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How Much do Prep Cooks Make? (Average Prep Cook Salary Data 2023)

Tyler MartinezAuthor

Prep cooks use their culinary skills to prepare ingredients for line cooks to use during service. They also make sauces, soups, and stocks on the restaurant’s menu. Essentially, prep cooks set the kitchen up for success by stocking workstations with prepared ingredients and supplies. 

This article reports on how much prep cooks' skills and experiences are usually paid. And, we provide some tips for negotiating higher salaries as a prep cook.

How much do prep cooks make?

How Much do Prep Cooks Make? (Average Prep Cook Salary Data)

On average, prep cooks earn between $25,000 and $38,000 annually. We got those numbers by averaging these three sources:

  • Salary.com compiles HR-reported data on salaries in the US. They cite that prep cooks can earn between $27,732 and $40,017 annually. They also report a range of $29, 884 to $42,058 for senior-level prep cooks.

  • Zippia.com reports that prep cooks earn a median salary of $15.53 an hour, or $32,292 annually. The bottom 10% of prep cooks earn $25,000 while the top 10% earn $40,000 or more.

  • Talent.com reports salary data from job ads and organizes the data by state. From 418 records, the median salary for prep cooks in Virginia is $29,250. The highest-paying state for prep cooks is Rhode Island, with a median of $39,000.

An excellent way to determine how much you should earn as a prep cook is to talk to other prep cooks in your area. It might seem taboo to discuss salaries, but it allows you to understand how much your skills are worth to local restaurants. Ask other prep cooks about their skills, experiences, the kind of restaurant where they work, and how much they earn.

What Influences Prep Cooks’ Salaries?

Prep cooks’ salaries are influenced by their experiences, skills, and the responsibilities of their jobs. While some prep cooks earn culinary degrees, which often increases their job prospects, many learn the ropes of the industry through on-the-job training.

The kind of restaurant where prep cooks work influences how much they earn. A prep cook is one of the starting roles in casual restaurants, which hire workers with little to no experience in kitchens. Higher-end restaurants will want to hire prep cooks with extensive training, and skills, and may require a culinary education.

The skills and experiences that prep cooks bring to their jobs set the stage for their salaries. If you have years of experience or a reference from a prestigious restaurant, then you can expect to start at a higher wage than prep cooks without experience.

Restaurants should also pay prep cooks according to the demands of the job. The responsibilities and expectations of the job and the number of hours you work as a prep cook all factor into how much you can expect to earn.

Prep Cooks Typically Earn Hourly Wages

Prep cooks are typically hourly employees, but some restaurants offer salaries to prep cooks. Hourly employees are paid for the number of hours they work. Those hours fluctuate from day to day, depending on the demands of service. So, hourly employees must grow accustomed to fluctuating wages.

Some restaurants offer their prep cook salaried wages, meaning that they negotiate a fixed, annual wage with the employee. The prep cook earns a steady wage no matter how long they work, but they may be expected to work longer hours some weeks without additional compensation.

How to Increase your Salary as a Prep Cook

There is a lot of room for upward mobility as a prep cook. And, working diligently and efficiently will impress the management team and restaurant owners. That way, when raises or bonuses are on the table, you’ll be first in line.

Salary.com reports that senior prep cooks earn higher wages than their entry-level counterparts. So, staying loyal to a restaurant or company is one way to increase your salary as a prep cook.

Earning a culinary education is another way to prepare yourself for better-paying prep cook positions. High-end, fine-dining restaurants hire cooks that they are sure can do the job consistently and efficiently. And they’re willing to pay higher salaries to talented workers.

Working your way up into a higher-paying position is another way to increase your wages as a prep cook. Sous chefs and kitchen managers are often recruited from the ranks of prep cooks. Show the restaurant’s management team that you are a dedicated worker with leadership skills. Don’t be afraid to ask about promotions if an opportunity becomes available.

Negotiating Higher Prep Cook Wages

It might seem intimidating to request a higher hourly wage or salary as a prep cook. Start by making a list of your skills and the times when you went above and beyond the responsibilities of your job.

When you sit down with the manager, provide evidence of your diligence and dedication to the restaurant. Be confident that the talent and knowledge that you add to the restaurant are worth a wage that will support your lifestyle.

Prepare for your Career as a Prep Cook

Many of the greatest chefs and restauranteurs start their careers as prep cooks. Working as a prep cook lets you experience fast-paced restaurant kitchens while building skills and knowledge of the industry. Working as a prep cook gets your foot in the door to a restaurant industry career!

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