Today I thought I would talk about Mise en place, this is a French term which literally translates to “put in place”: The preparation and assembly of ingredients, pans, utensils, and plates or serving pieces needed for a particular dish or service period. Now I am sure many of you are already familiar with this term and use the practice every time you cook, as I’m sure many of you use the practice but may be unfamiliar with the term.
Way back when I was attending my first class at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, we were in class for five minutes when the Chef used and explained this term. Followed immediately by and I quote here “clean as you go”. I believe these two guidelines are critical in any kitchen - this is their religion! If you employ these every time you cook your endeavors will be successful 9 out of 10 times… Some things can’t be helped. I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes, but have learned from each mistake made.
Mise en place, when Chefs, line cooks, myself and you cook - they (we) use this practice. Everything is ready to go. Chopped, sliced, and diced, whatever – before you start the cooking process. At the restaurants I have worked at, come 5 o’clock everything is done and clean. There is no more prep to be done, no dishes to be washed, we are ready for service. This ensures there is no scrambling around to find and chop that last vegetable or herb, or wash those sauté pans you need. This is a great way to reduce the stress level… And let’s face it, hosting a dinner party is stressful enough, and in my experience this practice has always made for an easier dinner rush at any restaurant.
“Clean as you go”. I’m pretty sure no one enjoys a huge pile of pots & pans needing to be washed at the end of your fabulous dinner party. The only things you should have to deal with are the serving plates, stem and silverware. Of course this only happens after everyone has enjoyed their after dinner drinks, desserts, and have gone home for the evening. In my humble opinion this is the very reason more people don’t cook. They are always left with a huge mess at the end of the night, from the first pan they used at 1 o’clock when they started cooking, to the last piece of stemware or dessert plate all splattered about out on the kitchen counters. If you clean every piece of cooking equipment, pots, pans, utensils or anything else you use, and put it away when you are finished with it, the end of your evening will at the very least be tolerable if not enjoyable.