Slang and Lingo Every Chef Should Learn

Like most other jobs, chefs have their very own specific words for food, kitchen equipment and much more. 

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December 17, 2015 3 min read
Chefs utilize a load of helpful lingo in their daily routines.

Chefs utilize a load of helpful lingo in their daily routines.

Regardless of the industry you work in, almost every job develops its own unique language. That is especially true of chefs, who have words and phrases to describe everything from certain foods to cooking techniques and even pieces of kitchen equipment. Though you may have heard some of these during your culinary arts program, let the following serve as a helpful study guide to mastering all the important pieces of chef slang and lingo:

Running the pass: Each night, one chef must be responsible for assigning everyone else a dish as orders come in. Those who run the pass, as it were, have to not only give out individual tickets but make sure they’re completed in a timely manner. For those unaware, the pass refers to the flat surface where wait staff pick up completed orders.

Order and fire: The former is a command to start preparing a dish, like “Order up, filet mignon.” However, chefs won’t actually start cooking until they hear the head chef exclaim “fire.”

Mise: This phrase is a shorthand version of the traditional French phrase “Mise en place,” which translates to “everything in its place.” That means the preset ingredients that a chef will need for his or her station.

Jeopardy/Wheel of Fortune crowd: For some chefs, this can be a slightly derogatory term for an older dining crowd. The name itself refers to the two television shows “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune,” both of which are stereotypical favorites of those over the age of 65. However, it can also refer to a method of preparing a dish, specifically, smaller portions priced much lower than average. This crowd predominantly eats before the larger dinner rush.

86’d: Chefs refer to a dish being 86’d when they run out of the meal. However, chefs can also 86 a meal for other reasons. Most often, that includes if they’re unhappy with the final quality, if it’s unnecessarily complex or if people simply aren’t ordering it.

Count: If a kitchen wants to avoid 86-ing a meal, everyone needs to pay attention to the count. For each meal, chefs need to call out how much is left so that every member of the cooking staff knows if a dish is ready to be pulled or not. An example of calling the count is “We’ve got a count of 6 on the salmon, let everyone know.”

Cremate/Pittsburgh rare/paddy well: Each of these terms refers to a meal’s level of doneness. Cremate, as one might imagine, is when a meal has been overly charred, and is generally considered to be all but tasteless. On the flip side of that, Pittsburgh rare is when a meal is still rare on the inside despite being burnt to a crisp on the outside. Paddy well is actually the step beyond cremate; that is, the meal is akin to a chunk of lifeless charcoal.

There are even nicknames for certain appliances. A low-boy refers to an under-the-counter refrigerator, while the Queez is a generic term for any food processor.

S.O.S.: That means sauce on the side. Similarly, chefs might also get a request for hold, which means to exclude certain items, or sub, which is to replace one thing, like French fries, with another, like mashed potatoes.

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