After dinner one night at Birch & Barley, I chatted with chef Kyle Bailey, who was in an unusually talkative mood. In the middle of a story about firing an employee, Bailey said, “So I told him to take a moment, go change his socks, go home and have one beer.”
Change his socks?
Bailey explained that when you’re on your feet 15 hours a day, a clean pair of socks can make you feel like a new man. The saying has become a staff euphemism, similar to “take a deep breath” or “splash some water on your face.” (Or, perhaps, in this case, “get your act together,” as the fired dude pondered his future.)
It made me wonder about other chef-isms. Here are a few favorites.
* “You cook the way you look.” — a favorite of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, meaning if you look dirty, you’ll cook dirty.
* “Put the kids to bed.” — a warning that Will Artley, chef at Evening Star Café in Alexandria, uses when an abnormally busy service period is about to start. It’s a nod to putting the kids to bed because something is R-rated and inappropriate for children.
* “Go chop the flour.” — Chef Ted Pryor from Michael Jordan’s The Steak House in New York uses this one when a cook is “so worthless” you have him chop flour, checking his progress every so often, which is, of course, none.
* “I’m in the juice.” — Graffiato’s Mike Isabella. It’s similar to “in the weeds” or “I’m drowning.”
* “Don’t take the elevator. Take the stairs.” — Richard Capizzi, pastry chef at Lincoln in New York, was told this by an old Italian baker the day Capizzi left for culinary school. The baker was warning Capizzi not to be in such a hurry to reach the top.
* “Prepare ‘em like German soldiers.” — Chris Ford, former pastry chef at Rogue 24, uses the phrase to tell his staff that they need to keep their stations neat and organized.