trends such as farm-to-plate, international cuisine, sustainable sourcing, artisanal baking, charcuterie and preserving products through traditional processes.

A greater number of businesses are specializing in fewer products. These include specialty food service operations such as food trucks, gastro pubs, BBQs, specialty bake shops, charcuterie shops, burger shops and vegetarian restaurants.

With new and innovative food preparation techniques, cooks are incorporating culinary chemistry in their kitchens. There is an increase in modernist cuisine.

Kitchens continue to develop menus and practices that consider environmental sustainability. Organic waste control, compostable packaging, bulk purchasing and recyclable materials are practiced in most parts of the country.

Legal obligations have arisen that reinforce the need for awareness and education on food traceability and food safety. Items must remain traceable through all levels of the supply chain – from producer to supplier to end user – to ensure that food safety standards are upheld throughout.

New technology in cooking equipment includes automated computerized ovens, blast chillers, immersion circulators, thermal mixers and smart kitchens.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

Tools are available online or for order.

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the competency statements which support each subtask of the trade. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills.

Cooks read a variety of documents such as cookbooks, recipes, manuals and banquet event orders (BEO).  With regard to health and safety information, they use notices, food recall bulletins or allergy alerts and other food safety information. Cooks read warnings and instructions written on signs, labels and packaging.  Cooks may also read trade publications to learn about food service and hospitality trends and technological advances in commercial kitchens. They may read legal agreements such as contracts and confidentiality agreements.

Cooks scan labels on product packaging to locate data such as cooking times, potential allergens and ingredients. They interpret safety data sheet (SDS), safety symbols and icons. Cooks locate information and data found in a variety of tables pertaining to work schedules, food orders, cooking times, quantities of food, logs, invoices and costs. Equipment manuals are used to instruct on proper use, cleaning and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Cooks write reminders and notes to co-workers to explain changes in meal preparation routines and food safety procedures. They may also write instructions about specific delivery and handling of food or write brief comments on recipes about cooking times or changes in ingredients. Cooks may write incident reports or requests for equipment upgrades. They write sign-in and sign-out sheets and daily logs to record temperature tracking and sanitation sign‑offs.  Prep sheets are written with daily tasks and routines, identified completions and inventory information. It is important that cooks accurately label and date products for storage.

Cooks measure and convert weight and volume of ingredients between imperial and metric systems. They calculate ingredient quantities when modifying recipes. Cooks estimate the yield of bulk items to determine number of servings. They estimate the time required to prepare food and organize their tasks to meet deadlines. Cooks may calculate the cost of menu items and inventory.

Cooks discuss work assignments with co-workers. They speak with customers to take orders, and discuss their opinions on recipes and meals. Cooks may make product suggestions and participate in product development meetings. Cooks may explain procedures and safety protocols to kitchen and food servers. They may participate in interdepartmental meetings to harmonize the operations of the organization. They may provide mentoring and coaching to other members of the brigade.

Cooks may choose ingredients and decide how to modify recipes and food preparation practices to meet customers’ needs. They evaluate the quality of ingredients received and the appearance and taste of the food they produce. Cooks decide the order of food preparation and housekeeping tasks. To ensure a smooth workflow and maximum efficiencies, they may plan tasks, and review and modify work priorities and deadlines on a regular basis. Cooks coordinate their work with other co-workers. They are required to problem-solve on the fly and to work under pressure.

Cooks may use calculators to complete tasks such as cost or ingredient calculation. They may use software or databases to monitor inventory or ingredients and supplies, to place orders, to input or retrieve recipes and to write memos or reports. Cooks use digitally controlled kitchen equipment to prepare food. They may use digital technology to seek and offer advice and to access training courses and seminars offered by suppliers, associations or employers. They regularly use the internet to search for recipes and information related to cooking.

Cooks usually work within an integrated team that may include other cooks, chefs, kitchen staff, stewards and servers. When working in a line, cooks must work with each member of the team at all times to ensure operations run smoothly. They coordinate their activities with others to ensure optimum use of time, work space, food supplies and equipment.

Cooks should stay abreast of trade trends. To advance in the trade, they need to access a variety of resources such as professional associations, customer service seminars, food supplier demonstrations, trade shows and workshops.  They may participate in events such as provincial, national and international cooking competitions.

Acknowledgements

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special acknowledgement is extended by ESDC and the CCDA to the following representatives of the trade.

  • Mathew Brook - Ontario
  • Sylvain Cuerrier - British Columbia
  • Ed Farrell - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Mark Gray - Nova Scotia
  • Ajay Lala - Alberta
  • Michael Publicover - Manitoba
  • Trevor Robertson - Saskatchewan
  • Domenic Serio - Prince Edward Island
  • Mindy Trail - New Brunswick

This analysis was prepared by the Workplace Partnerships Directorate of ESDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the National Occupational Analysis (NOA) development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. The host jurisdiction of New Brunswick also participated in the development of this NOA.

Comments or questions about National Occupational Analyses may be forwarded to:

Trades and Apprenticeship Division
Labour Market Integration Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0J9
Email: redseal-sceaurouge@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca