Have you ever been seated within earshot of the kitchen and eavesdrop on the chefs yelling at each other and wondered what on earth are they speaking? Well, it’s still English, but it’s littered with different terminology. Let’s break it down.
#1: Oui (‘Wee’) Chef, Yes Chef, No Chef
Just how many chefs are there in the kitchen? No, not too many – we refer to each other as chef, half in respect, half because we don’t want to remember names.
The ‘respect’ part is due to history of the kitchen organisation belonging to the a military structure (blame Chef Escoffier), hence a team of chefs is still referred to as a ‘brigade’.
#2: Behind! On your left/right!
In the fast paced dance of service time of a cramped kitchen, chefs announce their presence and position to those around them while carrying anything (knifes, pots of burning liquid) to avoid collision.
You’ve never experienced pain of hot soup down your trousers, into your underpants, down your legs and into your socks have you?
#3: Running the ‘pass’
The “pass” is a heated service area that finished plated food items sit on before the servers (waiters) take the food to be delivered to the customer.
Running the ‘pass’ denotes a server actually doing their job on time and quickly. This is often what you hear most in the dining area when a chef goes ballistic a the servers when food is not running out quickly enough.
#4: Dying on the ‘pass’
Dying on the pass, more than anything refers to a dish that is going past its best when waiting on the pass either going cold, or cold items ‘melting’ eg. Ice Cream.
And when it does: a waiter/server gets fired. No i’m joking – they just get berated.
#5: Mise En Place, Meez
French for ‘everything in the its place’, more commonly refers the act of complete detail preparation for that section’s prep (ingredients & equipment) for the next service time.
Also referred to ‘the miz’ or ‘missus’ – The ‘miz’ if often personified to a difficult lady in kitchen to handle. Chefs groan and moan about the ‘missus’ never ever being ready in time or ready at all.
#6: Calling, Pick Up, Firing
By calling, picking up or firing an order, it means to start the process of cooking an order which could have multiple components.
An example would be, “Calling Order 2, 2 by garden salads, 2 porterhouse medium, 2 mushroom soups and 1 garlic bread!”. A perfect response to this is a “Yes, Chef!” as loudly as you can.
Yelling “TIMER!!!” from one end of the kitchen to the other is perfectly normal. Kitchen timers often are more important than clocks in the kitchen. So when ‘timer’ is called, someone will often be running.
Timers take care of: Timing of completed food items, when to start firing food items, a reminder of a task at hand: stirring risotto, a reminder when to check the stock; a competition of who wins in oyster shucking competition; when you start/end your break. Its an intrinsic part of a chef’s life.
#8: Family Meal, Staffie
No, Family meal is not for you. Family meal or staffies are meals cooked for the inhouse employees. Yes, unfortunately they need to feed too. Meals are often divided into 2 camps.
Camp 1 is simply leftovers or offcuts cooked to an edible state. This is often performed when the chefs are too busy.
Camp 2 is staffie is assigned to a junior chef (commis chef) to try to impress the more senior chefs. Think masterchef on steroids which your job on the line.
#9: The Walk In
It refers to the kitchen walk in refrigerators that is often a room on its own and big whopping door!
A great place to scream at the top your lungs when angry or frustrated; the cry baby corner for commis chef after a good yelling at; personal heat trauma medical facility for heat exhaustion for standing in front of the stove for too long and my personal favourite: The HR mediation boxing ring for chef arguments (no knives allowed).
#10 The Salamander, RoboCop, Combi….
We have heaps of weird nicknames (often affectionate) mostly for our kitchen appliances and tools.
The Salamander refers to a top side broiler, Combi for Steam Ovens, RoboCop for Robocoup food mixer, RubSpat for a rubber spatula, Spiders for metal wire strainer, Probe for a thermometer, SheNoise for a chinoise: a conical strainer.
Yes, we chefs are a weird bunch. – Chef Gary