If you’ve ever witnessed a classically trained chef at work, you probably noticed how swiftly she moved through the kitchen–chopping, stirring and sauteing as if she had an extra arm and eyes in the back of her head. It isn’t that she has superhuman speed or awareness, and she certainly doesn’t have an extra arm (a sous-chef probably, but no extra limb). Instead, she has perfected the culinary custom of mise en place.
The French term mise en place means “everything in its place.” You’ve probably seen this phrase in our previous blogs when we share recipes and tips, and we want to share how mis en place improves our work on deeper levels.
In the culinary industry, mis en place represents more than a reminder to keep your kitchen clean, it’s a mindset. In culinary school, our kitchens were expected to be so orderly that, if someone blindfolded us, we would still be able to find everything we needed ease. While cooking, every ingredient should be inches within reach, portioned, and ready to go so we can do our work swiftly.
This may all sound like militant methodology, but if you speak to any chef, you’ll discover the crucial role mise en place plays in great work. The concept is simple: when you get rid of reasons to scramble, there’s more time left for the decisions that matter. That means more brain power for creativity and attention to detail. In fact it’s so simple the idea is easy to ignore–especially if you don’t cook for a living.
As chefs turned caterers, we always need to be ready and organization makes that possible. Knowing where every spice, knife, saucer, and bowl lives cuts decision making drastically. It’s the same idea that a clear space means a clear mind–and by clear we mean free of distraction, not empty and fruitless. When we’re preparing a wedding reception dinner for 500 people, there’s literally no time to waste. As business owners–the administrative part of our job–mis en place helps us keep our business in order, our labor in check and our maintenance methods streamlined. Of course, there are other, more practical reasons why mis en place is essential. Clean, ordered spaces mean clean food. Unclean food is a health risk, and practicing mise en place virtually eliminates that risk.
To a dedicated culinary artist, mise en place is a way of life. It’s about embracing self-discipline so you can be free from physical and mental clutter. A mise en place lifestyle minimizes distractions so you are able to focus all your energy and decision making on what matters.