Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kitchen Jargon Demystified

The professional kitchen is an entirely different world with its own set of rules. It also has its own language-- one with strange references and hard-to-understand phrases. Here, I'm uncovering just a few of those many terms used almost daily in the kitchen.

Short for the french term 'mise-en-place' which means 'everything in place' a.k.a perfectly organized. It doesn't just refer to the actual prep but also having your utensils, plates, sauces and such on hand and in the right place positioned according to the perfect laws of ergonomics. The better the mise en place, the better the night will be. Every professional cook in the world will agree to that.

French word for "Yes" often used in response to Chef's instructions. The opposite, No, is seldom used.

Sometimes confused with the dirtbag, this is someone who takes the shortcut route to preparing something, that usually ends up being a lower quality product.

Someone who's personal hygiene is questionable or maintains a messy work environment around him.

What the kitchen team needs to do to ensure a smooth service when the restaurant is really busy and orders are pouring in. A busy restaurant has several small pushes but also one big push during the busiest time of the night. Focus, organization, speed, and mad skills are critical in ensuring a particular station or the entire kitchen avoids being in the shits.

In the shits/going down
When a particular station or the entire kitchen (a nightmare!) fails to be able to cope with the orders coming in from the dining room. This could be due to several factors like poor leadership, bad organization, lack of focus etc.

A VIP is usually a really important customer whose order is handled very meticulously and sometimes prepared by the chef himself. He could be a restaurant critic, a diplomat, or even a prominent regular client.

On the fly
When an order needs to be prepared and sent out as soon as possible. It is usually necessitated due to a waiter dropping a plate or taking down the wrong order.

2 minutes to the window
When a cook at a station notifies the other cooks that his dish on the order will take a certain amount of time to reach the pass so that the other cooks can coordinate and bring up their food at the same time. The cook with the longest time is the one to usually lead the rest.

When an item is no longer available on the menu for the customer to order. This could be due to unavailability of ingredients or an unusually high consumption of the particular dish.

When an order ticket is called out to the kitchen by the expo/chef to notify the cooks as to what dishes are to be prepared.

Pick up
When an order that has been fired is needed to be prepared and sent to the table.

Running Order
When an order that has already gone out to a table is repeated, usually because the customer liked it and wants another one.

The chef's instructions to a cook to make and plate a dish again because he is not happy with the outcome.

The precious gateway between the cooks and the chef in the kitchen where prepared food is placed for the chef to assess before it is sent out to the dining room.

Abbreviation for 'Golden Brown & Delicious', it usually applies to fried foods and refers to the ideal outcome.

Refers to the walk-in refrigerator where most produce and dairy are usually stored.

Refers to the deep freezer.

Nuke it
Slang instruction for microwaving a certain food.

The expediter who calls out the orders in a kitchen. This is usually the chef in most kitchen although certain kitchens employ senior cooks for this purpose as well.

Bang out
Slang for getting a certain work done very quickly.

Shut it down
Chef intimating the cooks that there will be no more food served and they can clean up the kitchen and go home. Contrary to what certain reality kitchen shows (Read: Hell's Kitchen) depict, this happens only at the end of the night and not when the kitchen team is not functioning properly.

Remember, the above terms are used in professional kitchens by trained professional cooks only. Do not try these at home.


  1. Interesting :) Do they apply to Indian kitchen as well?

    1. Most of the formal terms do but the slangs don't.