Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fire a Duck!

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 5:21 PM

As in most professions, kitchens have their own jargon. Things like mis-en-place, au-sec and the baton cut mean something in kitchens. Even the word "fire" has its own meaning. It does not mean that the line is in flames, it means that we need to cook a specific table number or item, as in “Fire table No. 4.”

Fire a duck hunt
  • Fire a duck hunt.

The professionals tend to have whole books, like the Food Lover's Companion, just to help explain food and cooking jargon.

Specific terms are often established regionally. In Boise, for example, we have a particular phrase for the designation of an attractive individual. The code words were established at a well-known steakhouse in town where the cooking line is below the level of the dining room floor. To see the guest coming in the door the line cooks needed to “duck” down.

So they came up with a solution to designate a hottie to the others on the line. The menu never featured duck—as in the quack quack kind—so the cooks decided that if they yelled, “Fire a duck!” the whole line would know to duck down and check out the eye candy. The cooks would gawk in unison without having to yell anything “out of the ordinary” in the kitchen.

As the cooks from that steakhouse moved to different jobs about town, so, too, did the tradition of “firing a duck.” Hell, it even evolved in one location I was at. We did have duck on the menu so the term became confusing. We asked our Mexican line cook to translate the term into Spanish for us. It came out something like “tornado el pato,” which, I think, translated into “shoot a duck.” No matter the literal translation, the point was expressed. The best was to hear the female line cooks shout “tornado el pato,” which caused every male to check out some spandex clad male cyclist walking through Hyde Park.

So if you ever walk by a line on the way to your table and hear “fire a duck,” look for duck on the menu. If it isn't there, then you might have just been checked out by the cooks. It’s a compliment, trust me.

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