A Short Lesson in Restaurant Terminology
Chef: the cook in charge of a restaurant; from the French chef de cuisine, literally the head of the kitchen.
Executive Chef: sometimes called the head cook, he or she is the one responsible for running the food preparation in a kitchen, ordering food and supplies, making staff schedules, dealing with administrative tasks. Executive chefs are usually employed by large restaurants, hotels, country clubs and even cruise lines. Most manage a staff of at least ten employees.
Sous Chef: a chefs assistant, from the French sous meaning "under."
Chefs de Partie: each runs one section of the kitchen, oversees prep, cooking, and presentation of meals, and directs the chefs under him in that section.
Commis Chef: a trainee chef who has the most junior position in the kitchen. Commis is French for "clerk."
IN THE KITCHEN
Mise-en-place: French culinary term meaning "put in place." It means a set up with all the ingredients and components ready to prepare a dish, from chopped veggies to cooking tools.
The Pass: the place where the finished dishes are passed over from the chefs to the waiting staff and which acts as the final quality control area before any food leaves the kitchen.
Salamander: part of a grill cooks area; a small broiler oven used to quickly brown, glaze, cook, broil, or toast various foods. The Salamander is often used to provide the nicely browned crust to a crème brûlée, an au gratin dish, or toasted bread.
Vol-au-vents: meaning "windblown," to describe the lightness of this puff pastry shell with savory filling.
En papillote: From the French papillon which means butterfly, this describes a cooking method in which the ingredients are sealed in a parchment paper or foil pouch and baked in the oven to steam in its own juices. Usually used to cook seafood.
Michelin Stars: Ratings from the famous guide for restaurants, prepared from the reports of anonymous inspectors. 1 star indicates "a very good restaurant in its category," 2 stars "excellent cooking, worth a detour," and, the holy grail for serious chefs, 3 stars: "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." In 2008, a mere 68 restaurants in the entire world received a 3-star rating.
This article was originally published in July 2009, and has been updated for the
May 2010 paperback release.
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