Black Hat Chef George Hill
Far Out Kitchen Slang

Swearing in kitchens been around ever since the first cook delivered a meal to someone else. While I do not condone swearing, unfortunately it is a part of many kitchen cultures.

Even though the open kitchen has reduced the incidence of swearing openly, particularly as chefs realise they cannot use expletives in front of clients, it is still commonplace in closed kitchens.

Swearing is mainly a way of releasing steam, anger, frustration, or anguish and is generally used by cooks and chefs who are unable to handle a situation. It’s also often used as a means of signalling solidarity in a pressurised kitchen.

Every kitchen becomes acutely stressful at some time – more often than not during service time when the demands and pressures of heat and emotional stress come together to form a physically and emotionally electrifying environment.

There are also many slang words often used between the brigade staff to express their thoughts and feelings, and so I have compiled an abridged A to Z list of common commercial kitchen speak – with apologies for the use of unavoidable expressions.

Aggro: Used to describe someone who happens to be in a bad mood: “Avoid the chef today he is aggro, must have his “knickers in a knot” about something.”

Bad news: Applies to a person who constantly makes trouble in the kitchen.

Behind you: Warnings shout that you are carrying something hot, alternative “hot”

Cowboy: Refers generally to a member of a brigade who does not have the confidence of others in the kitchen; a brigade member who does not really know what they are doing: Question: “How is the new gardemanger. Answer: “you have to be kidding, she/he is worse than an idiot and a real cowboy”. Note the term is not gender-specific

Canned: Indicates a person is intoxicated or drunk.

Colonial goose: Portrays mutton.

Cheap as chips: Alternative for French fries.

Eff off: To tell someone to “go forth and multiply”: “Will you eff of and leave me alone”.

Far out: Implies the best or excellent: “These oysters are far out”

Funny farm: Describe a highly disorganised kitchen: “The kitchen today was a funny farm“.

Gravy train: Easy: “Making mayonnaise is as easy as a gravy train”.

Heap of shit: Very bad: “This sauce is a heap of shit”.

In the weeds: Expresses unable to cope, similar expression to being “up the wall”.

It is swimming: Already frying in the fryer.

In the hole: In the oven.

Junket: Informs one a cook is on a break.

Kill it: Cook well done: “Kill the filet mignon”.

Knickers in a knot: Indicates someone very upset about something: “He has his knickers in a knot” (not gender specific).

Knackered: Tired, worn out.

OK: The most common of many acknowledgements shouted at service time.

Off:  Indicates an item is not available on the menu.


(1) Indicates the cook/chef is completely ready with the mise-en-place: Chef to cook: “Are you ready for the function?“ Answer: “On-plus, chef.”

(2) Indicates readiness at a point in time:  Chef to cook:  “Are you ready for the function tonight?”Answer: “On-plus, only the sweets to finish.”

Prep: Has the same meaning as mise-en-place or preparation before service.

Rubber: A tea towel or torchon, the dishcloth usually folded on the hip.

Screwed: Similar meaning to the domestic colloquialism; however, more specific in a kitchen and usually means that one did not get the shift they were after.

Silly season: A time of the year when the kitchen is at its busiest

Sprinkle with parsley: Throw it away: “Sprinkle that bad fish with parsley”.

Tied up: Specifies the chef or someone else in the kitchen is unavailable.

Up the wall: Means desperate need for assistance (opposite to “on-plus”): Question from chef: “How is the mise-en-place?”Answer: “Not good, I am up the wall.”

Waste it: Throw away.

X: Indicates ‘mixed’ when written on a docket, as in xgrill or xsalad.

Yes chef: The only words you really ever need to know in any kitchen.