Food service slang: 20 insider kitchen terms
Every industry has its own “insider” jargon and professional kitchens are no exception. It’s efficient and keeps the communication flowing when the kitchen staff is slammed. While some kitchens may have their own unique language, many of these terms are universal throughout the food service industry. Here’s a guide to common kitchen slang:
1. “86”: When you run out of an ingredient and can no longer make a particular dish. You “86” the chicken wings on the menu when they’re all gone.
2. Reggae: The dish is to be prepared as described, no modifications.
3. On the fly: When a server forgets to write down part of an order or there’s a mistake in the preparation, you “make it on the fly” which means remake it as fast as possible.
4. Off line: The expediter (responsible for making sure all food gets out at the same time) needs to know if you step away from the cooking line for a moment. Saying you’re "off line" communicates you're gone for a moment.
5. Atras: Spanish for “behind you.” It’s used to alert those around you that you’re behind them and may be carrying something hot or sharp.
6. 5-Out: 5-out, 3-out, and so on…. lets the other cooks in a busy kitchen know that you will be ready to plate in 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, or whatever time you say.
7. Running the pass: The person who “runs the pass” is in charge of informing the cooks what they’ll be cooking as each order comes in. They monitor the order tickets and how quickly they go out and how they look before they’re picked up.
8. Dying on the pass: Hot food that’s ready to go out and has been sitting on the “pass” for a long time is getting cold. The “pass” is the long, flat area where dishes are plated and ready to be picked up by servers.
9. Expo: Term for the expediter, who coordinates all incoming tickets and is responsible for quality control. As in, “Who’s on Expo tonight?”
10. Mise: Pronounced “meez.” Stands for mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs), a French term for having all your prep done before you start cooking: all ingredients measures, bowls and tools ready and pans prepared.
11. Fire: When a ticket comes in, those items that need to be prepared now are “fired.” In other words, those dishes need to get on the grill and readied for the table. As in, “fire” the toast 1 minute before the eggs are done.
12. GBD: An acronym for Golden Brown and Delicious. It’s shorthand for how the chef wants something prepared.
13. In the Weeds: When you’ve reached the point on the line where you’re completely jammed and can’t keep up. A call for some help to get back on track.
14. Kill it: When the guest wants his meat really well done. For example, “I need a burger and fries, kill it,” means more well-done than usual.
15. Shoemaker: a nickname you don’t want in the kitchen. It means you have a sloppy station, are unable to follow directions and find yourself cutting corners. Time to move on.
16. Sandbagging: Sometimes you just have to cook something ahead of time and reheat it when the order comes in… it’s not ideal, but that’s sandbagging.
17. Burn the Ice: Disposing of the ice in the ice machine at your station or under the bar by pouring hot water over it.
18. All Day: This is the total amount of dishes one cook is preparing in one specific pick-up. For example, the cook may ask the chef “How many burgers am I working?” Chef will reply: “You have 2 bison, 2 beef and one veggie, all day.”
19. Flash: If a bit of protein in slightly undercooked, the cook can “flash it” in the oven for a few minutes to raise the temperature.
20. Check your plates!: In an open kitchen where the cooks can see the patrons, it signals that an attractive patron is in the dining room.