Every profession has industry terms or phrases that are exclusive to their field. One industry with its own language is the restaurant world. You’ll hear workers communicating with the most common lingo in a commercial kitchen through the shouting and screaming that can occur when things get busy.
“Expo” is an abbreviated word for an expeditor. This person is responsible for organizing and confirming the plates are going to the right tables. Expos are common in busy kitchens when a hectic day is ahead. A rubber mat is integral for an expo because they’re on their feet the entire shift and most don’t get a second to relax.
A phrase you’ll often hear when watching your favorite cooking show is “all day.” While athletes use this phrase to talk trash to their opponents, it implies the total of one specific item in the kitchen. If there are two burgers needed for one table and one for another, “I need three burgers all day” is what you’ll hear from the expo.
“Mise” is another abbreviated word for mise en place, which means having everything you need in front of you. Chefs use this term to verify the preparation process is complete, and they can go about their day.
There is likely a kitchen worker who wakes up in a cold sweat shouting “Corner!” every day. Although corner is a noun, it’s more of a verb in this sense because you’re walking in around a corner, a vulnerable area of many kitchens.
When there isn’t enough time to say “Yes, Chef!”, “heard” will suffice. Using “heard” helps ensure communication in the kitchen is fluid, minimizing the chances of an error that leads to a “dead plate.”
Sometimes miscommunications are inevitable, and a plate is sitting for too long. If so, “flashing it” is the best course of action. “Flashing it” is code for reheating a dish quickly. The expo usually calls for this if they notice the dish is too cool or slightly undercooked.
This phrase is the opposite of quick cooking. A “kill it” command requires a cook to do it well. It’s worth knowing that you will also kill the chef’s soul if you order a steak well done at a top-notch eating establishment.
“Waxing a Table”
When a fancy-schmancy person is dining with you, “waxing a table” may be on the docket. Ideally, buttering these big-timers will lead to a huge tip for the staff and a happy customer that spreads the positive word.
Something “86ed” means it is no more. Whether it’s an order, ingredient, or a plate no longer needed, you’ll hear “86” countless times in a kitchen.
Being on deck in baseball means you’re the next hitter coming to the plate. The same logic applies in the kitchen; something “on deck” implies that order is next.
“On the Fly”
When a server needs to correct a mistake like a forgotten appetizer, they will alert the kitchen they need something “on the fly.” This command will ensure someone handles that request immediately so the customer isn’t waiting an additional ten minutes for their mozzarella sticks.
Many sous chefs might want to shout “SOS” when drowning in a backlog of orders. However, “SOS” in this sense stands for “sauce on the side.”
Now that you understand the common lingo you’ll hear in a commercial kitchen, Gordon Ramsay’s competition shows and The Bear will make more sense. Adding these phrases to your lexicon can also make you feel like a professional in your kitchen.