Recently when a colleague was touring our operation, we briefly discussed the unique verbage used in our hospital kitchen today. We talked about how this wasn’t always the case in the healthcare world. In hospital kitchens, we used to be “institutionalized.”
As I drove home that night, I kept thinking about that conversation, and as soon as I walked in my house I rushed to the center island of my kitchen to write down my thoughts on paper. The list I came up with is shown below, and to some chefs reading it this may seem pretty basic in regards to kitchen lingo, but not with me. I’m proud that our team uses these phrases. It shows that we have culinarians on site that are passionate about the food they produce. Additionally, they are also onboard with bringing the special talents they gained while working in the restaurant & hotel industry, into the transforming kitchens of healthcare. Below is my list.
86– The classic code word that lets just about everyone know we are out of that particular menu item. Although the phrase sounds pretty hip, it’s definitely not cool to be used. As a chef, you need to do everything in your power to limit the time that the menu item is “86’d” from your customers.
example: We are 86’ing whole wheat english muffins, but Tara is going to the store to buy some, so it shouldn’t be for too long.
Mise en Place– The classical French culinary term which translates to “put in place.” This is usually your prep work that needs to be done before building a dish, soup, sauce, stew, etc. This is a critical step in preparing dishes either in a cook-to-order, or bulk preparation setting. Think of it like if you are going to do some painting at home. First you empty out the room, you remove all the pictures off the wall, you get your paint, brushes, ladders, and tape together. Mise en place is not limited to food items. It also includes gathering the correct utensils, and materials necessary to create a smooth flow while building your dish. This is being organized. Preparation
example: “Although I’m off tomorrow, tonight I will set up the mise en place for you so you can make the pot roast in the morning.”
On The Fly– This basically translates to “I need this right away.” When a somebody calls for something on the fly, the expectations are that you move as swiftly as possible to get them what they need.
example: “The seared salmon has been very popular in the cafe today, we are going to need another fifteen portions on the fly!”
Let It Rest Before Slicing– One of my favorites, this is what any respectable culinarian does when they either roast or grill a cut of meat. This could include but is not limited to rib eye steaks, turkey breasts, grilled flank steaks, stuffed pork loins, etc. You need to let the juices inside the meat settle before slicing into it right away. The first clue to find that a meat wasn’t properly rested before slicing is when the cutting board is full of juice. This is no good and should be avoided at all measures.
example: “That turkey breast you cooked looks absolutely delicious, please make sure you let it rest before slicing it.”
Hack – This is terminology used by chefs to describe other chefs who don’t take their job seriously. Usually, a hack has poor organizational skills, cooks without any sort of passion, and most of the time leaves a mess behind them. Nowadays, this type of chef is often also refered to as a “Hot Mess.”
example: “Your work station looks nice and clean everyday John. It’s little details like this that remind me how talented you are. You are in no way a hack by any means.”
In the Weeds– A general term used when a cook has a lot on his plate at any one given time. When a cook says “I’m in the weeds,” it’s usually a sign that they need some help. This is a great time to chip in and give them some support if you can. Just like in nature there are different kinds of weeds. Some are larger than others. A good rule of thumb is that if somebody is in the weeds everyday, they most likely have some organizational issues, and might not be the best fit for the job. If they are in the weeds everyday, an intervention is most definitely needed.
example: “I heard that the grill station was busy last night. Were you able to handle it, or were you in the weeds?”
Golden, Brown, Delicious– Also known as GBD, this is usually the term used to describe the top of a baked item such as a casserole, potatoes, or fresh baked goods. To get food to this stage, a certain level of love must be involved.
example: “The squash casserole only takes about fifteen minutes to cook. You put it in at 375 degrees, and take it out when its golden brown delicious.”
“All Day”-Frequently said to describe the total amount that you may have prepared or ordered. This doesn’t mean that you have “all day” to produce it, it simply means that this is the amount that needs to be done.
example: “How many pecan encrusted chicken breasts do I need all day?”
Got time to Lean, Often said in the kitchen to somebody who is just waiting to be told to do something. When you are told this by a chef, it’s never a good thing. In a working kitchen, there’s always something that could be cleaned better. If you are told this phrase, take it as a big hint.
example: “Although its slower today than usual, that doesn’t mean you can just stand there and wait for orders to come in. If you got time to lean, you got time to clean.”
Bang it out– I heard this a lot while working in Ireland, as well as during my time while cooking for large banquets in New York. It simply means, “yes I know this is painful, but we have no other option than to get it done, quickly. Let’s finish this so we can get home at a reasonable time tonight.”
example: “Last night we had many late tickets come in to the main kitchen and the cafe was extremely busy. I pulled the team together and we banged it out.”