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Cooks' Shorthand

I suppose all industries have their own specialized lingo and required knowledge. Recipes in kitchens may not be what you expect. In my very limited experience, they're rarely precise and explicitly detailed. If it's a sauce, it might be something like:

sweat some onions
1big bottle of this
1small bottle of that
half of a sixth pan of stock
reduce by half
add 1 half gallon of cream
salt and pepper
bring to a boil
add a big tablespoon of butter, mount it

For the most part, you'd end up with something more or less the same, even if you have to decide how much onion to use. But with an individual plated special, there's quite a bit of discretion left to the cook. Let's say the special is a snapper - the direction you receive might be:

pan roast the snapper
saute the veg with some shallots
make the cream sauce, but add some chives
use the round plate
garnish in the middle

But there's a lot of detail in there that you're expected to understand and perform without being told. For instance, the-what-actually-would-have-to-happen version of the instructions might be:

season the snapper with salt, pepper, and the fish spice mix
preheat one medium and one small pan, and get another small pan ready for sauce
warm the plate in the oven
put oil and butter in one pan, just oil in the fish pan, and no oil in the sauce pan
the fish pan has to be hot enough, or the fish will stick
saute the vegetables before adding shallots, or the shallots will burn
transfer the fish to the hotter of the two ovens
cream sauce only gets salt, no pepper
the round plate is bigger, so it needs more sauce than the other dish that uses that sauce
add the chives near the end so the color is bright
reduce the cream sauce to coating consistency, finish it with butter
remove the plate from the oven before it gets too hot and boils the sauce on the plate
plate the veg
flood the rest of the plate with sauce
fish should be just cooked through, not medium
fish on top of the veg
add garnish on top

The vagaries of the order and timing have to be considered in all of these steps as well.

I explained one of our dishes to a visiting chef yesterday, so I was on the giving end of the conversation. I did have to backtrack occasionally and explain what's in certain mixes, what's different about our stock, some of our less common ingredients, etc. But she was really comfortable with the same sort of of abbreviated directions. Clearly, she has more experience than I do, but I enjoyed being able to communicate at a professional level.

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