Decoding the Language of the Kitchen

From On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin
by Eric Ripert and Christine Muhlke

On the Line


Understanding the special language of the kitchen is a prerequisite to understanding how the whole operation works. The vocabulary is filled with a shorthand based largely on classic French culinary language, but it even borrows some terms from the military. The intensity of lunch and dinner service means that all communication must be brief, and the noisiness means it must be shouted. Because food can be ruined in a matter of seconds, there's no time to explain or repeat oneself.


Le Bernardin Glossary

Back Waiter: One of the six waiters who serve as the liaison between the dining room and the kitchen.

Brigade System: A kitchen organization system institutionalized by legendary cook Auguste Escoffier requiring that each position have a station with a set of defined duties.

Call Out: To read aloud an order ticket to the cooks, thereby placing an order for the item(s) to be prepared. In order to prove that they heard the order, the cooks must then respond with "Oui!"

Cook: A person just out of culinary school or with only a few years' hands-on experience. Also called a line cook.

Cover: One guest, as in "Saturday we did two hundred covers for dinner."

Entree: Main dish, in the American usage.

Expedite: To oversee the kitchen's output during mealtime.

Firing a Ticket: Cooking an order.

Front Waiter: One of the six waiters responsible for delivering the food from the bus station to the table.

Line: A row of stoves along which the cooks are positioned. At Le Bernardin there are two lines: one for appetizers and one for entrees.

Mise en Place: Literally, "put in place" in French. All the ingredients each cook will need during service-from salt and Espelette pepper powder to oil and vinegar, from diced shallots to julienned shiso. ("Everybody check your mise en place: service starts in twenty minutes.") Each cook prepares his own based on the dishes he's responsible for, a process that can take up to four hours. Often shortened to mise.

Pass: The counter on which prepared dishes are placed to be inspected, and frequently tasted, by the chef de cuisine. The back waiters take the dishes from the pass and deliver them to the dining room. "In the pass" refers to a dish that is ready to be served: "Pounded in the pass in thirty" (translation: the tuna appetizer will be ready in thirty seconds).

Plate: To assemble a finished dish to be served: "Before you plate the turbot, make sure the potato foam is warm."

Service: The period of meal preparation. There are two services daily, lunch (noon to 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 to 11 p.m.). ("I get in to prep at seven a.m., but lunch service doesn't start till noon.")

Sous-chef: A cook with considerable experience on the line who now has a supervisory role in the kitchen, overseeing line cooks.

Station: A cook's position in the kitchen-both where he stands and what he prepares. ("What station are you working?" "Today I'm on canape.")

Tournant: A relief chef (usually an experienced cook) who jumps in to help the stations in need rather than having a fixed station. Also known as chef de tournant.

Walk-in: The refrigerated room and adjoining freezer where the day's ingredients are kept on metal shelves and in plastic bins. There are three walk-ins, one for the kitchen, one for the pastry department and one for fish.


The Station: Veg Apps


The Cast

Chef: Eric Gestel
Cook: Marino Castillo

The Duration: 5 minutes


The Mise en Place

  • Escolar (called white tuna in our kitchen)
  • Olive oil poaching liquid
  • Red wine bearnaise (made by Saucier Joe Palma)
  • Shallots, minced
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Tarragon
  • Sea beans
  • Potato crisps
  • Salt and white pepper

The Action

"Fire one white tuna!"

"Yes, Chef!"

Seasons fish and places in a pan of olive oil to poach. Places small saucepan of red wine bearnaise on the heat.

"How long on the white tuna?"

"White tuna in two!"

  • Takes fish out of the poaching oil (usually cooked medium rare), places on a cutting board, makes 5 slices, and plates.
  • Seasons the eye (inside) of the fish and adds shallots, cracked black pepper, and tarragon in a line on top.
  • Flashes the plate (puts it in the oven for less than a minute).
  • Places sea beans and potato crisps around the fish.
  • Pours hot bearnaise sauce into a gooseneck (a white porcelain sauce container).
  • Brings the finished plate and sauce to the pass: "Behind down the line!"
  • from:
    On the Line
    Inside the World of Le Bernardin
  • by Eric Ripert and Christine Muhlke
  • Artisan 2008
  • Hardcover; $35.00 (US) $39.95 (CAN); 240 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1579653693
  • ISBN-13: 9781579653699
  • Reprinted by permission.

Buy On the Line


On the Line


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This page created March 2009

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