In a recent post, we outlined the rich and unique vocabulary that all chefs share. From kitchen equipment and techniques to descriptions of customers, there is practically a word to suit any situation a chef might face. As you continue to make your way through a culinary arts program, be sure to add these words to your study guide:
Heard that: This is a catch-all response in the kitchen to relay confirmation. Can be used when calling in an order or if someone’s moving through the kitchen space with a hot plate.
Family meal: This has two distinct meanings. The first is a meal that new chefs will use to better acquaint themselves with the restaurant’s menu and overall cooking approach and aesthetic. Family meal can also refer to a dish made from the leftovers of that day or evening’s service.
Cows and pigs: Time is of the essence in most kitchens, which is why vocal shorthand is so important. Rather than say steak or short ribs, chefs will save a few precious moments by saying cow and pig, respectively. Some chefs will even clarify how the item should be prepared, like “Cow medium rare.”
All-Day: Spend any extended period working in a kitchen, and you’re bound to hear “All-Day” uttered plenty of times. It’s a quick and easy way of keeping count of items on the kitchen rail or board. So, for instance, you might hear something like, “Yes, chef, there are five meatloaf platters all-day,” or even just “four fettuccine bowls all-day.” It’s important to keep count so that a kitchen never misses out on a specific order, which can throw off the entire delivery process during especially busy meal services.
Covers: A straightforward term for customers. For instance, “Thursday was crazy; we did close to 120 covers in the dinner service alone.”
Set it and forget it: In any kitchen, there are dishes that effectively cook themselves, and that’s where the term set it and forget it comes from. With these dishes, a chef might start a pan and then move it to the back burner, which then gives him or her time to focus on other tasks until it’s ready to be fired. This is a vital skill for chefs across the line, including the pantry and broiler station.
Expo: Though not a chef, this person plays an important role in the kitchen. The expo is the one responsible for coordinating between the kitchen and the customer’s table. That means he or she must give the orders to chefs, and once the food is ready, organizes it and delivers it to the respective table.
Walk-in and deep: The former refers to the refrigerator where most dairy and produce items are stored. The latter refers to the deep freezer, where a lot of the meat and poultry is kept on ice.
In the weeds: While there are slightly more derogatory variations, in the weeds is a friendlier way of saying the kitchen is behind on orders. If the restaurant had a bad night overall, you may hear some people say something like “We really got weeded tonight.”
Alley rally: In these gatherings, chefs talk about that day’s meal services and any other pertinent bits of info. Sometimes, these meetings will happen after service has ended and are used as a wrap-up, as opposed to a planning, session. Alternate terms include “curtain call” and “pre-shift.”
On the fly: When a dish is needed ASAP, expect to hear someone scream “on the fly” a handful of times. Usually this happens when a meal has been misplaced or was dropped by a waiter.
VIP: This refers to an especially important customer. This should indicate that the chef will need to take special steps when preparing his or her food. VIPs are usually long-time customers, restaurant critics or even certain delegates.
Phase: When a restaurant’s hit a slow period, management may send home servers, or phase these individuals. For instance, “We were crazy slow, so the boss phased Kim and Greg.”
Stretch it: Sometimes, restaurants have to deal with shortages of certain ingredients. When that happens, management may tell you to stretch important or pricey items, like salad dressings or even whole meals, like racks of ribs.