How to Run a More Organised Kitchen
If you’ve never heard of it, mise en place is a French term meaning “everything in its place”. We chefs know it all too well. In fact, it’s the most widely used term in culinary circles, and the only way to keep a professional kitchen running smoothly. So, what does this have to do with me, you might ask? True, there’s no need to rearrange your whole kitchen to operate at restaurant levels of efficiency, but with a little bit of planning, you could free up the kind of time that actually allows you to enjoy the meal you prepared. But being more organised is not as straightforward as it seems and might take a bit of practice. Mise en place is so ingrained in modern kitchens that it’s hard to believe there wasn’t always such a system in restaurants.
A LITTLE HISTORY
One of the most influential minds in the culinary world was Chef Auguste Escoiffier. He invented a slew of famous dishes over the course of his career, like Peach Melba, Cherries Jubilee and Dauphine Potatoes. In the mid 19th century, when he had just finished his term of service in the military, he started climbing the ranks in the kitchens of Paris. Everywhere he went, he encountered one kitchen after another that was poorly organised, and as he became more senior, began implementing a more regimented system, which wasn’t well received by all. But as with every idea that changed the world, his way was impossible to resist, because it worked so well, and so it became the foundation of the modern-day working kitchen.
The whole idea behind mise en place is to have everything ready to go when it’s time to cook. With a little planning, you can figure out when to do what, like prepping the ingredients for a filling while your meringue shells are baking in the oven. Most importantly, though, clean as you go.
Check the recipe, taking note of everything you’ll need, including ingredients, components and cookware. It’s also at this point that you translate (if needed) or convert measurements if you’re working with a recipe from a country that uses ounces instead of grams.
Collect your tools, rounding up every spoon, knife and spatula you’ll need to make the dish. This includes what you’ll need to prep the dish, as well as assemble it.
Group your ingredients, taking care not to mix raw meats with fresh vegetables. Here, you also measure out the quantities you’ll need, don’t leave it for when you need it. Place groups of ingredients in separate bowls so they’re easy to handle when you need them.
Complete the basic prep work. When you prep ahead, you’ll streamline the whole process. Prepping includes a lot of the fiddly bits, like trimming meat, washing fruits and veggies, grinding spices or toasting seeds.
TAKING IT HOME
There’s never a need to run a fascist regime like the kitchen in the film, The Menu, at home. Take it easy. But being an organised cook cuts back on waste, and helps you avoid mishaps like overcooking a prime cut of meat, burning a cake or over-reducing a sauce. It makes us more present, and therefore, just that little bit better at cooking without compromising on our creativity.