A lot of "a little"

Every profession has its own jargon, and cooking is no exception. There's a interesting combination of technical terms, slang words and colorful insults that go into kitchen speak. A sentence like "Hey clown nipples, get your mise together and start cooking off those pork chops" might be confusing to an outsider, but it's completely logical to someone fluent in kitchen-ese.

I've always been fascinated by cook talk, and recently became aware of a popular saying: "a little." By itself this phrase is common vernacular, but in the cooking context, "a little" can refer to many things. What brought this term to my attention was the current season of Top Chef, where the contestants are constantly using "a little" to describe their dishes. "I made a made a little apple hash with seared scallops," contestant Radhika said to describe her quick fire dish in episode 1. " I made a little stuffed french toast, stuffed with a little soft cream cheese..and I made a little chili maple syrup," Ariane explained to Rocco DiSpirito in the most recent showing. There are many other instances, but you get the drift. Even when the plate or the ingredients aren't technically little, that's the word that prefaces them.

So what does "a little" mean to cooks? As far as I can tell, part of it is imparting a casualness to the food. "I made a little lobster bisque," means "hey, I didn't just spend hours slaving over this soup, and even if I did, I don't want you to know it." One of my chef roommates told me that in his restaurant, the term was often used when a cook wanted to experiment with a new dish, like "how about a little gastrique to go with that venison?" The cook is not making a small gastrique. "A little" in this context means "it's no problem, it might suck, and if so, we'll bag it."

"A little" isn't as vibrant as some of the other kitchen sayings, but it's interesting to watch a show like Top Chef and have nearly every contestant describe their dish with that term. Look out for it next episode, chances are you'll hear "a little" a lot.

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            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
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            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
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            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.

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            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
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            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
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            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
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            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
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            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
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