Monday, May 7, 2012

Kitchen slang/phrases

It's been said I should write something on this topic, since I've been considered an expert on this catagory.  If this were ever a topic on Jeopardy! I'd probably take home some mad cash.  Especially if there was one of those daily double things there.  That'd be sweet.

"Get the cigar"   - roughly translated, getting chewed out by the Chef or Sous.  Not used as commonly as it used to be.  In a sentence, "Ben just burned that lobster bisque, he's gonna get the cigar for sure."

"Magic dust, Japanese magic dust, glue, meat glue"  - terms for transglutaminase, an enzyme that sticks meat to... well, other meat or similar protein.  Often snuck into culinary competitions years ago before most molecular hackstronomists started using it willy-nilly on anything and everything.  Heard rumors that it was being used in some diet pills to bind with loose proteins in the body and allowing them to be... well, um, passed.  Currently considered safe to eat, I would think that in excess it's prolly not too good for you.  Lobster corndogs in Chitown often contain magic dust.  Not PCP.

"In the weeds", "Lost" or "Sinking"  - term for a cook who can't keep up with the orders coming in.  Horrible feeling, often precludes getting the cigar or being 86'd.  Most often heard on Fridays, Saturdays, New Year's, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, etc...  The times most kitchens are packed beyond their means.

"86 or 86'd" - to run out of something or to take it off the menu... not usually a good thing.  Happens too much to you, and the chef will 86 you from the kitchen (meaning you've been fired). 

"Swimming" - not sinking.  A new cook who's swimming is keeping up for the most part.

"Rockstar" - a particularly good cook.  Rockstars are always swimming and never in the weeds.  Could also refer to a chef that used to be in a rock band.  Dirk Flanigan (The Gage, Henri) was sometimes in the industrial band, Pigface.  Thus, Flanigan is a rockstar twice.  Or something.

"Behind, Atras, Hot, Chaud, Watch your huevos, or anything similar..." - get out of my way.  Now, or face possible consequences.  My favorite is saying, "I'm not stopping," while playing chicken with someone that's in the way.

"Ordering! (followed by menu item or ticket number)"  - get this ready, now.

"Firing! (followed by menu item or ticket number)" - put the food that was ordered in the window now.  In good restaurants the cooks will call out in response to orders and fires with a time or acknowledgement.

"The Tank or Pit" - dish area.

"Meat Grinder" - a kitchen that turns through cooks like most people use tissues.  Usually when the Chef is intense or the pace of the kitchen is harsh (or the checks bounce).

"Sergeant's stripes" - burns one gets on their body, betraying their existence as a cook or chef.  A lady once stopped me at a bookstore and tried to get me to join a recovery group for heroin addicts after seeing my burns and thinking wrongly that they were track marks.  Needless to say, I was unenthused by her mistake and told her I was a broiler cook. 

"Put a bird on it..." - this one's just a reference to the tv show, Portlandia.  Check it out.  Funny show.  For a week I was telling cooks "put a bird on it.  Now it's ready." Priceless.

"Piano" - the stove you cook on.  Some chefs can't stand when you put plates on the piano, or don't clean it often enough.

"Whites" - your uniform.  Even when black or a different color, referred to as whites. 

"Pitbull" - a particularly mean chef or sous.  "That Bob jerk is a real pitbull, man.  I was sinking last night and he gave me the cigar."  Some chefs keep a pitbull in their kitchen to keep the other cooks in line so they don't have to yell themselves.   

"Salamis for hands..." - a person who's all thumbs.  Most often used in Italian kitchens.  I guess if you had galantines for hands you might be French.

"Sally" - term used to describe a salamander or broiler.  Often used to hurry orders, but sometimes to the order's detriment. 

"Meez (or Plass)" - short for the French term "mise en place", or "everything in its place."  The zen-like term of setting up one's station.  If your station's completely set, there's nothing that can stop you.  But the second you f*#k your Meez, you're in the weeds, Rockstar.

"Guy, sweetie, honey, etc..." - in kitchens that are meatgrinders, it's hard to remember everyone's name, guy.  "Hey guy!  Get over here!"

"Shoemaker (or mercenary)" - a person who's only expected to do the minimum amount of work, but generally doesn't cost too much to employ.  Strength in numbers?  aka- a hack.

"Shoe leather" - well done steaks or such.  Suburbanites are known for eating shoe leather on occasion.

"Meat coming out of their ears..." - in reference to a meathead.  So meatheaded it's coming outta their ears, guy.

"Beginner's night, Amateur hour, (or something similar)" - a night that anyone who really enjoys eating well avoids... as in any really busy night were a kitchen might be compromised or stressed keeping them from getting food out to you in the way the chef meant, ie. hot and tasty and on time.  Valentine's Day is a beginner's night, as any self respecting gastronaut should not looking for culinary epiphany then.  Also used in reference to St. Patrick's Day when talking about drinking, or 4/20 to those other folk. 

Another memorable quote from a Sous named Joe on his way walking out from a restaurant in Winnetka was, while carrying a sack of his stuff, "I wish this was a bag of d*!ks for *insert name here* to suck!"
Any other slang I'm missing?  Feel free to comment, there might be a sequel to this topic but for now, signing out, guy.


  1. "Walking in"

    "Hot Soup in the restaurant!", the way cooks communicate to others, in an open kitchen, that there is a "hot" female in eyesight

    "City Stock", water!

  2. I really enjoyed this too by the way!

    1. Follow me then! :) I enjoy the comments, and I hope you peruse some of the previous posts.