In kitchens the world over, the French culinary phrase mise en place has come to mean “everything in its place.” In practice, it’s a codified philosophy among chefs in which every mixing bowl, every spice and every tool consistently returns to a designated shelf space.
WHAT IS MISE EN PLACE?
The easy answer is, “everything in its place.” It’s a French phrase meaning that everything is organized and ready…But it is sooo much more!
Years ago when I was in culinary school I was working at a four diamond hotel in Stowe, Vermont. Chef Louis Chabot handed me a BEO for a small banquet and told me to set it up for service.
I gathered and arranged all the food on the plating table and waited for the Chef. He arrived with a few other cooks to start the plate up. He looks around and asked, “Where are the plates?” I scrambled and grabbed plates for the event. Then he asked, “Why aren’t these plates hot!?” I scrambled and flashed them in the oven quick and brought them back to the plating table. Chef’s next comment was,”Buchanan, where are the fucking serving utensils?!”
After the event was plated Chef Louis took me aside and had a frank conversation with me about the meaning of mise en place and having your station ready. Part of the conversation went something like, “If you consider yourself a professional cook then the Chef shouldn’t have to think for you.” I had nothing to say…he was absolutely correct and it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.
To this day it is one of my most memorable and succinct learning experiences.
In the professional kitchen mise en place is more of a philosophy or a way of life rather than just a simple phrase. Mise en place is everything needed to make the shift as smooth as possible. It is not just your food and prep. It is also actively maintaining a well organized station, having all of your tools, utensils, and plates. If you have questions regarding a recipe or a plate design then proper mise en place demands that you have resolved it before service. It includes a “professional cook” mind-set (regardless of how you feel!), a “get it done” attitude, your mental awareness, a sense of urgency… Everything!
Your mise en place makes or breaks you during a busy shift. The quality, freshness, and organization of mise en place in a station reveals the quality and professionalism of the cook. A poorly mise’d station reveals a disorganized or lazy cook.
Proper mise en place means that you are the master of your domain. You know how many covers you should do tonight, you know if it’s a holiday, or if there’s some other special event going on which may impact your covers. If a prep cook does some of your mise then you have verified the quantities and seen where the backups are stored. Trust no one, you verify it yourself.
If you’ve been having issues with one of your ovens then you have a “plan B” for how to make the night work. If one of the cooks was sick yesterday then you already have an idea of how the chef may deal with that today and how it will impact you… And you’ve made a mental adjustment to your attitude to be able to cope with it.
MISE EN PLACE IS DEFINED AS:
The Ethos of the kitchen
So much more than minced shallots
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
Seconds save minutes
The foundation of success
The foundation of a successful shift
It makes or breaks you
A way of life
Learn it, know it, live it
Prep, Attitude, Focus, Drive
Slapping Murphy’s Law into place
Telling that bitch Murphy’s Law to sit the fuck down
Organization of product, tools, and mind
Seeing and preventing a problem before it arrives
The professional kitchen life, not unlike any kind of professional career requires an excellent knowledge of product and personal management procedures. I can tell how well a kitchen is managed, sometimes within a few minutes, or upon entering an establishment. On occasion it may take a few days to wade through the garbage to identify the problems. Got problems in your spot, and don't know where to start. Give us a shout, we can help!
Cheers and have an awesome hump day!