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Career and Education Opportunities for Fast Food Cooks in Chicago, Illinois

If you want to be a fast food cook, the Chicago, Illinois area offers many opportunities both for education and employment. About 29,690 people are currently employed as fast food cooks in Illinois. By 2016, this is expected to grow by 14% to 33,690 people employed. This is better than the national trend for fast food cooks, which sees this job pool growing by about 7.5% over the next eight years. In general, fast food cooks prepare and cook food in fast food restaurants with limited menus.

Income for fast food cooks is about $8 hourly or $16,870 annually on average in Illinois. Nationally, their income is about $8 hourly or $16,880 yearly. Compared with people working in the overall category of Cooking, people working as fast food cooks in Illinois earn less. They earn less than people working in the overall category of Cooking nationally. Fast food cooks work in a variety of jobs, including: fry cook, crew trainer, and fryline attendant.

There are 180 schools of higher education in the Chicago area, including two within twenty-five miles of Chicago where you can get a degree to start your career as a fast food cook. Given that the most common education level for fast food cooks is less than a high school diploma, you can expect to spend only a short time training to become a fast food cook if you already have a high school diploma.


Fast Food Cook video from the State of New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development

In general, fast food cooks prepare and cook food in fast food restaurants with limited menus. They also duties of the cooks are limited to preparation of a few basic items and normally involve operating large-volume single-purpose cooking equipment.

Fast food cooks clean food preparation areas and utensils. They also clean and restock workstations and display cases. Equally important, fast food cooks have to maintain sanitation and safety standards in work areas. They are often called upon to verify that prepared food meets requirements for quality and quantity. Finally, fast food cooks operate large-volume cooking equipment such as grills, deep-fat fryers, or griddles.

Every day, fast food cooks are expected to be able to listen to and understand others in meetings. It is also important that they understand what others are saying to them even in a noisy environment.

It is important for fast food cooks to cook the exact number of items ordered by each customer, working on several different orders simultaneously. They are often called upon to measure ingredients required for specific food items being prepared. They also read food order slips or receive verbal instructions as to food required by patron, and ready and cook food in line with instructions. They are sometimes expected to cook and package batches of food. Somewhat less frequently, fast food cooks are also expected to schedule efforts and equipment use with managers, using data related to daily menus to to direct cooking times.

And finally, they sometimes have to cook and package batches of food.

Like many other jobs, fast food cooks must be able to deal with stress and deal with situations calmly and want to innovate to meet new challenges.

Similar jobs with educational opportunities in Chicago include:

  • Chef. Direct the preparation, seasoning, and cooking of salads, soups, or other foods. May plan and price menu items, order supplies, and keep records and accounts. May participate in cooking.
  • Counter Clerk. Serve food to diners at counter or from a steam table.
  • Dining Room Attendant. Facilitate food service. Clean tables, carry dirty dishes, replace soiled table linens; set tables; replenish supply of clean linens, silverware, and dishes; supply service bar with food, and serve water, butter, and coffee to patrons.
  • Food Service Aide. Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as preparing cold foods and shellfish, slicing meat, and brewing coffee or tea.
  • Food and Beverage Supervisor. Supervise workers engaged in preparing and serving food.
  • Institutional Cook. Prepare and cook large quantities of food for institutions, such as schools, hospitals, or cafeterias.
  • Personal Chef. Prepare meals in private homes.
  • Restaurant Chef. Prepare, season, and cook soups, meats, or other foodstuffs in restaurants. May order supplies, keep records and accounts, price items on menu, or plan menu.
  • Short Order Cook. Prepare and cook to order a variety of foods that require only a short preparation time. May take orders from customers and serve patrons at counters or tables.


Joliet Junior College - Joliet, IL

Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Rd, Joliet, IL 60431-8938. Joliet Junior College is a large college located in Joliet, Illinois. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 14,088 students. Joliet Junior College has a less than one year program in Food Preparation/Professional Cooking/Kitchen Assistant which graduated three students in 2008.

The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago - Chicago, IL

The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, 350 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654-1593. The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago is a small school located in Chicago, Illinois. It is a private for-profit school with primarily 4-year or above programs. It has 2,900 students and an admission rate of 48%. The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago has a one to two year program in Food Preparation/Professional Cooking/Kitchen Assistant which graduated seven students in 2008.


Preventing Disease Transmission: A two-hour training module for employers and employees who, while on the job, may be exposed to blood or other body fluids that could cause infection.

For more information, see the American Red Cross website.

Quality Coffee Certification Program: The purpose of QCCP is to provide operators with sales tools and knowledge that will help them begin or enhance their own quality coffee program for their customers.

For more information, see the National Automatic Merchandising Association website.


Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois photo by Dschwen

Chicago is situated in Cook County, Illinois. It has a population of over 2,853,114, which has shrunk by 1.5% in the past ten years. The cost of living index in Chicago, 114, is well above the national average. New single-family homes in Chicago are valued at $200,500 on average, which is far less than the state average. In 2008, three hundred eighty-one new homes were built in Chicago, down from eight hundred seventy the previous year.

The three big industries for women in Chicago are health care, educational services, and professional, scientific, and technical services. For men, it is construction, professional, scientific, and technical services, and accommodation and food services. The average commute to work is about 35 minutes. More than 25.5% of Chicago residents have a bachelor's degree, which is lower than the state average. The percentage of residents with a graduate degree, 10.0%, is higher than the state average.

The unemployment rate in Chicago is 11.6%, which is greater than Illinois's average of 10.5%.

The percentage of Chicago residents that are affiliated with a religious congregation, 57.6%, is more than both the national and state average. Southlawn United Methodist Church, Southern Missionary Baptist Church and Lakeside Evangelical Church are all churches located in Chicago. The most common religious groups are the Catholic Church, the Muslim Estimate and the Lutheran Church.

Chicago is home to the Five Crossings and the Wrigley Field as well as Monticello Park and Wilson Playground. Shopping centers in the area include Lincoln Village Shopping Center, Market Place at Six Corners Shopping Center and Kimbark Plaza Shopping Center. Visitors to Chicago can choose from Extended Stay America, Embassy Suites Lakefront and Cottage Inn for temporary stays in the area.