A Secret Language: Kitchenese

Whenever I talk about work with my roommates or parents, I usually get a “Huh? What’s that mean?” somewhere along in the conversation. Working in the foodservice industry, we speak in our own language of sorts. I’ll call it Kitchenese. There are so many terms used to describe instances or equipment that it can sometimes be hard to understand to someone who doesn’t work in the industry. So I’m here to crack the code and break some of it down!

House– This typically means whatever establishment you work in. It’s almost a term of endearment since food service people tend to throw their heart and souls into food. For example: How many onions do we have in house? What’s the house cake for today? Are those chocolate brioche for house or for orders?
Front of House (FOH)– All people who work with the customers! This typically means hosts, servers, bartenders, wait staff, general managers, etc.
Back of House (BOH)– All the behind scenes staff! Chefs, cooks, pastry teams, stewards, dishwashers, delivery drivers, etc.
68– This means that we now have something in stock. At the bakery, I use it to tell the FOH what products we have available as they become available throughout the day!
86– The opposite of 68, so basically it’s what we run out of. We make these announcements in front of customers and most of the time they don’t know what we mean which allows FOH to tell them more politely when we’re out of an item.
Pars– Similar to a golf course! Pars are what you’re expected to make (in our case per day). Sometimes we talk about upping pars when we expect a larger crowd or lowering them in case of a snowstorm or something along those lines.
All Day– This refers to all the product you have of something before you run out and need to 86 it. Can also refer to all the items on an order.
Short– Usually refers to an order when you don’t have enough to give to someone. Typically it’s used in a sentence like this followed by fast improvisation: Fuckin’ A. I’m short 3 chocolate chip cookies. I’ll have to pull from house and just have to lower the pars.
Mise/ Mise En Place– In French, it means to “put in place” or prepare ahead of time. This usually means weighing/measuring out all ingredients before starting a recipe or prepping vegetables (aka veg) and other products for use later.
Behind/Beside You/ Above You/ Atras– “Get out of my way. No really, GET THE EFF OUT OF MY WAY” in both English and Spanish.
Hot/Caliente– Carrying a hot pot or pan and you don’t want anyone to turn around, bump into you and then blame you for their burn. So you say this like 12 times while carrying a pot from the stove to your station to continue your work. Or, “GET OUT OF MY WAY I HAVE A HOT POT”
Knife– “Hey, I’m carrying this super sharp knife behind you” “GET OUT OF MY WAY I HAVE A KNIFE”
Opening/Closing– Opening the oven doors, fridge doors, ice machine doors. “GET OUT OF MY WAY I’M OPENING SOMETHING”
Coming Out/Corner– Announcing where you are in a room and basically verbally tell people when you’re stalking them. “Hey, I’m coming around the corner!” “I’m coming out of the fridge!” “Peekaboo, I’m sneaking out behind this rolling rack!”
Stage- It’s what you do when interviewing for a job. So you basically go work for a couple hours for free somewhere so you can see what kind of work they do, what they’d expect you to do and whether or not you fit in with the rest of the staff. A working interview, basically.
Family Meal/Staff Meal/Snack Tray– Perks of being in the industry. All broken, overcooked, under-baked or generally ugly products are put up for the staff to nibble on. Usually in restaurants, a “family meal” is made of older or pretty basic products to consume before a dinner rush comes. You’re staff is your family and your restaurant is your house. Food is your life.
Low Boy– Another name for a short fridge who’s top usually doubles as a work station.
Walk In– Another name for a huge refrigerator and freezer that holds the majority of the products/ingredients in house.
Robocoup, Hotel Pans, Still Oven, Convection Oven, Rolling Rack, etc– All names of equipment used in the kitchen
Fire– Typically used more-so in restaurants. It refers to starting to cook a meal for a table. Someone will call out “Fire two fish, one gchix and 3 risottos all day”
Board/Rail– This is a piece of equipment that holds all of the orders/tickets in place. Tickets are placed on the rail in the order that they come to the chefs.
6 top,4 top, Deuce– Refers to how many people are in a party. 6 top means 6 guests, 4 top means 4 guests and deuce refers to two.
Covers– Usually means how many people come on any given day/night/shift. This varies depending on restaurant sizing.
In the weeds– Staff is behind on the orders, things are going to shit and slight panic ensues. Usually is a way of asking for help when you tell someone you’re in the weeds.

These terms are really only a few of the major ones used in the industry. Most of these we use in the bakery however, if you work in restaurants, a whole separate slew of slang is thrown at ya! If I ever use these in another blog post, I hope this guide helps those of you not involved in food service to decipher the code.

Holla atchu, boo thangs. Hope you all have a great weekend. Check back on Tuesday for another blog post!

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