Garde manger is a station in a restaurant kitchen. It is most commonly associated with appetizers - both hot and cold, but the actual discipline is far more expansive and includes all cold preparations including charcuterie and forcemeats. The term "garde manger" is french and literally means pantry. Some restaurants refer to the station as "pantry" or "garm" or "garmo" and the people on the station as "garde mangerians" or "appetizer squad".
Garde manger is typically the first station that new line cooks are assigned to to learn the ropes of managing a station and working services. Common responsibilities on the garde manger station including preparing salads, soups, toasting nuts, making components such as compound butters, breadcrumbs, picking herbs, and making other mise en place specific to the station.
For family meal, garde manger chefs typically prepare a salad or another cold preparation made from whatever vegetable trim has been set aside by the other cooks for family meal use. Through this process, experienced garde manger cooks learn many variations of salad dressings from vinaigrettes to creamy preparations like ranch, blue cheese, and caesar.
Cold appetizers are not strictly limited to salads. Most restaurants will run at least one green salad at all times on the menu. Cold apps can include cold soups such as gazpacho and Vichyssoise. Cold protein based apps are also common such as tartares, crudo, carpaccios, mousses, terrine, and patés.
Hot appetizers tend to be more protein intensive and will commonly include the use of a deep fryer, oven, or range. Soups are their own major discipline of cuisine and are generally picked up from the hot appetizer side of garde manger. Protein based hot appetizers are also common for instance calamari or steamed shellfish.