eat. write. smile.

– three things I love to do. Come with!

Spanish-English Kitchen Vocab List

"Can you hand me the um... thingamajig?"

I’m into my second full week of the BasqueStage at Martin Berasategui. It’s been a steep learning curve, as starting in a new kitchen often is. Even though I speak Spanish pretty well, there are many new vocabulary words floating around in my head. I’m learning heaps of Spanish terminology for equipment, instructions, typical restaurant slang, and lively interjections.


Below I’ve compiled a list of useful words with their English equivalents. I hope it will be both demonstrative of the new world in which we are working, and also helpful to future BasqueStages who come to Spain.


Spanish English Translation
Oido (oh-EE-do) “Heard” the most common thing we say in the kitchen as a response to any direction, instruction or reprimand. Equivalent of “Yes, Chef”
Vestuario Changing room, locker room
Colar To strain
Colador Strainer or colander, china cap
Espabilarse To pick something up, to get the hang of something, to step it up
Pillar, enterarse To figure something out, to catch on
Recoger To clean up, to gather everything up
Tabla de cortar Cutting board
Abatidor Blast chiller
Liquadora Juicer
Al vacío Vacuum packed
Aliñar To dress a salad
Escurrir To drain or to wring out
Aguantar To hold on, to hang on to something
Balleta Cotton rag for wiping down spills, similar in texture to a chammy cloth
Trapo Side towel
Papel de mano Paper towel
Papel sulfurizado Parchment paper
Lejía Bleach
Lavavajillas Dishwashing soap/  detergent
Tirita Band-Aid
Voy “Coming through”
Voy atrás “Behind”
Voy abajo “Below”
Quemo “Hot” (literally I burn)
Cuidado “Be careful”
Emplatar To plate up
Fregar To wash dishes
La pica Sink
Escoba Broom
Fregona Mop
La cámara The walk-in refrigerator
Congeladora Freezer
Mechero Lighter (for pilot lights)
Cuchillo Knife
Cuchilla desechable Disposable razor, used at MB to shave rabo (pork tails)
Puntilla Paring knife
Batidora Blender
Hacer la pesada Weigh something out
Comida del personal Family Meal
Apuntar To write something down, take notes
Estar al punto de sal To be well seasoned
Está bien It’s good, that is good
Ésto es una puta mierda This is sh*t, this is no good.
La hostía Literally the host (as in the wafer that represents the body of Christ). Physically, a smack on the face, a slap.

Also can be good i.e. “Eres la hostía” = you’re the man.

Or can be bad i.e. “Hostía, tío” = oh sh*t, dude.

Very common interjection.

No te pases Don’t go too far, don’t get ahead of yourself
Queda claro, ¿no? Is that clear?
Me hincha los cojones That annoys me, that pisses me off (Literally, that makes my balls swell)
No me toques los cojones Don’t f*ck with me (Literally, don’t touch my balls)
Me cago en la leche I’m pissed off (Literally, I sh*t in the milk)
Me cago en su madre // o  su puta madre I’m really pissed (Literally, I sh*t on his/her mother) // wh#re of a mother
Me cago en Dios Jesus f@%king Christ, I’m SUPER PISSED (Literally, I sh*t on God)
Esto es lo que hay It is what it is

From these words and colorful phrases, it’s clear that we work hard and clean lots, and we often do it in a tense environment. While many of the phrases sound vulgar, they form part of a working kitchen vernacular that relieves stress and communicates the gravity of the situation.

With each passing day, I’m learning to have a thick skin and to work under pressure. A common refrain in the cooking world is for young cooks to “put your head down and work.” This I’m learning to do, a skill as valuable as any blade in my knife roll.

One comment on “Spanish-English Kitchen Vocab List

  1. Pingback: Vocab List, Pastry Edition « ruthinfood

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2012 by in BasqueStage, Berasategui.
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