When I was in high school I made wedding cakes for some family members. They were the most labor intensive cooking projects I had ever worked on. I gained valuable experience from making them, but it was stressful! I had no idea what I was doing and the kitchen was a mess. I didn’t take the time to create a plan to help me through the process. I know I stressed my family out too. I would lock everyone out of the kitchen so I could have my own space to stress out and work. And that is how I cooked most of the time until I went to culinary school. I wouldn’t take the time to prepare my workspace or make a plan and it always resulted in me being stressed out and disappointed with the final result.
While in culinary school, I learned the mindset and methods of mise en place. With practice and time, I saw huge improvements in how efficiently I worked, I felt less stressed throughout the cooking process, and I spent less time cleaning up. That is why I wanted to start my blog with mise en place. This principle forms the foundation of what it means to be a great cook. Any professional chef will attest that organization and planning is essential to the cooking process.
What is mise en place?
Mise en place (me-zohn plahs) is a french term that roughly translates to “everything in its place.” Specifically in the kitchen it means that you have prepared your physical space and your mental space to cook and to create. Some chefs even refer to it as a way of life. It’s taking the extra time to organize and plan so you can focus on the tasks at hand.
Through my cooking experience I have identified three key components that make up mise en place. I will go in depth into each of these key components in separate blog posts. My three key components to mise en place are:
This happens before you even set foot in the kitchen. It’s taking a look at the big picture and organizing all the tasks in a way that sets you up for success. This is the planning stage. You can make a timeline, a to-do list, or make detailed notes on your recipe.
This part of the process is taking your game plan and physically preparing to cook. A very important aspect of this stage is cleanliness. Start with a clean kitchen and clean as you go. Use this stage to gather equipment, preheat the oven, or do some knife work. Prep your physical space in a flow that works for you.
Creating an ambiance
This is the cherry on top of what makes the cooking process fun and enjoyable. This could be cooking with your loved ones, pouring yourself a glass of wine or putting on your favorite show. I love cooking with my favorite music on. Music and food were meant to be paired with each other.
Why practice mise en place?
Cooking can be overwhelming, especially when you are cooking multiple things at once that need to be served at the same time. Mise en place helps automate the logistics of cooking so you can focus on the joy of cooking. This is a founding principle in cooking. Master this and you will have the fundamentals to improve at every level. It will not only help you feel more confident in the kitchen it will also make the cooking process a lot more fun and easy!
Mise en place does not have to stay in the kitchen. I find that the principle behind mise en place blends into other aspects of my life. To me it is a practice of mindfulness. I can mentally prepare for my day through meditation and planning. I can physically prepare for my day by creating a safe space to live in and exercising my body. When I do these things, I enjoy the present. Practice mise en place in the kitchen and see how it affects other parts of your life.