Learn the Jargon: A Glossary of Catering Terms

by Clinton on April 28, 2010 Filed under Catering Tips

Catering - A La Mode

At the junction where great entertaining meets great taste, there’s always a little ‘je ne sais quoi’. But too much mystery and an event could go way off course.

Though an extensive culinary education is unnecessary, a little refresher in the lingo of catering can turn you into a first-class host. Besides, it’s fun throwing around a little foodie jargon. And you’ll find that you sound quite French when you’re done.

Popular Catering Terms and Phrases

A la mode: A phrase indicating that a dessert will come topped with ice-cream, or sometimes frozen yogurt or sherbet

A la minute: An expression referring to food that is cooked to order or made right in front of you

Amuse-bouche: A bite-sized hors d’oeuvre that is prepared according to the chef’s selection. Literal translation? Mouth Amuser!

Apéritif: A before dinner, light alcoholic beverage that is used to stimulate appetite

Digestif: An after dinner, stronger alcoholic beverage enjoyed as an aid to digestion

Canape (or in Italy, Tartina): A small decorative hors d’oeuvre eaten in one bite, served on top of small pieces of bread

Crudite: Appetizers comprised of raw vegetables, sliced or whole, which are dipped in a dressing

Petit Fours: Small, bite-sized decorative cakes

Gelato: Italian style ice cream containing a lower butterfat content and slightly less sugar than regular ice cream. Flavours of fruit and nut purees are often used.

En croute: A food that is encased in pastry and baked

Pate: Ground meat and fat turned into a spreadable paste with additions of spices, herbs, or wine, and usually served on crackers

French service: A high-budget, labour-intensive method of serving in which food is prepared by waiters table-side, before being served to guests.

Plated service: A method of presentation whereby food is aesthetically arranged by the chef before being presented to guests

Tasting: A pre-event meeting at which the hosts can taste a few portions of the menu before giving final approval to the chef

Sommelier: A trained professional who specializes in all aspects of wine and food matching

Appellation: A geographic region indicating the precise origin, grape variety, and heritage of a wine

Mise en place: Literally means ‘putting in place’ and refers to organizing and arranging all aspects of an event for food presentation, including china settings, silverware, even ingredients and condiment selection

A la carte: A phrase meaning ‘according to the menu’ referring to a selection of differently priced dishes prepared when ordered from the menu

Though it may seem like you’ve just taken a French lesson, you’re actually well on your way to being fluent in catering lingo and can go ahead and plan any event, knowing just enough to create an unforgettable occasion. We’ll keep adding to the list, and if you have any additions, pass them along!