Keeping Up With Kitchen Slang

The kitchen slang you’re guaranteed to hear working in a restaurant.

“I’m dying on the line here.”

“We got people at the 12 top, the six top, and the four tops are all full — they all want the chicken GBD, how is that even possible?!”

“86 the filet mignon and the cioppino. Tell any server you see! SOS this one, stretch the other, then get it to the expo — go, go, go!”

Kitchens are filled with a frenzied, chaotic energy and passionate professionals who are striving for nothing less than perfection. To survive in the back of the house, you have to have plenty of energy, serious attention to detail, the ability to multitask like a pro, and you need to know how to communicate with your peers. That means learning kitchen slang. 

Regardless of where you work in a restaurant — front of house, back of house, or management — you’re going to be interacting with the kitchen, which means you’ll need to speak their language fluently. This guide to common kitchen slang will help you nail down the back of house vocabulary so you’re not completely lost when you’re trying to help make things run smoothly. Along with the list of popular kitchen slang terms, we’ve also included how to use them in a sentence.

Kitchen Slang You’re Guaranteed to Hear Working in A Restaurant 

An Alphabetical List of Kitchen Slang, Jargon, Terms, and Lingo

Kitchen Slang: A-D

À La Minute (adj.) - When something is made à la minute, it’s made fresh as opposed to being part of a large batch that was made earlier in the day. 

Ex. “We ran out of the Béarnaise but it’s the mayor’s favorite so we’re going to need it à la minute.”

All Day (n.) - The total amount of food that needs to be made (combining all the incoming orders). 

Ex. “We need six cheeseburgers all day and one caesar salad.”

Chit (n.) - Another name for the order ticket.

Ex. “What does the chit say?  Sub: turkey burger, no pickles. Got it!”

Dead Plate (n.) - Food that can’t be served. Possible reasons include being cold, overcooked, or forgotten by a server.

Ex. “Where’s Matt? That order’s about to become a dead plate!”

Dying on the Pass (adv.) - Describes food that was left out on the pass for too long and is getting cold.

Ex. “Seriously, where’s Matt!? That order is dying on the pass!”

Deuce (n.) - A table that seats two people.

Ex. “The couple that just sat down at the deuce in section 3 always only orders appetizers.”

Dupe (n.) - An order ticket (same as chit). Comes from “duplicate”, from when printers print a carbon-copy of an order ticket. 

Ex. “Can you read me the dupe? I thought it said no mayo but I can’t remember.”

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Kitchen Slang: E-K

Expo (n.) - The person who reads out orders as they come in, and puts the finishing touches on the food before it's taken from the kitchen out to guests.

Ex. “Can you bring this salmon over to the expo? She’s got to add the garnish.”

Fire (v.) - To start cooking a dish.

Ex. "The guests are finishing their first course, fire the steaks!"

Flash It (v.) - When you quickly cook something if it’s undercooked.

Ex. "Can you flash this steak? Our guest wants it more well done."

Floor (n.) - The dining room.

Ex. “Hey – finish your sandwich and get back out on the floor, we’re slammed!”

GBD (adj.) - Golden Brown Delicious (the best way to eat fried foods).

Ex. “That chicken special is extremely popular tonight and everybody’s ordering it GBD.”

In the weeds (adj.) - Busier than one would care to be.

Ex. “You forgot to ring in their apps? Can’t you see we’re in the weeds here?”

Kill It (v.) - To cook something extremely well done.

Ex. “Wow, we’ve got a request for “well, well, well done.” You know what to do to that steak. Absolutely kill it.”

Kitchen Slang: L-P

Low Boy (n.) - A fridge that’s below the counter, usually used to store prepped ingredients.

Ex. “We keep all the dressings in the low boy over there.”

Mise (n.) - Short for “mise en place,” and translates to everything in its place. Refers to prepped ingredients ready to go for a shift.

Ex. "Is your mise ready? I need those shallots and peppers for the stew."

On Deck (adj.) - What food is coming up next.

Ex. “Bobby, what do we have on deck?”

On the Fly (adj.) - Needing to be done quickly.

Ex. “The guest sent this steak back, we need to flash it on the fly.”

On the Line (adj.) - To be currently cooking on the line. 

Ex. “No Johnny, Jenny can’t come to the phone right now, she’s on the line.”

OTS (adj) - On the side. 

Ex. “Three caesar salads, two of them dressing OTS and no croutons.”

Pass (n.) - The area where dishes are plated.

Ex. "There should be two cheesecake slices on the pass — they’re ready to be served."

Kitchen Slang: R-#

The Rail/Board (n.) - The place where the tickets are held/hung.

Ex. "I love this kitchen display system with the orders on it because chits used to fall off the board all the time."

Run the Dish (v.) - To bring the plate out to the customer.

Ex. “Hey Abby, can you run this dish to table 201?”

Running the Pass (adj.) - Describes the person in charge of letting others know about the orders going in/out.

Ex. “Who’s running the pass tonight? I need them to double check that chit with the waiter for me.”

Shoe (n.) - Someone who’s a bad cook.

Ex. “We’re all gonna get fired because that shoe doesn’t know how to cook a chicken.”

SOS (adj.) - Sauce on the Side.

Ex. “For that linguini, they want it SOS.”

Stretch It (v.) - To make the remaining amount of something work.

Ex. "We’re running out of broth but I can stretch it for this order."

Walk-In (n) - large fridge or freezer.

Ex. “ Hey, go cool off in the walk-in. It’s okay to get stressed but we need you levelheaded, we’re mid-way through the dinner rush.”

Waxing a Table (v.) - To give someone VIP treatment

Ex. "You need to wax that table because the owner’s family was just seated."

# Top (n.) - A table with x number of people (four top, six top, etc.).

Ex. “Host just sat two 6-tops and an 8-top. Next hour's gonna be fun ride back here, kids!”

86 (v.) - To be all out of an ingredient and to have to take an item off the menu for the rest of the service. 

Ex. “86 anything with scallops in it, and tell every server you see.”

# Out (adj.) - How many minutes until the dish is ready to plate.

Ex. "The mussels are two out, they’re almost done steaming."

Kitchen Terms in Spanish 

Many kitchens in the US employ a significant amount of Spanish speakers, so if you want to foster a more positive, inclusive environment in your kitchen, it’s beneficial to learn some common Spanish phrases as well. Accepting and incorporating bilingualism into your kitchen operations can improve your restaurant’s community and make everything run more smoothly.

Here are 75 key restaurant terms in Spanish:

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