One of my friends posted a link to an article recently about Kitchen Slang 101. It opened with a paragraph written in what most people would probably consider to be a foreign language, but it made complete sense to me after having walked the walk and talked the talk for the past four months. (Not to mention I watched an awful lot of cooking reality TV shows prior — Gordon Ramsay fans, anyone?)
I thought it would be helpful for Matcha Bunny readers as well, since I know a lot of my entries (often typed with fervor and likely some delirium after a twelve-hour, caffeine-fueled shift) may sound great in my head but not make sense to anyone else. Some of the terms vary from kitchen to kitchen, but many are surprisingly universal amid the subculture of Kitchen Life.
Here are a few of my favorites from the list of Kitchen Slang 101:
1. Running the Pass / Running the Board: The “pass” is the window where food is transferred from the kitchen (“back of the house”) to the servers (“front of the house”). There is an expeditor (the executive chef, sous chef, chef du cuisine) who runs the pass, calling out orders, coordinating tickets, and making sure that subsequent courses are not fired until the diners are ready. The “board” or “rail” is positioned at each station and lined with “dupes” (duplicate tickets). The person running the board is responsible for ensuring that his/her station syncs up with other stations that have items on the same ticket so that the whole table arrives at the pass simultaneously.
2. Mise: Short for mise en place (French for “everything in its place”), this is the lifeblood of a station. A well-organized, well-stocked mise (pronounced MEEZ) will make a night go smoothly. Aside from borrowing pinches of salt though, do NOT take or rearrange someone else’s mise.
3. On the Books, Covers, #-Top: The number of people “on the books” refers to how many total people have made reservations for a given night’s service. The number of “covers” is how many diners were served on a given night. A #-top refers to the number of diners at a table; a four-top is pretty standard, a 15-top is a nightmare. You can also use #-top to refer to the table itself that can accommodate X number of diners.
4. 1/9 Pan, 1/6 Pan, 1/3 Pan, 1/2 Pan, Hotel Pan: Those metal or plastic trays have a lot of names depending on their size. The smallest one, a 1/9th pan, is so named because nine of them can fit in a full pan. From my observation, our kitchen will abbreviate the sound to “nine pan” and drop the “nth” for speed. On my first day in the kitchen, Chef took me aside and said, “Let me show you around.” He pointed to each of the pans and called them by name in rapid succession. When he finished, he asked, “Think you can remember all that?” No pressure….
5. Soigne: Seeing this one on the list made me laugh out loud. Chef says it all the time and I really had no idea exactly what it meant nor how it would be spelled. Soigne (swan-YAY) simply means with finesse. This is especially important for VIP tickets.
6. Stagiaire/Stage: That’s me :) I hope by now, all of you Matcha Bunny readers knows what this term means! Just remember, it’s not stage like a performance. It’s stage, which rhymes with fromage.
I was surprised to see so many terms compiled in one place. This list really does help you talk like a line cook… aside from cursing like a sailor. Just another reason that working in a kitchen is not for the weak of heart. haha.