Some Need to Know Kitchen Lingo

Illinois BASSET
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In the hustle and bustle of the restaurant world, a secret language thrives, one that can leave newcomers feeling like fish out of water. It's a culinary cryptogram that separates the seasoned pros from the bewildered rookies, and it's as rich and diverse as the flavors on the menu.

Check out some examples below....

A few examples to keep an "ear" out for!

  • "Yes, Chef": It's the universal reply to any command barked out in the kitchen. It's not just about saying "yes" – it's a pledge of unwavering commitment.

  • "Heard": The simplest acknowledgment, often heard in the midst of the culinary chaos. It's the lifeline between a smoothly run kitchen and culinary chaos.

  • "Behind": A cautionary word that prevents accidents in the confined kitchen space. A gentle reminder to stay aware of your surroundings.

  • "Corner": The forewarning that a fellow kitchen warrior is about to emerge from around the bend with a tray of something hot, heavy, and probably very fragile.

  • "All Day": A mysterious numeric code that tells you how many of a particular dish are in the queue, waiting for their moment under the culinary spotlight.

  • "86": The guillotine falls – it's the end for a dish. If you hear this, don't even think about ordering it.

  • "Hands": The silent plea for help, sent from a frantic server's eyes to yours. It's a lifeline to ensure that the food gets to the customer hot and in one piece.

  • Chit: It's not a note passed in class; it's your ticket to the culinary rollercoaster, listing orders and keeping track of who's hungry.

  • Consommé: A delicate and clear soup that's a culinary feat of clarity, achieved by removing fat with the magic of egg whites.

  • Cartouche: This isn't a French art class; it's a parchment paper "lid" that seals in flavors and keeps your stews and sauces happily simmering.

  • In the weeds: That sinking feeling when you're overwhelmed with orders, and the kitchen suddenly becomes a jungle of chaos.

  • Escoffier-style French brigade: The culinary hierarchy from head chef to commis chef, a system as organized as a military operation, and as crucial to a restaurant's success.

  • Family meal: A communal feast where kitchen and waitstaff gather to fuel up before the restaurant's doors swing open.

  • Knocking on the walk-in door: It's not just a tap-tap; it's a warning signal that someone is entering or exiting the chilling embrace of the walk-in fridge.

  • Staging (or Trailing): An apprenticeship in the kitchen, where you don't just watch but roll up your sleeves and prove your culinary mettle.

That's just a Taste...

We've unraveled just a small slice of the rich tapestry of kitchen lingo that flavors the culinary world. But remember, these terms are just the tip of the spatula. Regional variations and unique expressions abound across the United States and around the globe. So, the next time you step into a restaurant or find yourself behind the scenes in a bustling kitchen, keep your ears peeled and your taste for language adventurous. There's always more to learn, more to discover, and more delicious linguistic surprises awaiting you in the diverse world of culinary jargon. Bon appétit!
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