One of the most important lessons that a chef or cook can master is mise en place. You may be thinking: what on earth is mise en place, and why are we speaking in French?
Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything.
What is mise en place?
Mise en place translates to ‘everything in its place.’ It’s a French phrase that refers to having all your ingredients and equipment set out and ready to go before you actually begin cooking and service.
It’s prep, but on a larger scale to maximize efficiency and ensure that everything in your kitchen is under control before customers arrive.
How does it work in a professional kitchen?
Each professional kitchen is different, and every head chef will have a different mise en place plan. Some will instruct their staff to conduct mise en place in a certain way, others prefer to let each person on the line to do prep in the way that they wish. But, the process looks fairly similar across the board.
Mise en place begins with the recipes being cooked that day, week or month. If a venue has an fixed menu, chefs will be able to get their mise en place down pat fairly quickly. For venues that have seasonal menus or regularly changing specials, mise en place must be flexible too.
The recipes will inform the way you carry out mise en place; beginning with ensuring all the ingredients are available in their required quantities, and relocating them to your particular station. From there, you may separate them out into bowls, containers, or squeeze bottles depending on the measurements you will require throughout the day. Then, it’s all about prepping the food itself.
Mise en place checklist
Gather the ingredients you will need for your shift, in the measurements that you will require. Make sure you keep an eye on the available ingredients in case more need to be ordered ahead of the following shift or week, and remember to ensure that ingredients will be available from the person that takes over from you next.
You’ve got your ingredients, your recipes, and your workstation is shiny and ready to go. Now, separate your ingredients into bowls, containers or bottles depending on their measurements. Place them around your station depending on how you will need to use and access them.
Your station should already be laid out with all the right equipment, but give it a look over before you begin to make sure that you have everything you will need for your shift. There is nothing worse than being smack-bang in the middle of service and realizing you don’t have the right knife or kitchen utensil.
- Ingredients prep:
You have everything that you need for your shift, and now it’s time to make things as easy as possible for both yourself, and your team or colleagues. Get chopping, grating, mashing, and start cooking up sauces or relishes that can easily be precooked before service begins.
- Keep it clean:
You may think this one is a given, but it can be easy to get caught up in prep, and the next thing you know - your station is a complete mess. Clean as you go, and keep rags and cleaning products nearby so that you don’t add more time to your schedule.
Mise en place tips and tricks
- Make a list, check it twice:
Working as a chef or cook isn’t all about the hands-on tasks. Top chefs know that it’s important to take time out at the beginning of, or just before a shift or week to make a few lists.
Figure out what dishes or sides you’ll be covering, and make lists of ingredients, equipment and tools that you will need. Write a list of prep tasks, and divide them up: are there particular ingredients that can be prepped once a week, rather than every day? What needs to be done during service, and what can you do beforehand? What will need to be restocked soon?
- Find your rhythm:
Even if you work in a kitchen where the head chef has a fairly strict plan in place for mise en place, there’s no harm in adapting it to the way you work. Your mise en place will be wobbly when you first start in a new kitchen, so don’t be disheartened - just keep chopping and changing the way you do things until you find the right rhythm for you. Everyone works differently.
- Don’t leave it to the next person:
It can be easy to forget that someone will be taking over your station or area after you leave, or the following day. But it’s vital for team harmony and positive working relationships - not to mention, a smoothly run kitchen - that each person chips in to make things as easy as possible for fellow team members. Make sure your station is cleaned up and organized, and if you have the time, start on prep for the next person on shift.
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