Ever dream about working in a state of the art kitchen (in particular, when you’ve been resigned to a slightly dysfunctional, ill-equipped, shared dorm-room kitchen)? Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work the office at Piperade, a French-Basque restaurant in San Francisco. If you’re ever thinking about stepping behind those big kitchen doors in a restaurant, you’re going to need to know the restaurant real talk to fit in as one of the team. Here are the top 18 words and phrases you should know to impress the Head Chef.
1. The floor: the dining room of the restaurant.
2. Sommelier: the wine expert.
3. Covers: total number of customers for a service.
4. Two top and Four top: used to describe table arrangements on the floor.
5. No show: referring to employees and customers who are absent without letting the restaurant know.
6. Working “the line:” the section in the kitchen where the cooks are set up in… [drumroll]… a line to prepare the food.
7. Front of the house (FOH): the front of the restaurant where the dining room, customers, wait staff and bussers make the magic happen.
8. Back of the house (BOH): the kitchen and storage area where the chefs, cooks, food preparers and dishwashers conjure up the goodness.
9. VIPS: the frequent guests who are well known to the staff and who usually want a specific table, meal or server.
10. Fire it!: letting the cooks know that an order should start to be prepared.
11. Hot behind!: no, the cook isn’t talking about your derrière, he is warning you that there is a piping hot plate behind you.
12. Corner!: a warning, just as important as “hot behind,” when food or dishes are coming around the bend.
13. 86’d: an item on the menu that is no longer available.
14. Nuke it: microwave it.
15. Kill it: cook the dish into oblivion.
16. The window: the shelf in the kitchen where the prepared and plated food waits to be served.
17. In the weeds: an expression for when the kitchen is overloaded and falling behind, typically used by the kitchen staff.
18. Family meal: the meal shared by the staff, family-style, where any updates or great stories are shared. Some restaurants split up the FOH and BOH meals, but in others, the meals are shared. Since the chefs are the ones making the meals, when the FOH make themselves a plate, they make another plate for the chefs as a “thank you.” Sometimes, the FOH employees volunteer to make or bring a family meal for the BOH, so they have a day off from making everyone a meal.
This list is a good start, but you are going to need to put in some real work to understand restaurant lingo perfectly, no matter which part of the house you are in.