If you've ever been in a professional restaurant kitchen, you may wonder what is going on.
People in chef's jackets running around yelling intangible things, carrying hot pots, and playing with sharp knives...
It's a lot to take in! But do you ever wonder what that silly jargon means? Today I will de-mystify some of the "chefspeak" that we use in the kitchen, and hopefully you can get some practice before you experience the real thing!
86: When working on the line, this term is used to relay to everyone around you (servers, Chef, other cooks), that a particular item is completely sold out, and not to continue selling it to customers.
Example: "86 chicken sandwich!"
All Day:All day refers to the amount of dishes you have cooking at one time, and is used as a mental tracker for a cook. It is verbally repeated back to the expediter right after they fire a dish, to indicate the dish they just fired, as well as the amount that they are currently cooking for seperate tables.
Example: "Ok, I need two flank steaks!"
"Two flank steaks heard, five all day Chef!"
Corner: Many kitchens are located in tight cramped spaces, and it is hard to see around a corner if you are walking with a large tray or a pot full of hot liquid. In order to reduce the amount of spills, falls, and burns, most cooks will say "corner" when they are headed around a blind corner so others will know they are there.
Cover: A cover is one customer in the dining room that orders food. If a restaurant says that they had 50 covers for lunch, it means that they served 50 people that particular day, whether or not those people ordered one course or three. Many restaurants have systems that count the number of covers (tracked by a reservation system like Open Table) in order to properly prep for dinner or lunch service.
Example: "We have 250 covers on the books today, looks like it's going to be a busy one!"
Firing:This phrase is used when the expediter, or the person relaying the orders between the front and back of house, starts to read a table's order to the rest of the kitchen. It not only tells the cooks what is being ordered, but it also indicates that they should start cooking that order right away.
Example: "Firing two scallops, one bass, and one chicken"
"Two scallops, one bass, one chicken heard Chef!"
Heard: This phrase is very similar to Yes Chef (see below), but is commonly used between co-workers.
Example: "Dropping chicken fingers in the fryer"
"Chicken fingers heard"
Hot Behind: This phrase is exactly what it sounds like! If you have a hot pan, pot, or tray of food, you say "hot behind" to indicate to the people around you that you have a hot item in your hand, so as not to burn them or yourself!
Example: "Hot pot behind! Coming behind with a hot pot, please be careful!"
On The Fly:If a Chef or expeditor needs a dish or item very quickly, they ask for it "on the fly". This means that the cooks have to drop what they are doing and put all of their focus on getting this item out to the customer.
Example: "I need one roasted chicken on the fly, hurry!"
"yes Chef, one chicken on the fly!"
In The Weeds: If you are extremely swamped with your work and are falling behind, whether it is during prep or service itself, you are "in the weeds". It is difficult to get out of the weeds, so a cook must do everything in their power to focus and push in order to get the food to the customer!
Stop, Drop and Scrape: This term is used strictly by CIA bakers, and although it is silly, it works! In particular, one should stop, drop, and scrape their mixing bowl while creaming butter and sugar, mixing cookie dough, incorperating eggs into a batter, or anything else that would require all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl to be incorperated into the product.
Example: "After adding your eggs, stop, drop, and scrape."
Working: Working is a way to indicate that you are in the process of completing the chef's orders, but aren't quite done yet. Many times a Chef will go through the prep list and call out to see how the line is doing with their work. If a cook is still busy completing a task when it is called out, they will respond with "working" so the Chef knows that it is being done.
Example: "Where are we with the pasta prep?"
Yes Chef: This callback is used every time the Chef gives orders. It relays that the students or cooks have heard what the Chef has said, and are working on it as soon as possible.
Example: "Could somebody please grab me two wooden spoons?"
"yes Chef, working on that right away!"
If you don't have the chance to work in a professional kitchen before you start your schooling here at the CIA, a really good (and cheesy) way to experience the feel of a kitchen (and all of its lingo) would be to watch Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille! It may seem silly, but famed Chef Thomas Keller collaborated on the making of the kitchen scenes, and it is amazing at how accurate the Chef Lingo is in the Gusteau Kitchen!
Stay hungry and curious,