Chef Lingo: Bobble-Head-Free Kitchen Slang
Chefs have a culture all their own, and it's most apparent in their language. Would Rachel Ray have made it into the daytime talk show circuit without her moderately cute (and majorly annoying) word jumbles and acronyms (i.e. "stoup" and "EVOO)? Would Emeril (BAM!) have his own line of kitchenware if he didn't "kick it up a notch," with his quirky catch phrases?
Cute and curt may earn big bucks for some of TV's best known chefs, but what about those grounded in the real world? You know, the one's not on Anthony Bourdain's hit list. (He did call Rachel Ray a bobble head, after all).
Working kitchens have their own brand of culinary slang—the fruits of laboring in an environment of high stress and higher temperatures. Language builds a camaraderie that keeps you sane (mostly) when you find yourself "in the weeds."
Chefspeak: Real Chefs Talk the Talk
If you want to learn more about real-world chefspeak, why not go straight to the horse's mouth? Our forum chefs were kind enough to share some of their favorite slang. Here are some of those highlights:
- 86: Out of an item, as in "86 the chicken breast." Usually followed by, "Didn't you hear me, dummy? We're out of the stupid chicken breast!"
- "Water": Clever name for the gin and tonic your favorite server owes you after ordering 3 more of the 86ed chicken breasts.
- In the Weeds; Weeded: Orders are coming in faster than you can put them out, likely increasing your "water" consumption. Want to know just how weeded you are? Check out the 9 Stages of Weededness.
- Veal: Fresh meat, namely that new culinary intern ripe for initiation.
- Puff: Pastry chef; both a reference to puff pastry and the frou-frou nature of said profession. Also called a "Sweetie."
- Check the Score: Relay the number of outstanding tickets, but also clever slang for "tell me how many lookers are sitting at the bar."
- Petting Zoo: Term for the bar crowd when "the score" was a flop, as in, "I checked the score—it's a petting zoo out there."
- "Best Part of the Chicken": Nearly inedible part of the chicken (or any other animal, really) used for server lunches.
- Schnizzle: Something customers just love, but wouldn't touch if they knew what it looked like before it was deep fried. Schnizzle is often derived from the "best part of the chicken."
- Sausage: A bin full of meat trim, gristle, tendon and fat, as in, "Oh that? We're going to make sausage out of that." Sausage, once discovered, is usually labeled the "best part of the chicken," and turned into "schnizzle" before it turns green.
- Pre Fab: Pre fabricated goods you buy in when you should be making them yourself.
- Henry Ford: A chef who uses so much "pre fab" that the kitchen is nothing but an assembly line.
You Can't Spell Chef without Four Letters
While all kitchens have their own flavor of chefspeak unique to them, many are bound by a mostly four-lettered vocabulary. Let's be honest—if Rachel Ray adopted the language of most working chefs, the FCC would explode. At least Gordon Ramsay would have a run for his money.
Rather than risking uproar by listing some of these more colorful terms, we'll leave you with this demonstration, which speaks for itself.
- Intern (aka Veal): Chef, my bisque is ready to serve.
- Chef: "What the [censored] were you thinking? I could squeeze better tasting [censored] out of the dead [censored] dog I passed on the [censored] way to [censored] work this [censored] morning. Hell, I hope that was your dead [censored] dog. What?! You're [censored] crying?! At least you finally [censored] produced something with some [censored] salt in it."
- Translation: "This dish is not up to par. Please try again."
Share, Learn, and All that Jazz...
If you want to read all our contributors had to say about chefspeak, check out the Chefspeak thread in our culinary forums. Find out who to blame for this list, and add a few of your own gems.