The Ultimate Kitchen Slang List: Terms, Jargon, and Lingo
Being knowledgeable about the kitchen slang that your staff uses is crucial as a restaurant owner. By understanding the kitchen terms they are using, you’ll be able to communicate better with them and better understand what is going on in the kitchen.
This blog post aims to provide an insight into the common kitchen lingo used in a professional setting. By elaborating on the meaning of these slang terms, this post intends to make you more proficient in kitchen vocabulary. Whether you're a newcomer to the restaurant world or seeking to refresh your memory, continue reading for valuable knowledge!
Kitchen Slang Terms Lingo
What's the deal with all this kitchen slang? It's like another language!
If you have experience working in a professional kitchen or being around one, you're likely aware of the abundant use of slang, which can be perplexing for those unfamiliar with it.
Here are some of the most common terms you'll hear in a kitchen:
A type of menu in which guests order individual dishes from a list of options.
À La Minute
The term "à la minute" comes from French and means literally, "in a minute," indicating food that is prepared fresh, just before it is served.
Kitchen staff use the term "all day" to indicate the total number of orders needed for a specific dish.
Back of house typically refers to the area behind the scenes in a restaurant where food is prepared and cooked. This includes the kitchen, storage areas, and other workspaces where chefs, cooks, prep staff, and dishwashers primarily operate. It is sometimes simply referred to as "BOH".
A container of hot water used for keeping food warm.
A term used to indicate that someone is walking or moving behind another person in a crowded kitchen to avoid collisions or accidents.
In kitchen jargon, a "Cambro" refers to a sizable plastic pan that's often utilized to store perishable and non-perishable food items, or to transport hot and cold dishes. The term "Cambro" originated from the brand name of the company that produces these containers.
Chef de Partie
A chef in charge of a particular station or section of a kitchen.
In a professional kitchen, the Chef de Partie holds a crucial role, reporting to the Sous Chef or Executive Chef. This position involves being responsible for a specific section or station in the kitchen, such as the grill, sauté, or pastry section, and planning, preparing, and executing dishes from their section to ensure they are of high quality and meet the standards set by the head chef or restaurant.
A written order for food or drink items from a customer.
In a restaurant or establishment, the number of guests or tables served is referred to as covers. The covers represent the total number of people or parties that have been served or are currently being served.
Cremate it in kitchen slang is an expression used to describe overcooking food to the point of charring or burning.
Cryovacing is a preservation technique used in the food industry that involves vacuum-sealing food in plastic to extend its shelf life.
A term used in restaurant kitchens to refer to food that can’t be served. It may be cold, overcooked, prepared incorrectly, or forgotten by a server. When a Dead Plate is discovered, it must be discarded and the dish remade in order to maintain customer satisfaction.
Slang for a table that seats two guests.
"Dragging" refers to situations where a task, order, or process takes significantly longer than expected to finish.
Refers to the process of beginning to cook a particular menu item. After receiving an order for a dish, a chef or cook will typically start the cooking process by "dropping" the necessary ingredients into the cooking vessel or cooking surface.
A duplicate copy of a chit or order ticket.
In the restaurant business, “dying” is a term that refers to food and drinks that have sat around for too long and lost their quality, usually due to heat or water. A drink that has been sitting on the counter for too long might be watered down from melting ice, or a dish that has been sitting under heat lamps for too long could dry up. To avoid quality degradation, restaurants must pay attention to how long food items have been out and either serve them quickly or discard them.
Dying on the Pass
This term refers to a dish that sits for too long at the pass—the area where cooked dishes are placed, waiting for servers to pick them up. Dying on the pass means that the food loses its freshness, optimal temperature, or presentation, potentially compromising the overall dining experience.
Expo, short for "expeditor," is the person responsible for coordinating the flow of orders between the kitchen and dining room. They ensure dishes are ready for servers to deliver, monitor food quality, and maintain a smooth-running service. The expo is the critical link between the back-of-house and front-of-house staff.
First In, First Out
A method of stock rotation in which older products are used first to ensure freshness.
To begin cooking or preparing a dish.
Flash cooking is a technique whereby food is cooked quickly on high heat for a short duration. The purpose of flashing is to cook the food quickly while maintaining its texture, flavor, and nutritional value.
The term "floor" pertains to the designated dining space within a restaurant where customers are seated to savor their meals. Front-of-house staff, such as restaurant bartenders, servers, and hosts, primarily work on the floor. Effective communication between the floor and kitchen staff is vital to ensure a seamless dining experience.
The cost of ingredients and supplies used to prepare a dish.
Front Of House
Refers to the area of a restaurant or establishment where guests are served and the staff interacts with customers.
Heard / Heard That
A response to indicate that an order or instruction has been received and acknowledged. This response is commonly used by kitchen staff or servers to indicate that they have received and understood a request from a colleague or customer.
A term used to describe a burger or other meat that has been overcooked and is dry and tough.
Refers to the instruction to delay or pause a specific dish or item in the cooking process. However, in some contexts, "hold" can also mean to leave something out or omit it.
In the Weeds / Weeded
"Weeded" or "In the Weeds" is a phrase used to describe a kitchen that is having a tough time keeping up with orders and is falling behind. A variety of factors, including an overwhelming number of incoming orders, understaffed kitchen personnel, or other problems that are impacting the kitchen's efficiency, can cause delays.
When someone in the kitchen says "kill it," they usually mean to cook a dish extremely well-done, particularly for proteins like steak or poultry.
A remarkably durable plastic container primarily used for food storage in professional kitchens. (commonly referred to as Cambro)
A "Low Boy" is a common term used in the restaurant industry to describe a specific type of refrigerator. It is designed to be installed below the counter, making it a convenient and space-saving option in commercial kitchens.
In a restaurant or establishment, "mains" refer to the main courses of a meal.
Combining two or more containers, typically to consolidate contents or save space.
Short for "Mise en Place," this term signifies that chefs have completed all necessary prep work for each dish or have ingredients ready for a shift.
The act of heating food in a microwave oven is commonly referred to by this term. This is a quick and convenient way to heat or reheat food, especially for smaller portions or single servings.
Refers to the next order or dish to be prepared.
On the Fly
To cook a dish quickly, often to accommodate a special request from a customer.
On the Line
Refers to the act of working on the cooking line, where the food is prepared and cooked to order. This area is typically where the head chef and line cooks work together to create dishes for customers.
Being "on the line" means you are actively cooking and preparing dishes, and working efficiently to keep up with customer demand.
OTS stands for "On The Side." When a guest requests an ingredient or a sauce OTS, they want it served separately from the main dish, allowing them to control the quantity and distribution themselves.
The pass is the area in a restaurant kitchen where cooked dishes are assembled, garnished, and checked for quality before being picked up by servers. The expeditor (expo) often oversees the pass, ensuring smooth communication between the kitchen and dining room staff.
Pump It Out
"Pump it out" means to work fast and efficiently to get food orders out quickly.
Refers to the act of remaking or reheating a dish that was not prepared to the customer's satisfaction.
Run the Dish
To "run the dish" means to physically deliver a completed dish from the kitchen to a guest's table. Although restaurant servers typically perform this task, any available staff member, including chefs, may be asked to help out when the restaurant is busy.
Running the Pass
To manage the movement of dishes from the kitchen to the dining area in a restaurant kitchen, an individual called "running the pass" is usually stationed at the pass, which is where food orders are received and inspected before they are served to the customers.
As orders come in, the chef running the pass will call them out to the cooks who are preparing them, and make sure that everything is coming together smoothly.
The term "shelf life" in the culinary industry pertains to the duration which food can be preserved before it gets spoiled.
In kitchen slang, "shoe" refers to someone who is a bad cook. For example, "Don't let Tom cook, he's a total shoe in the kitchen."
A hot metal platter used for cooking or serving meat and other dishes.
Sauce on the Side.
Similar to "OTS," "SOS" refers to a guest's request for sauce to be served separately from the main dish. It allows the guest to control the amount and application of the sauce.
The second in command in a kitchen, responsible for supervising and overseeing the work of other chefs.
This term is often used when trying to make a smaller amount of a certain ingredient go a long way.
Short for "substitute," indicating a requested change or replacement in a dish or ingredient.
The Rail / Board
Refers to the area where chits or order tickets are hung or clipped for the kitchen staff to see. This area is typically located near the pass or expo station, and serves as a central location for communication and organization between the front of house and back of house staff.
A "ticket" refers to the physical printout that contains the order details for a table in a restaurant. This ticket is typically hung up in the kitchen area or near the cooking station, so that the chef and other kitchen staff can easily reference it to prepare and serve the order accurately and efficiently.
Two Top / Three Top
Slang terms used to refer to a table that seats two or three guests, respectively. These terms are typically used by front of house staff, such as servers or restaurant hostesses, to communicate information about seating arrangements to other staff members.
In the restaurant industry, the term used to signify that a dish or menu item is prepared and waiting to be served at the table. It means that the dish or menu item is ready and available for the server to pick up from the service window and deliver to the customer.
A large, refrigerated storage space used for storing food and ingredients.
Waxing a Table
Waxing a table is kitchen slang for giving someone VIP treatment. It means to go above and beyond the normal service you would provide, in order to make someone feel like a very special guest.
Refers to the heated area where food is placed to be picked up and served to customers. This is typically a designated spot near the pass or service area, where kitchen staff can easily place finished dishes and where servers can easily retrieve them for delivery to customers.
The phrase "yes, chef" is a response indicating acknowledgement and obedience to a chef's order or instruction. Having clear communication channels between the head chef and their staff is a vital component of keeping a kitchen well-organized and efficient.
The term "86" is an industry-specific slang used in the restaurant industry to convey that a menu item is no longer available or should be removed.
It can apply to specific ingredients, menu items, or even instructions to stop serving a particular guest.
# Out refers to the number of minutes left for a dish to be ready to be served to a customer. To clarify, when a server orders a steak in a professional kitchen and it's almost ready, the chef might shout, "2 out on the steak!" to inform the server that the dish will be ready in 2 minutes.
It is typically used in commercial cooking to denote the size of pans. For instance, a #6-pan is 6 inches in size, while a #a 9-pan would measure 9 inches across. This terminology is often used in restaurant kitchens and by professional chefs to communicate effectively about the tools they are using.
Interested in learning more? Head over to our blog post about culinary terms!
We hope it was helpful in increasing your familiarity with the language used in a professional kitchen setting. By understanding these kitchen terms, you'll be better equipped to communicate with your kitchen staff and run a more efficient operation. So, next time you're in the kitchen, impress your team with your new knowledge!
Frequently Asked Questions About Kitchen Slang
Are you feeling lost in the kitchen because of all the slang? Don't worry, we've got you covered with answers to some frequently asked questions about kitchen slang!
What Does Hands Mean In Kitchen Slang?
In restaurant and kitchen slang, when a chef or server calls for "hands," they are asking for someone to help them bring plates of food to the tables. This request is usually made when a large order is ready, and the chef or server needs help ferrying the plates to their diners.
What Do Chefs Yell In a Kitchen?
Chefs usually shout various phrases while working in a kitchen, such as "Yes, Chef!" to acknowledge instructions, "Behind!" to alert colleagues when passing by, "Hot!" to warn about hot items, and "Order in!" or "Order up!" to communicate new orders or completed dishes. These exclamations help maintain smooth communication, safety, and efficiency in a fast-paced environment.
Why Do Chefs Say Oui?
In French, “oui” is the word for “yes.” Chefs say oui to affirm a request or to express agreement.