It’s probably hard to tell from your table or booth, unless the food you ordered never arrives, but restaurants across the state are struggling to find qualified cooks to work in their kitchens.

Jim Parkin, ThinkStock

We’re not talking about executive chefs, but the folks who help them out – better known as line or prep cooks.

Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said in conversations with her members, she’s learned there’s an absolute need for more qualified cooks, and it’s difficult to secure kitchen-ready personnel.

“I think it comes down to having people who have the basic skills,” she said. “So when you hire somebody, they understand the basic kitchen terminology, they understand basic food preparation, sanitation.”

Basically, there’s no certification needed from the Culinary Institute of America or Johnson & Wales University – just the ability to walk into a kitchen and work side-by-side with a lead chef without missing a beat.

Halvorsen suggested pay isn’t keeping folks from filling these positions. The average line cook pay in New Jersey, she said, is $15 to $20 per hour, with some making $30 hourly.

The job site Glassdoor posted a national average salary of $24,106 for line cooks.