Kitchen Slang: Top Ten Words You'll Hear Behind the Line
These guys can hang, even when they're weeded!
Seattle Municipal Archives
Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach and writes regularly about her kitchen exploits.
While recently writing a piece, I belted out some kitchen slang that set off question marks with my editors. I got a little laugh out of this, mainly because it reminded to me how "The Industry" is its own culture. We even have our own language.
Here's a list of the Top Ten slang kitchen terms you'll hear in any kitchen. If you learn this vernacular, you'll be able to coat up and step on to the line.
10) The Dance:
The line is a small space. Generally, if you bend over to tie a shoe, you'll block the walkway. On the hot line especially, working alongside someone, you have to learn to move together... without burning, stabbing, or seriously maiming each other. The dance is the way you move with (around) someone on the line. When you work with someone long enough, you flow together, like a dance.
9) Line Up!
When Chef calls this out, you drop everything. It's the huddle before the play. This is when Chef explains to the cooks and/or wait staff what's going on for that shift; specials, station assignments, etc.
I'm not real proud of it, but sandbagging is a necessary evil. For whatever reason (ticket times, cooking method, limited burner or stove space, etc.), you cook something ahead of time and warm it up when the ticket comes in.
7) Expo or expoing
The Expo Station is the station between the line and dining room. Whoever works this station, whether it's the chef, sous, or a front of house manager, is the expo. They call your tickets, garnish your plates, and, if the plating is complicated, plate the food.
6) Mise (en place)
Your mise en place is your ingredients, tools, everything you need to run your station and execute the menu. (Literal meaning: everything in place)
When Chef asks (ha ha) or (more likely) tells you to do something; "Heard Chef!" is the ONLY response.
4) On the Fly:
I hate hearing this shouted out, especially on a well-done protein, but for whatever reason, the food has to be rushed out as quickly as possible.
When you're behind, whether you're drowning in tickets or behind on prep, you are "weeded" or "in the weeds."
86 means you ran out of something.
And the Top Kitchen Term is....
1) To Hang:
When someone says you can hang on the line, it's a pretty big compliment. It means you can keep up. Not many people find that sudden burst of adrenaline when the board fills with tickets. But then, that's what most people love about working the line: the rush. Anyone can go to culinary school and be deemed a Chef, but not everyone can keep up on the line.
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