slanguage story from Press of Atlantic City

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Apr 27 02:50:20 UTC 2004

My thanks to Cindy Nevitt for sending me the story she wrote below. I
now share it with ads-l; would someone have the exact reference? I'd
like to include mention of the story (with due credit of course) in
any items I might write up on restaurant lingo.

Gerald Cohen

>From: "Nevitt, Cindy" <CNevitt at>
>To: "'Cohen, Gerald Leonard'" <gcohen at>
>Subject: slanguage story from Press of Atlantic City
>Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2004 23:25:57 -0400
>Gerald, This is the story you helped me with. Thanks so much. Cindy
>Food Editor, (609) 272-7262
>He was in the weeds, dragging a New York medium for a screamer, when he
>If you don't know what that means, you've never worked in a restaurant
>kitchen. It's shorthand for "He was getting behind waiting on a medium-rare
>steak for a disgruntled customer's order when he left."
>Glenn Lewkowitz, room service manager at Showboat Casino-Hotel in Atlantic
>City, understands that because he knows "86'd" can be used to mean "leaving"
>as well as "out of stock," the more common usage recognized by area
>restaurant workers. Says Lewkowitz, "You will find variations on the same
>theme throughout the industry. There is definitely a different dialect in
>casinos compared to independent restaurants."
>But there's not nearly as much variation on the language between casino and
>independent restaurant kitchens as there is commercial kitchens and your
>home kitchen. You'd never reburn (recook), drop (put in the fryer) or bang
>it out (get it done quickly in mass quantity) at home. Restaurant cooks do
>it all the time.
>There are printed examples of diner lingo dating to the mid-1800s. In its
>heyday, from the 1920s to the 1970s, waitresses yelled creative phrases such
>as these to line cooks:
>n Adam and Eve on a raft (two poached eggs on toast)
>n Breath (onion)
>n Burn one (put a hamburger on the grill)
>n Drag it through the garden (put lettuce on it)
>n Frog sticks (french fries)
>n Life preservers (doughnuts)
>n Mike and Ike (salt and pepper shakers)
>n On wheels (to go)
>n Pin a rose on it (add onion to an order)
>n Squeeze one (glass of orange juice)
>n Two cows, make them cry (two hamburgers with onions)
>n Wax (American cheese)
>n Wreck 'em (scramble the eggs)
>The day diner language died is traced to the day the fast-food industry
>overtook diners in popularity. The Web site
>asks, "Is there a future for diner lingo?" and answers it, "Probably not."
>The site blames the branding of items by fast-food chains - Burger King's
>Whopper and McDonald's Big Mac are cited as examples - for killing the more
>creative restaurant shorthand. "Any employee at the register who shouted
>'Burn one, 86 the breath, add frog sticks, and put wheels on it!' to the
>kitchen probably wouldn't have much of a career there," the site says.
>Kitchen speak
>Diner lingo may be all but dead, but restaurant shorthand survives. In
>southern New Jersey's kitchens, this talk is used to convey certain
>When Neil Elsohn hollers for "boomers" or "hairy scaries" at the Waters Edge
>in Cape May, his cooks know he wants mushrooms and haricot verte (French
>green beans). When Edward Batten, executive sous chef at Harrah's Atlantic
>City, shouts "kill it," he means shut down or turn off the equipment. When
>Rich Gottlob, restaurant chef at Harrah's, asks for an "all day," he wants
>the total number of covers (meals) completed for the day.
>A "homestyle" omelet is made with fresh eggs rather than pasteurized liquid
>eggs. Something that's "working hard" is cooking or almost ready. A "fire in
>the hole" means something is burning on the stove.
>Sometimes the same idea is expressed in different ways. When Michael Huber,
>a chef educator at the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, needs an
>order that is not quite ready, he yells, "Make it ready." When Harrah's
>restaurant chef Bill Fausey wants something "on the rail," he wants it as
>quickly as possible. And when Ulrich Lohs, executive chef of Atlantic City
>Hilton Casino Resort, says "step on it," he means "I need it right now."
>Luke Palladino, chef of Specchio and Ombra at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa,
>isn't about to take on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson when there's a "smackdown"
>in his kitchen. He's being bombarded with orders all at once. Michael
>McAllister, chef tournant at Showboat, isn't on vacation if he's cruising
>with the Queen Mary. He's pushing a large cart used to transport items.
>Robert Schoell, executive chef at Harrah's, isn't talking about J.Lo's
>biggest asset when he says "hot behind."
>"This is what you say when you cross behind someone on the cooking line and
>you have something hot in your hands," he says. "Kind of like a heads up."
>When Armand Fux's staff says "shark in the water," they mean the executive
>chef at Bally's Atlantic City is on his way. If they say, "I'm dying," it's
>because an order is taking too long. If they "deep six" a "blue boy" and
>"31," they've thrown away blueberry pancakes and three eggs on a plate.
>Other phrases used behind the scenes:
>n Black and blue (steak that is charred on the outside, raw on the inside)
>n Boomerang (plate sent back to the kitchen by a customer)
>n Burn and turn (performing multiple tasks at the same time)
>n Check the oven (the boss is in the kitchen or on his way)
>n Chit (order check from the kitchen printer)
>n Come back (recook)
>n Coming at you (being prepared as we speak)
>n Covers (meals)
>n Down in flames (a station is backed up on orders)
>n Dupe (waiters' orders to the kitchen)
>n Fire (start the cooking process)
>n Fire and give it wings (put it on the grill and get it up ASAP)
>n Gold (veal stock)
>n LEO (lox, eggs and onions)
>n Mise en place (French for "everything in its place")
>n Mister (meat cooked medium rare)
>n Monkey mashed wet (small dish of mashed potatoes with gravy)
>n More fire (cook longer)
>n Nuke it (microwave)
>n On the fly (as fast as you can)
>n On the hoof (same as on the fly)
>n Pittsburgh (cooking technique that chars steaks at high heat without
>cooking through the meat)
>n Reburn (recook)
>n SOS (sauce on the side)
>According to
>some kitchen slang has passed into everyday use. Examples are mayo for
>mayonnaise; BLT for a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich; stack and short
>stack for an order of pancakes, and moo juice for milk.
>Mexican influence
>Although they are the backbone of southern New Jersey's restaurant industry,
>Mexican workers have contributed little in the way of language to the
>workplace. That's because most English-speaking employers prefer that their
>Mexican workers learn the mother tongue of the U.S.
>"Spanish is spoken in the kitchen, but most of the time it is the chefs and
>cooks learning a small arsenal of must-know words in order to communicate
>with the Spanish-speaking contingent," says Frank Ferri of Longport, a chef
>and former magazine food stylist. He says "caliente" to warn others of a hot
>skillet, "permiso" instead of "excuse me" and "cuidado" when he wants others
>to be careful.
>Marla Mitchell of Mitchell's, an American Bistro in Linwood, says many cooks
>become proficient in Spanglish, a blend of Spanish and English. But more are
>like Alfonso Contrisciani, chef/owner of Alfonso's at the Country House in
>Egg Harbor Township.
>"Thank god I have some people who are bilingual," he says, "or I'd be dead
>in the water."
>To e-mail Cindy Nevitt at The Press:
>CNevitt at

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