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.