Mise en Place – (Food Prep #4)

My career as a professional chef and my education at the Culinary Institute of America was crucial to my achieving the level of organization that I have now. In fact there is a single phrase that encompases the all facets of organization in the kitchen that I thought it was worth sharing while doing this summer series about kitchen organization and food prep. 

That phase is Mise en Place. Roughly, it translates from French as “everything in it’s place.” Believe it or not, this is actually the motto of my alma mater. That’s how important it is to the method and madness of a good chef. Practically, it means that you need to have everything set up and planned before you start cooking. Otherwise chaos (more than is necessary) likely will ensue. 

Of course as a trained chef I can sometimes overlap preparation with production. I can start sauteing the veggies while I prepare the meat for a stew. But, the reality is that the ability to do that effectively has come from years of practice and mastering the timing of cooking and of my own prep speed… and I still don’t always get it right.

Personally, I find Mise en Place most applicable in the kitchen for me in regards to baking. I’m a good baker. I trained for a time with Joanne Chang of Flour and Meyers + Change. However I am a very careful baker. It doesn’t not come easily or naturally the way cooking does at this point. I am slow, methodical, and detailed. Because otherwise I will make a mistake….

…timer just went off to check my Blueberry Buckle…
…the Buckle needs 5 more minutes…

As you can see from the picture, I go into pastry battle fully prepped. My oven is preheated, my pans are greased, I’ve read the recipe FULLY to make sure I’m not missing something, and everything is measured out precisely. Otherwise I promise you I will screw something up. 

Now, you may be thinking that I’m spending an awful lot of time yammering on about baking, which is not something that everyone does and certainly most people don’t do that often. True. However, the concept of Mise en Place is an outstanding method or template to approach life with ADHD. It is an almost sure fire way to defeat executive dysfunction. If you plan well and thoroughly, and you have all your “ducks in a row” whether they are fresh whole Long Island Ducklings, or metaphorical ducks, you will set yourself up for your best shot at success.

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