Mise-en-Place Makes for a Better Life

A few weeks ago, NPR’s The Salt, ran a story titled “For A More Ordered Life, Organize Like A Chef“. Mis-en-place is a technique used by good chefs to keep their stations organized. Before the restaurant opens, everything is prepped, everything in its place. The same organization is true for bartenders – notice how they can pour many drinks without having to look for things? It’s the same way – every bottle, every mixer in the same place every time, so that they don’t need to think about it.

Reading the story, I realized that I organize my life the same way. Maybe it is because I have MS and can easily end up “in the weeds”, but I start the day with a list and a plan, and work my way though it, with a little feeling of accomplishment every day I scratch one off – it’s the little things. I know where everything is on my desk and in my kitchen, and can grab just about anything without having to hunt for it. It just makes life a little bit easier. Of course there are still days when my brain burps and I put hair gel on my toothbrush and toothpaste in my hair, but I digress.

From NPR –

“But the key to mise-en-place is not so much the list, but the mindset. Cooks can easily do six hours of prep for a three-hour dinner shift. Mise-en-place forces cooks to account for every minute of their time and, says chef , every movement.

“Every component of one single dish is in one single corner so their hand literally moves inches,” explains Lipuma, an instructor at the CIA. “Once [students] set up their station I should be able to blindfold them and tell them … and they should know that their tongs are always here, their oil is always right here, their salt and pepper is always right here. ”

That way, chefs are always ready to go, Lipuma says. “They always have one foot pivoted just like a basketball player.”

He goes on,

“The world is a giant gerbil wheel right now,” Lipuma at the CIA says. “I think if we just became a little bit more organized, a little bit more mise-en-place, [understand] what we really need and only do what we really need, I think we’ll have more time” — time for what’s important, he says.

“You’ll be able to sit down at the table with your kids and actually cook a meal. Get up a little bit earlier so you could breathe. You want to greet the day.”

Whenever I say anything about mise-en-place, I get some stupid comments about how chefs don’t do that anymore, and that it is a dumb idea. If you look at the top of this piece, you’ll see I used the words “good chefs”. If you aren’t already doing this, you’ll never been a good chef, and you’ll do way more cleanup than anyone else.

There is much more in the article, which makes for interesting reading.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. says

    I follow your posts because you speak about my favorite subject, FOOD and restaurants too, but I also like that you occasionally give your MS perspective without labeling it as a disability!

  2. says

    Mise-en-place is an absolutely critical concept for cooking, and as you mention, for organizing your life. It was the first thing I taught to students at the Northwest Culinary Academy. And I reemphasized it in every lesson. It is the difference between being able to control and enjoy the cooking process and being controlled by it. In my own kitchen, key equipment and ingredients are organized, visible, and within easy reach. Spices and condiments are organized by cuisine and/or category (Asian, Mediterranean, European, baking, etc.). And I never begin a dish without first completing the mise-en-place. It’s the difference between chaos and order, slap dash and focused attention. I can’t imagine any competent chef saying that it’s not needed.

  3. says

    Haralee (see your first comment) sent me your blog because I’ve lived with MS for 25 years and now I write about living a life of ability at my blog, An Empowered Spirit (http://www.anempoweredspirit.com). I don’t mean to sound like a billboard for myself. I wanted you to know I enjoyed this post, and the combination of food with stories about your life with MS is enjoyable. It is a positive slant, and that is the only way to be!

    It is nice to “meet” you and here’s a virtual toast to a continued life of wellness and joy.


    • says

      A thank you to you and Harlee; I appreciate your comments. Most days I consider MS to be a small part of who I am (though there are those days…) As Churchill said, “never give up. Never ever ever ever ever”.

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