Go Back

Upscale Restaurant lingo

As you celebrate this Holiday Season and New Year, you may find yourself going out for dinner at a restaurant that is a little more upscale than you typically frequent.

The moment you enter the establishment, you are confronted with many new, unfamiliar sights and sounds. As you open the menu, you are presented with complicated, foreign-sounding descriptions.  It’s not surprising. As you move up the restaurant food chain, the sophistication increases along with the costs. After all, which would you pay more for; a croque-monsieur with pommes de terre frites or a grilled ham & cheese sandwich with fries? (spoiler alert: they are the same thing)

Fear not, as I have compiled a list of descriptions that are used within the upscale restaurant industry. You may be familiar with some of terms listed below, but I have also included some additional details regarding the history and/or pronunciation of the terms.  Of course there are many more terms used than I can include in my small blog post.  A much more detailed list of terms can be found at the website of Chef Ted (

  • Chef de cuisine, or Executive chef:  The person in charge of the kitchen.
  • Sous chef (soo-shef), “under chef”: The 2nd in command of the kitchen.
  • Saucier (saw-see-a), “sauce cook”: The chef responsible for making various sauces, as well as sautés and stews. Typically serves under the Sous chef.
  • Maitre d’ or Maitre d’hôtel: Restaurant manager. Typically in charge of the Front of the House (non-kitchen) part of the restaurant, including the wait staff.
  • Table d’hôte (ta-bel dote), “the host’s table”, also known as Prix fixe (pree-fix), “fixed price” A meal where a set menu, with little or no choice, is served at a fixed price.
  • A la carte (a la kart), “according to the menu”: A menu of items ordered and priced separately. The opposite of Table d’hôte/Prix fixe.
  • Antipasto: Italian cold appetizer.
  • Charcuterie (shar-coo-ter-ee):  A restaurant/deli specializing in meats. The original origin of the word was tied to “pork butcher”, but it now refers to all types of meats.
  • Chef’s table:  A table located in the kitchen of a restaurant. It is typically reserved for special guests, and may include special menus at a fixed price.
  • Deconstructed: Taking an item/meal, and breaking down its individual components, and reassembling them in a different order. (ex. instead of a traditional chocolate layer cake; you assemble a plate with a simple sponge cake, served with a side dish of frosting, and a side dish of whipped cream)
  • Emulsion: A mixture of two liquids. (ex. oil & vinegar)
  • Petits Fours (pet-tee four): Small fancy cakes, decorated or iced. (btw Nordic Ware makes a great Petits Four Pan)
  • Poivre (pwav): Pepper. Like the spice, not the vegetable.
  • Reduction: The result of reducing by boiling down sauces to increase consistency, richness & flavor.
  • Tournedos: A small steak from the center of the tenderloin.

Bon appétit!