Mise en Place - the Key to Kitchen Efficiency
What is Mise en Place?
Mise en place literally means to put in place. It means having everything you need in arms reach before you need it. This covers ingredients for cooking, tools and equipment, and any reference material you may need for the task. The goal of mise en place is to make it so you don't need to run all over the kitchen looking for something you should already have. While it’s the physical mise en place that is often discussed and practiced, the mental mise en place is just as, if not more important. In the professional kitchen, you need to be able to do many things at once and do them in the right order. If your mental mise en place is incomplete or forgotten, you likely won't be able to execute the tasks as efficiently or properly as possible.
In restaurant kitchens it's not uncommon to see the new cooks running all over the place. This is because they don’t have their mise en place done properly. You don't want to be this person in the kitchen. Having to run around to get what you need will kill efficiency and focus. One way to see who’s more experienced is to see how far they move during service. The more experienced cooks will only ever need to take a few steps in any direction. You won't see them running across the kitchen to get a lemon from the walk-in fridge.
With the proper mental mise en place, you’ll know that it doesn't make sense to make chantilly cream before getting potatoes on for mashing. the potatoes need to cook, and that'll give you more than enough time to make the chantilly cream, while they cook. Someone with refined mental mise en place will start all of their tasks that have downtime or longer cooking times first, and they will be staggered so that while one thing is cooking another is started or finished.
For example, the chef has a pot of potatoes cooking for mashing, while they cook, he starts the soup cooking as well and still has enough time to get a cake batter made and into the oven. Now the potatoes are ready to be finished, but the soup still needs longer. By the time the potatoes are processed, the cake is ready to come out and cool down and the soup is ready to be processed.
How to begin implementing Mise en Place
To begin implementing mise en place, simply take a few minutes before starting to work and write out everything that you’re going to do. Figure out what tasks should be done first and what tasks can be combined. Then, for each task, assess what you will need to complete it. Write this all down and pin it up somewhere you can see it easily. Follow what you wrote. If there are any issues, make note of them for the next time. It’s that easy. All you need to do is take the time to think about what you're going to do before you do it. Eventually, all of the planning portion, will be done very quickly and almost automatically in your mind, so you can focus on the task at hand. Be sure to modify your mise en place over time to suit your style of working and personal preference.
It takes some time to become truly proficient in the kitchen, but having good mise en place, both mental and physical, will help you on your journey. Take the time to figure out what you're going to do and what you need to do it. Over time you will get faster at this and do it automatically, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the job.
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