I've been watching Hell's Kitchen USA and they have Starters/Appetisers, Entrees and Desserts. In Australia, we have Entree, Mains and Desserts, so its very confusing what Starters and Entrees are and what is the difference.

I found this on Taste.com.au, which makes it only more confusing:

Whether you call them appetisers or entrees, starter recipes are incredibly important as they set the tone for the meal to come. Find a starter to suit all occasions in this mouthwatering collection.

Can someone please explain their difference?

2 Answers 2


Entree in American English means main course, despite the original French meaning.

This name is a sort of historical accident. Originally there were far more courses than just starters/appetizers, main course, and dessert. There have been a large variety of traditions, but a reasonably common meal structure was to have small appetizers (hors d'oeuvres), more substantial ones bordering on things you'd see as side dishes or half a main course now (entrées), then a large meat dish (plat principal, possibly). In North America the separate large meat dish disappeared from tradition over time, and effectively was folded into the entrées, and that name was retained for the main course.

Similar things happened elsewhere, of course - most people don't have four course meals all the time - but the resulting name is essentially unique to American English. In the rest of the English speaking world, the original terms largely remained.

This is mentioned in the first part of the Entrée article on Wikipedia.


Entrée was originally a course served between the fish course and the main roast course of a meal when the menus had up to 21 courses. Today outside of the USA entrée is used to mean a first course, that is a salad or soup (now augmented by small portions of pasta or other dishes). Appetizers is another term in use by the USA on many menus for starter. When outside of the USA an appetizer is a small sample of food that is eaten before the starter (first course of a meal). Appetizers are also known as hors d'oeuvres, canapes, or amuse bouche when used at cocktail parties or events.

  • 1
    Appetizer isn't just on many menus in the US, it's the standard word for that.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 12, 2015 at 17:03

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