Back of House English Vocabulary

This page from our English for F&B Staff covers language needed when working back of house in an English-speaking context.

chefWorking in the food and beverage industry may also mean working where the food gets stored, prepared and cooked. The kitchen area, which is also where the dishes get cleaned, is commonly referred to as back of house (BOH). Whether the establishment is a restaurant, cafe or fast-food joint, there are a number of different jobs back of house, all requiring different types of English skills. Even though you may not have to deal with English guests directly, you will have to understand their needs. You may also need to communicate with co-workers whose first language is English. Study the expressions, vocabulary and dialogue and then check your understanding by taking the quiz.

The area where guests eat and drink is sometimes known as front of house (FOH).
baker: specializes in baking bread and desserts
dishwasher: cleans dishes, floors, restrooms
executive chef: highest cook, trained in culinary arts
food preparation worker: helps other cooks by doing odd jobs such as slicing and portioning
head cook: cook with the most seniority and experience
kitchen manager: person who is in charge of the staff in the back of the house
line cook: cook that helps with food preparation, but may not have experience or training
short order cook: specializes in fast-food, simple cooking
sous chef: chef that is second in command, works under and learns from executive/head chef
FREE Podcasts 🔈 Many of these listening exercises have transcripts, vocabulary notes and comprehension questions.

Example Sentences

Wait staff to chef

  • Can you put a rush on table two's order?
  • What's the ETA (estimated time of arrival) on the lasagna?
  • How much longer for the roasted chicken?
  • What's the soup of the day?
  • One of my customers wants to know what you put in your cream sauce.
  • Didn't I punch in a garlic bread with cheese?
  • I'm missing three side salads.
  • Table seven said to give compliments to the chef.
  • My customer says this hamburger isn't cooked enough.
  • Are you too busy to make me a staff meal?
  • How much should I charge for an extra side of salsa?

Chef to wait staff

  • Can you run this food? It's getting cold.
  • The special is a rack of lamb with a tossed salad.
  • I can do it, but it's going to cost extra.
  • We just got five orders at once.
  • It's going to be another minute for the rice.
  • Are all of these separate cheques for the same table?
  • Did you want the chicken wings to come up first?
  • You asked for that hot sauce on the side, right?
  • How does your table like their cheesecake?
  • Don't forget to punch in those salads.
  • Taste this soup and tell me what you think.

Sample Conversation

Executive chef: Get ready. Anna is punching in her order of ten now.

Line cook 1: Should I get the salads and soups ready?

Executive chef: Yes, let's see. We need five caesar salads and two soups of the day.

Line cook 1: Any holds?

Executive chef: Yes, hold the croutons on one salad, and put the dressing on the side for another one.

Line cook 2: Should I get the steaks on the grill?

Executive chef: We're going to hold on the steaks until the appies are out. I need you to put down two orders of fries.

Line cook 2: I thought we were all out of fries?

Executive chef: Oh, that's right. Did you tell Anna that when she started?

Line cook 2: No, but I wrote it on the notice board.

Executive chef: Mary, can you tell Anna there's no fries left for her table's order. Ask her what they want instead.

Waitress: She just went for a smoke break. I'll check with them.

Executive chef: It's to go with the kids' meals. Tell them we can do roasted or mashed potatoes instead.

Waitress: Kids? Oh, they're not going to be happy about that.

Executive chef: Tell them ice cream for dessert is on me.

Check your understanding

Test your understanding of the conversation above with this quick quiz.

1. What's happening in the kitchen?

food's being burnt
a large order's being prepared
a dish is being recooked
a) food's being burnt b) a large order's being prepared c) a dish is being recooked

2. Which is true about the salads that were ordered?

they're tossed salads
they'll be served with the meal
two of them have holds
a) they're tossed salads b) they'll be served with the meal c) two of them have holds

3. When will the steaks be "put down"?

after the appetizers are served
after the soups are made
after they're served
a) after the appetizers are served b) after the soups are made c) after they're served

Your score is:

Correct answers: