Cooks prepare, cook and serve food. They work in cafes, bars, hospitals, schools, daycare centres, fast food outlets, or for caterers.
Cooks usually earn
$19-$22 per hour
Source: Restaurant Association of New Zealand, 2018.
Pay for cooks varies depending on their experience and their employer.
- Junior cooks earn between minimum wage and $20 an hour.
- Senior cooks earn between minimum wage and $22.
Source: Restaurant of Association of New Zealand, '2018 Remuneration Survey', 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Cooks may do some or all of the following:
- cook food quickly and efficiently
- prepare raw ingredients for menu items to fill customer orders
- arrange food on plates or wrap it to be taken away
- give instructions and demonstrate cooking methods and techniques to others
- create new recipes and plan menus
- order food supplies, organise deliveries and restock shelves
- run their own business.
At very small restaurants, the duties of cooks may overlap with other jobs. For example, cooks may take orders and also wash the counters and dishes.
Skills and knowledge
Cooks need to have:
- ability to cook quickly and safely in a busy kitchen
- ability to follow recipes and instructions
- knowledge of food hygiene, stock rotation and food storage methods
- knowledge of kitchen equipment
- knowledge of how a commercial kitchen works.
Cooks who run their own businesses also need business skills.
- may work long hours that include early mornings, evenings and weekends, and may do shift work
- work in commercial kitchens, takeaway shops, and kitchens in organisations
- work in environments that can be hot, noisy and stressful, as food must be prepared quickly and under pressure.
There are no specific requirements to become a cook as you gain skills on the job. Many people who work in takeaway bars, fast food restaurants, fish and chip shops, rest homes or daycare centres have no formal cooking qualifications.
However, some cafes and bars only employ qualified chefs as cooks. Others employ people who have done shorter food handling courses and train them on the job.
Industry training organisation ServiceIQ oversees cookery apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
Cookery qualifications offered by polytechnics and other providers
Qualifications offered by polytechnics and private providers include:
- food hygiene courses
- foundation cookery courses
- two-year professional cooking courses.
- ServiceIQ website - information about the New Zealand Certificate in Cookery (Level 3) - (PDF - 235KB)
- ServiceIQ website - information about cookery qualifications
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a cook, but English, maths and home economics (food and nutrition) are useful.
Cooks need to be:
- able to pay attention to detail
- quick, efficient and customer-focused
- adaptable and creative
- deal with high-stress environments
- able to work well under pressure
- able to lead a team, listen and communicate well.
Useful experience for cooks includes:
- any restaurant work in roles such as waiter/waitress or kitchenhand
- any cooking experience
- work in a catering or food business
- work in the aged care industry.
Cooks need to have:
- a high level of personal hygiene
- good hand-eye co-ordination as they handle sharp knives and other kitchen tools
- a reasonable level of fitness as they spend long periods on their feet.
Find out more about training
- Hospitality New Zealand
- 04 385 1369 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.hospitalitynz.org.nz
- Restaurant Association of New Zealand
- 0800 737 827 - email@example.com - www.restaurantnz.co.nz
- 0800 863 693 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.serviceiq.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Cook vacancies common
Chances of getting a job as a cook are good because:
- the increasing number of cafes, takeaway bars, early childhood centres and retirement villages means more kitchen staff are needed
- people tend to stay in the job for short periods only, due to low pay, which creates vacancies
- employers are struggling to get skilled staff, so may offer more training to inexperienced staff.
The hospitality industry in New Zealand is large, employing about 130,000 people.
According to the Census, 2,613 cooks worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Cooks work in a range of eateries that tend to specialise in fast food. These include:
- bars and pubs
- fast food outlets
- small restaurants, grills and bistros.
Cooks also work in kitchens at:
- rest homes
- retirement villages
- early childhood centres
- private companies.
- Business New Zealand, 'The Future of Childcare Centres in NZ', accessed January 2018, (www.waterfordpress.co.nz).
- Harris, C, 'Shortage of Retail and Restaurant Workers Becoming Acute', 19 February 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Lines-MacKenzie, J, 'Subsidies and Work Pressure Fuel Childcare Growth', 27 August 2018, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Restaurant Association of New Zealand, '2018 Hospitality Report', accessed January 2019, (www.scoop.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Village Guide, 'Is the Retirement Village Industry About to Employ More People Than Real Estate?' (media release), 5 October 2018, (www.villageguide.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Cooks may move into supervisory or managerial roles, or more senior chef positions.
They may also set up their own businesses, such as cafes or takeaway shops.
Last updated 16 June 2020