Chill Clinton worked as a professional cook for over three years and has a passion for creating simple yet inventive home recipes.
Restaurant Kitchen Lingo
If you have ever considered working at a restaurant, whether you intend to work in the front of house as a server, or the back of house as a cook, you will need to know the language of the kitchen.
Though vast and often tweaked to fit the needs of a particular restaurant, there are at least a handful of phrases that are uniformly used across most high-volume kitchens. And while these quick phrases are fun to say, they also create a shared universal language that helps convey common concepts quickly when the tickets are flying, and there isn't time to speak in complete sentences!
Below is a list of some of the most common phrases you will hear in a professional kitchen and what those phrases mean, so you will be fluent in the language of the restaurant—whether you intend to work for one, or simply watch a lot of cooking shows.
1. "All Day"
When running service, a team of cooks will simultaneously work on multiple orders, often referred to as "tickets", since each table's order will be represented either through a digital or printed receipt, showing the specifics of what each table wants.
However, the organization of individual tickets is not necessarily important to every cook on the line, and will usually be handled either by a lead cook, or an "expediter", who acts as an intermediary between the front and back of house teams to properly receive, manage, and move orders from the kitchen to the dining room.
Without tickets necessarily in front of their eyes, cooks often rely on whoever is leading service to call which dishes they need to work on and in what quantities.
This is where the term "all day" comes into play. Say there are two tables that have orders currently being cooked in the kitchen. One ticket has two porterhouse steaks and one salmon dish. The second ticket has three salmon dishes, one vegetarian dish, and one porterhouse steak.
Rather than confusing the cooks by reading off the orders in succession, a lead cook might announce, "four salmon dishes, three porterhouse steaks, and one vegetarian dish all day", informing the cooks that this is the total number of each variety of dish ordered across all active tickets.
2. "On the Fly" or "Flying"
If you've ever worked as a cook in a restaurant, you would know that service rarely goes off without a hitch. Between misplaced tickets, returned items, and dishes not properly prepared the first time, cooks are bound to encounter scenarios where their workflows must be halted to correct or prepare items as quickly as possible.
But rather than explaining that a certain task needs to take precedent over all current tasks, lead cooks will say that they need something "on the fly", or "flying".
So if you ever hear a lead cook, chef, or expediter tell you that they need a "chicken dish, flying", you better drop what you're doing and get working on that chicken.
3. "Reggie" or "Reg"
This is an interesting kitchen term that is used, situationally, to denote that a dish should be prepared as it appears on the menu.
You may be wondering why it is important to have a term like this. Wouldn't we always assume that a dish should be prepared as it appears on the menu?
Well, often times, several of the same dishes may be ordered simultaneously across an entire restaurant, but some may be ordered with various modifications, like "no onions" or "substitute chicken for steak".
So when communicating the counts of dishes needed "all day", if there is the presence of even one dish that requires a modification, non-modified or "regular" dishes among those ordered might be called "reggie" or "reg" (like the first syllable in the name "Reginald"), so cooks can stay more organized and not accidentally confuse the number of modified orders they are required to make.
It may seem silly, but using "reggie" or "reg" shaves one to two syllables off of the word "regular", and seems to roll off the tongue more quickly, which is why it sees wide usage across many restaurants.
4. "Dead" or "Dying"
We've all felt the torment of seeing our dish in the window of an open kitchen, sitting under the heat lamps for far too long. Though heat lamps can help a dish maintain its heat for the few minutes it typically waits before being taken out to a table, leaving a dish under the heat lamps too long can degrade the quality to such a degree that the food is no longer able to be served.
When a dish waits so long on the line that it cannot be served to a guest, that dish is considered "dead" and must be remade.
So if you're a server, and you hear that an order is "dying" in the window, be sure to take it to the dining room as soon as possible so your guests aren't waiting any longer, and you'll save the cooks from having to remake the dish.
5. "In the Weeds"
Every restaurant worker knows the feeling of being overwhelmed by the volume of orders. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to pace the workflow of a kitchen since its determined by when diners sit down, when they order, and how many tables are seated at any given time.
Naturally, it's common that multiple tables will sit at similar times, and expect to order in timely fashions. This means that kitchens can easily become so flooded with orders that it will take significant time to work backlogged tickets before cooks can even begin working on orders as they come in.
When this happens, you may hear that the kitchen is "in the weeds", meaning that it is overwhelmed by its present workload. Sometimes saying this can indicate to servers that they need to stall their tables before taking their orders to allow the cooks to catch up with their current tickets, but often, it's a way to warn cooks that they may need to exert additional effort to power through active orders.
The Best Way to Learn
The terms above are some of the most common words and phrases used to communicate more quickly in restaurants, but there are dozens more to learn.
Fortunately, if you aren't fluent in "kitchen-speak", one of the best ways to learn is by going to work in a restaurant or kitchen. So if you've stumbled on this article because you're considering a restaurant job, have no worries, because you'll pick up on the lingo quick!