Red Seal Occupational Standard - Cook
Table of contents
The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) as the Red Seal standard for the Cook trade.
Occupational Analyses Series
Disponible en français sous le titre : Cuisinier/cuisinière
Designation Year: 1964
RSOS Products for Download
The Cook Red Seal Occupational Standard is developed by Canadian trade representatives. It collects information about the trade as it is practiced across Canada.
This RSOS information is combined in several ways to generate several RSOS Products, each of these is based on information contained in the complete RSOS, and is geared to user needs:
- Red Seal Occupational Standard - Cook (PDF, 3.8 MB)
A complete description of all trade activities, skills and knowledge. The Standard defines the trade by collecting and organizing elements together.
- Trade Profile - Cook (PDF, 575 KB)
A quick snapshot of all trade activities in the standard. It can be used to self-assess experience. It can be used to introduce a concise summary of all trade activities to those wanting to learn about the trade. It can also be used for gap analysis.
- Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide - Cook (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Use this self-assessment tool to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.
Description of the Cook trade
“Cook” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA); it is also the trade name used by all provinces and territories in Canada.
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 cook complete meals or individual dishes. Cooks may 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 familiar with food safety and hygiene 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 and varying nutritional requirements. Cooks are generally employed in the hospitality and tourism sector (e.g. restaurants, hotels, resorts, catering services, country clubs and aboard ships) or in institutional settings (e.g. hospitals, nursing homes, seniors’ residences, daycare services, 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 establishment the cook is employed at.
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, 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 who work at camps in remote areas must be able to work under particular conditions and can be away from home for extended periods.
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 ingredients and the current requirements. They must be conscious of health information such as dietary requirements and allergies. Cooks must also be able to work independently, as part of a team and help their colleagues, 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 consumer service skills. Cooks should be versatile enough to assist with any task that needs doing within the kitchen and any other related task.
With experience, cooks may act as mentors and trainers to apprentices in the trade. They can also move into other positions such as kitchen managers, chefs, banquet managers, instructors, sales, food service administrators and managers, general managers or food writers. They can also own their own business.
This standard recognizes similarities or overlaps with the work of bakers and butchers.
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 at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/essential-skills/profiles.html.
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, taken from the essential skills profile. A link to the complete essential skills profile can be found at: www.red-seal.ca.
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 recalls 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 sheets (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 discuss work assignments with co-workers. They speak with consumers 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 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 the 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 may choose ingredients and decide how to modify recipes and food preparation practices to meet consumers’ requirements. They must also assess the quality, 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 efficiency, 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. They think strategically about issues such as quality, profitability and sustainability.
Cooks may use calculators to complete tasks such as cost or ingredient calculation. They may use hardware (tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc.) and software or databases to monitor inventory of ingredients and supplies, to place orders, to input or retrieve recipes, take table reservations and to write memos, reports and digital logging. 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 post and search for recipes, trends, inspiration and information related to cooking.
Working with others
Cooks usually work within an integrated team that may include other cooks, chefs, kitchen staff, stewards, servers and management. 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. They also work with outside personnel such as vendors, delivery people, inspectors and contractors.
Cooks should stay abreast of trade trends. To advance in the trade, they need to access a variety of resources such as professional associations, seminars, core training sessions, food supplier demonstrations, trade shows and workshops. They may participate in events such as community activities, conferences and cooking competitions.
Trends in the Cook trade
Growing Diversity in Industry
In certain regions, more attention is being given to Indigenous perspectives. Canada’s increasingly diverse population is requiring cooks to broaden their knowledge of traditional, northern or boreal, and international cuisines to meet consumer demands. Consumers are demanding that cooks become more familiar with a greater variety of ingredients, cooking methods and dishes, drawn from diverse cultures and regions.
A growing emphasis is being placed on cooks having to be strong interpersonal communicators. This can be particularly important in work environments that are diverse (e.g. cross-cultural, cross-generational, multilingual, inclusive), and where cooks interact with their consumers and clients. There is a constant evolution of the work environment in this industry, becoming one that is more inclusive, equitable, flexible and respectful.
Plant-Based Eating Trends
There is a growing demand for plant-based cuisine, such as vegetarian and vegan diets. The Canada Food Guide 2019 also places a higher emphasis on more whole fruits and vegetables as a recommended proportion of Canadians’ dietary intake. Cooks must be able to demonstrate creativity and innovation in this area to meet consumer demand. Plant-based ingredients such as tofu, tempeh and quinoa are becoming more mainstream.
Customization in Cooking
Consumers require more customization to their meals for reasons such as allergies and chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, food intolerances, heart conditions). Cooks must be able to adapt their menu items to meet consumer preferences and requirements.
Business Trends and Practices
Consumers increasingly want more value for their money and expect food venues to contribute towards social responsibility (e.g., supporting local farmers, sensible sourcing, reduced footprint). As a result, an increasing number of food venues are adapting their sourcing methods to be more environmentally sustainable. There is a trend of some venues growing their own produce or manufacturing food products in‑house. Some examples of this include in-house charcuterie, fermentation, farm to table cuisine and on-site greenhouses.
A growing number of businesses are striving to significantly reduce food waste by composting and donating food leftovers. Cooks are expected to become more resourceful and innovative in making use of the entirety of base ingredients.
At the same time, economic issues such as staffing costs and availability, globalized food systems, growing dependence on outsourcing, and tight profit margins require that cooks be innovative to succeed.
There is a shift in how food outlets deliver products. New business models such as food halls, quick-service restaurants, food trucks, ghost kitchens, meal plans, pop-ups, home chefs and ready-to-eat food services are creating new opportunities and challenges for cooks.
Technological Impacts on the Trade
Cooks must become familiar with new technology that is continually being introduced in kitchen equipment. Some examples include automated equipment, combi-ovens, thermal circulators, and wireless sensors.
Social media exposure and marketing are important developments in the industry. These platforms are influencing cooks to become more innovative in creating dishes that “play well” on social media (e.g. unique presentation with bright colours and excellent plating). These social media platforms also provide outlets for consumer reviews and feedback.
Consumer demand for convenience and quality food is driving other technological changes in the food service industry. Digital ordering platforms provide new challenges for cooks who have to develop menu options that can be prepared and shipped without diminished quality.
Consumers expect greater transparency in all aspects of their food choices. Regulations and emerging software technologies enable consumers to make more informed decisions. As a result, cooks may need to adapt to this technology by becoming more informed on the ingredients they are using and communicating this information to consumers.
Industry expected performance
All tasks must be performed according to the applicable jurisdictional codes and standards. All health and safety standards must be respected and observed. Work should be done efficiently and to a high quality without material waste or environmental damage. All requirements of employers, consumers, clients and quality control policies must be met. At a journeyperson level of performance, all tasks must be done with minimal direction and supervision. As a journeyperson progresses in their career there is an expectation they continue to upgrade their skills and knowledge to maintain pace with industry and promote continuous learning in their trade through mentoring of apprentices.
It is expected that journeypersons are able to understand and communicate in either English or French, which are Canada’s official languages. English or French are the common languages of business as well as languages of instruction in apprenticeship programs.
The CCDA and 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 thanks are offered to the following representatives who contributed greatly to the original draft of the standard and provided expert advice throughout its development:
- Adam Brown - Ontario
- Paul Campbell - Alberta
- Jennifer Cearns - Alberta
- Alan Crosby - Tourism HR Canada
- Genalyn Dioso - Saskatchewan
- Stephanie Holt - Newfoundland and Labrador
- Takashi Ito - British Columbia
- Sean Kettley - Nova Scotia
- Tobias MacDonald - British Columbia
- Brenan Madill - Nova Scotia
- Christine Murnaghan - Prince Edward Island
- Everett Nelson - Saskatchewan
- Michael Publicover - Manitoba
- Markian Shafransky - New Brunswick
- Dr. Ryan Whibbs - Ontario
This standard was prepared by the Apprenticeship and Sectoral Initiatives Directorate of ESDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this standard were undertaken by employees of the standards development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division and of New Brunswick, the host jurisdiction for this trade.