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Cooks prepare food in eating establishments including hotels, restaurants, institutions, trains and ships. Their major responsibilities are nutrition, food costs and sanitation.

Depending on the establishment, cooks may be involved in any combination of the following duties:

  • studying menus to estimate food requirements and obtain the necessary food from storage or from suppliers,
  • washing, peeling and cutting vegetables,
  • cleaning and cutting meats, fish and poultry,
  • cleaning kitchen equipment and cooking utensils,
  • preparing, seasoning and cooking such foods as soups, salads, meats, fish, gravies, vegetables, desserts, sauces and casseroles,
  • carving meats, preparing portions on a plate and add gravies, sauces and garnish to servings,
  • baking pastries,
  • preparing buffets (e.g. platters, showpieces),
  • preparing special diets, and
  • overseeing menu planning, regulating stock control and supervising kitchen staff.

While specific duties vary depending upon the type of establishment, it is the cook's responsibility to prepare meals that are both appealing and nutritious.

For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.


Working Conditions

Cooks work under pressure and the work volume can be considerable. Shift work and having to work weekends and holidays is common.

Burns and cuts are common occupational hazards.


Skills and Abilities

In general, people attracted to this career value the job's creative challenges and the public appreciation for their expertise.

To be successful in their trade, cooks must:

  • be fluent in English with reading and writing competency,
  • have good basic mathematics skills,
  • have a genuine interest in preparing food and working with people,
  • be in good health and able to stand for long periods,
  • have a keen sense of taste and smell,
  • be flexible,
  • have strength, stamina and the use of proper lifting techniques required to work with weights in excess of 25 kilograms,
  • be ready to work as members of a team, and
  • be willing to maintain the high standard of cleanliness necessary in any food establishment.


Employment and Advancement

Cooks are employed in hotels, clubs, restaurants, catering firms, cafeterias, institutions, homes, high-class specialty food outlets, and isolated bases and camps. Some jobs are seasonal.

Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $15 to $25 an hour plus benefits.

Experienced cooks can advance through promotions with the same employer or by moving to more advanced positions with other employers. They can become sous-chefs, chefs, executive chefs, banquet managers, food service administrators and coordinators, general managers or food editors. They can also achieve Certified Chef de Cuisine (C.C.C.), a highly respected level of certification. There are good prospects for travel both within Canada and abroad.

There is a multitude of career opportunities for certified cooks including marketing, media, education, product development, consulting and owning their own businesses.


Working in Alberta

To work as a cook in Alberta, a person should:

  • be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, hold a valid recognized credential , OR
  • work for an employer who is satisfied that the worker has the skills and knowledge expected of a certified journeyperson, OR
  • be self-employed

Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for a cook is 3 years (three 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1560 hours of on-the-job training and 8 weeks of technical training each year.

  • An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the cook trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
  • A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application.  
  • A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

To learn the skills required of a Cook in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.

For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.

  • complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
  • pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process 
  • complete the required on-the-job training
    - during on-the-job training, apprentice cooks earn at least 60 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 75 percent in the second, and 85 percent in the third year.
  • complete all of the program requirements as identified in the Course Outline
  • enroll in technical training
  • successfully complete all required (See Exam Counselling Sheet)
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training requires apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

Apprentices involved in the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) stream in high school may be eligible for credit towards their apprenticeship first period training.  

Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.

When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.

Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

A cook who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.

To prepare for the exam see the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.


Qualification Certificate Program

For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.

Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.


Equivalency Program

A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.

However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.