Chef/cook

Chefs and cooks are responsible for cooking food for staff and patients in hospitals and other NHS services. 

This page has information on the role of chefs and cooks in the NHS, including entry requirements and skills needed. 

Working life

You will work with the catering manager to make sure that food and drink is nutritious and appetising. The food has to meet patients' medical and cultural needs including, for example, gluten free, low fat, soft food, halal and vegetarian.

cook with menu

As a cook or chef, your duties include:

As an assistant or catering support worker, you may:

Who will I work with?

Chefs, cooks and assistants work as part of the catering team.  In a large kitchen there may be a head chef or cook overseeing one or more assistant chefs or cooks. Catering assistants usually work in a team, with a team leader supervising them.

Chefs and cooks may have little or no contact with patients. Catering assistants may have some contact with patients, depending on where they work.

Entry requirements 

To enter the NHS as a cook or chef, you need a catering qualification, usually at level 2 or 3.

Employers also expect catering experience.

Some cooks or chefs enter the NHS as catering assistants and take qualifications while they are working.

There are no set entry requirements for catering assistants. Employers expect a good standard of numeracy and literacy. They may ask for GCSEs in English and maths. It would be an advantage to have some experience of catering or customer service, from paid employment or voluntary work.

Skills needed

Chefs, cooks and assistants need to be:

They also need

Training and development 

If you join the NHS as a cook or chef you will be given the training you need to introduce you to the department and its systems and procedures. You are likely to have opportunities to take further qualifications. You may also be expected to go on short courses in particular topics such as cooking for special diets.

As a catering assistant, you will be trained in food hygiene, health and safety and manual handling. You will be encouraged to take qualifications in catering and customers service.

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