The Essential Kitchen Jargon Every Aspiring Chef Should Know

We teach our C-CAP students everything from knife skills to life skills but one thing they don’t learn until their first day on the job is how to talk like a chef. With job training in full swing, many of our students are learning first hand the complexities of the language of the kitchen. For those non-chefs out there, imagine it’s your first day on the job and the head chef screams, “you’ve got three salmon all day, I need two steaks on the fly and if you didn’t do enough mise we’ll be 86 chicken by 6!” What does she mean ‘all-day’? What the h*@# is 86 and why is the steak flying? Don’t worry! Here is the essential kitchen jargon you need to know before stepping foot in the BOH*.

  1. On the line – the ‘line’ is the kitchen space where the active cooking is done, often set up in a horizontal line. This is where the term ‘line cook’ comes from.
  2. Run a dish – Running refers to bringing a dish to a table. You will often hear ‘I need someone to run this now!’ or ‘I need a runner over here!’
  3. Cambro – a large, square plastic storage container. They generally have different colored tops for the different sizes, and are referred to as such – i.e. “grab me a red top!”
  4. On the fly – When a dish is needed immediately it gets to skip the line, this is often because of a mistake – i.e. “Give me two waffles on the fly!”
  5. Fire – An order given by the head of the line to start preparing your order – i.e. “Fire the lamb!”
  6. Mise – Short for ‘Mise en Place’, this refers to having everything prepped and in its place before service.
  7. All day – The amount of orders you have to cook at any given moment. For example, if one hamburger comes in on a ticket and then two more come in on another, you have three hamburgers all day.
  8. On deck – This refers to what you have coming up – i.e. “three hamburgers all day, two pastas on deck”
  9. 86 – This refers to when you’re out of a dish. There are lots of theories on where this term came from, but no matter the source, it’s a very important one to learn!
  10. In the weeds – When you’re far behind and it will take you a long time to catch up, you are ‘in the weeds.’
  11. To short – If a purveyor doesn’t bring you your full order, they ‘shorted’ you. For example if you ordered four cases of potatoes and they only bring you three, you can scream, “They shorted me a case of taters!”
  12. Behind – This one’s essential! You will hear chefs and waiters alike calling ‘behind’ when they walk behind anyone that’s working so that the person knows not to step backwards. If you don’t use this you will be in deep trouble or covered with hot food!
  13. Trail / Stage – A working interview in the kitchen is called a trail or a stage. Cooks will often ‘trail’ for a day, or ‘stage’ for a few days or a few weeks unpaid before they are hired or to gain more experience.
  14. Covers – Covers refers to the amount of people you served in a night – i.e. “We pulled 400 covers last night!”
  15. (Number)-top – This refers to how many people a particular table seats – i.e. a 12-top is a table for twelve.
  16. *BOH / FOH – BOH stands for Back of House, this refers to people that work in the kitchen. FOH stands for Front of House, this refers to anyone that works ‘on the floor’, or in the front of the restaurant.
  17. Low-boy – A low boy is a fridge that goes under the counter and opens up by your knees.
  18. Pick up – This refers to the FOH staff picking up the food and bringing it to the table – i.e. “I need a pick up ASAP! The food is dying on the pass here!”
  19. Speed rack – A tall metal rack on wheels used to store sheet pans.
  20. Hotel Pan – A deeper style pan (about two inches deep) that you often see used in hotels above Bunsen burners to serve buffet style food.

Tweet us your kitchen jargon and war stories @ccapinc #KitchenJargon!

By Guest Blogger Eliza Loehr

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