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50-Minute Classroom: Assessing Culinary Math Skills

weinerTake a 50-pound bag of carrots and peel and chop 40 pounds of them. What percentage is that? The following 25 questions not only indicate math areas where students might be weak, but also teach basic culinary and management skills.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

At the June, 2011 CAFÉ Leadership Conference in Providence, one of the hot topics during roundtable discussions at the best-practices seminars and social meetings was the problem of students of all levels (high school, vocational and college) not knowing basic math skills. Surprisingly, the most consistent comment was that new culinary students cannot read an analog clock.

I had the honor of leading a roundtable discussion, and one of the questions posed was: “How do you assess culinary math skills?” In my vocational program, I give the students the test below, and then we go over each answer in detail. If most of the students missed a particular problem or problems, I create extra examples using the same type of math skills. It takes more than one class to do this, but I find it is time well spent.

This quiz has another purpose beyond just using it as a diagnostic tool. Several of the problems teach basic culinary and management skills.

1. A chef gives you a recipe that calls for ¾ pound of onions. She asks you to triple the recipe. How many pounds of onions will you use? _______ pounds.

2. A chef gives you a recipe that calls for ½ quart of milk and asks you to make one half of the recipe. How many PINTS of milk will you use? _______ pints.

3. Mirepoix is a combination of onions, celery and carrots. There are two parts onions, one part carrots and one part celery. If the chef asks for 20 pounds of mirepoix, how much onions, celery and carrots would you give him?

____ pounds onions

____ pounds celery

____ pounds carrots

4. You have to simmer chicken stock for six to eight hours. If you start it at 8:15 a.m., when is the soonest it will be ready? _______. When is the latest it will be ready? _______.

5. You have to pull a roast out of the oven to rest 30 minutes before carving, and it will take four hours to cook. If you want to carve the roast at 1:30 p.m., what time will you put it in the oven? _______.

6. The little hand on the clock is on the 8 and the big hand is on the 6. What time will it be in 75 minutes? _______.

7. Food costs should be between 25% to 30% of sales. If a restaurant sold $100 of food, its costs should be between $_______ and $_______.

8. In determining prices to charge a customer, many chefs take the cost of food and multiply it times three. If the food ingredients are $3.35 for a plate of food, what will the chef charge the customer for the food? $_______.

9. You need to be at your work station in the kitchen every morning before 8:30 a.m. It takes you 40 minutes to get there by bus, 10 minutes to get your uniform on and go to the restroom and five minutes for a cup of coffee. What is the latest time you can leave home and still get to work on time? _______ a.m.

10. The waitress gives you 33% of her tips. If the waitress got $18.00 in tips for the day, how much should she give you? $_______. The waitress gives you 1/3 of her tips. If the waitress got $18.00 in tips for the day, how much should she give you? $_______.

11. The chef asks you to count the total weight of potatoes in the store room. You count 1¾ pounds yellow potatoes, 5½ pounds brown potatoes, and 3-1/8 pounds red potatoes. What is the total amount of weight of potatoes? _______ pounds.

12. You are asked to peel and chop 40 pounds of carrots. Carrots come in 50-pound bags. What percentage of the bag do you need to peel and chop? _______%

13. How many quarts are in one gallon? _______.

14. How many ounces are in a cup? _______.

15. A dinner item is sold for $20.00. It costs $6.50 for the food on the plate, $6.35 for the labor in making the food, and $5.90 for the overhead of the restaurant. How much profit does the restaurant make on that item? $_______.

16. A teaspoon is 1/3 of a tablespoon. How many teaspoons are in one tablespoon? _______.

17. A roast takes 20 minutes per pound to cook. If you have an 11-pound roast, how many hours and minutes will it take to cook? _______ hours, _______ minutes.

18. You want to make sure that you get paid for the amount of time you work. You don’t get paid for a 30-minute lunch break. You signed in at 8:30 a.m. and worked until 4:00 p.m. and took 30 minutes for lunch. How many hours should you be paid for? _______ hours.

19. The big hand of the clock is on the 12, the small hand is on the 3. What time was it 90 minutes earlier? _______.

20. Four gallons of water weigh approximately 28 pounds. Approximately how much does each gallon of water weigh? _______ pounds.

21. A pound is 16 ounces. How many ounces are there in a ¼ of a pound? _______. How many ounces in 6 pounds? _______.

22. How many ounces are there in 2.75 pounds? _______.

23. The chef asked you to cut a cake into tenths. How many pieces of cake will there be? _______.

24. While in culinary training you must be in the class every day until 3:00 p.m. Your doctor’s office is 20 minutes away from the school. If you need to make a doctor’s appointment, you need to make it after what time? _______.

25. While in culinary training you must be in the class every day before 8:30 a.m. If you need to drop someone off each morning no later than 9:00 a.m., what time do you need to be in class? _______.


Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Additional Info

  • topics: Classroom Preparation
  • Chef Name: Adam Weiner

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