Advertising
Advertising

3 Things to Learn From Chefs Who Practice “Mise En Place”

3 Things to Learn From Chefs Who Practice “Mise En Place”

In a recent NPR article, For A More Ordered Life, Organize Like A Chef,” by Dan Chamas, he suggests that we just might learn something more than food preparation from these masters of organization and production. The CIA uses this cooking discipline, “Mise-en-place”  in the training of their agents. But let me warn you that this article is not for the faint of heart. Obsession is just the beginning of this journey of absolute time and ingredient management. Proceed with caution!

1. Have your life in place (your compass).

Now the secret to all this is a simple phrase, “Mise-en-place” which means to “put in place” in French. It is the art and science of gathering and arranging all the cooking tools and ingredients needed for preparing your creation without interruption. Many times the preparation and the arrangement of all your kitchen tools and ingredient measurements and assembly will take longer than the actual cooking and serving time.

So what are the ingredients in our lives that could compare to the chef’s kitchen? Well the choices we make for our significant other, our career, our friends, our living quarters, our education levels all affect what we do in our day-to-day. Then when we are at critical mass, we live within those choices. And are we living in our prisons or our countrysides?

Advertising

And are those choices the right ingredients to create our “Life-meal”? Are you “conducting” your life correctly? The chef is like the conductor of a great symphony orchestra. Everything must be in balance and added in correct time. Nothing must be late. Nothing must be rushed. Nothing must be too heavily seasoned. Nothing must be too loud or too soft. A perfect performance and a perfectly prepared meal are many times one in the same.

 2. Have your mind in place (your Zen).

The “Mise-en-place” or “Cooking Zen” must be located mentally before the real cooking can begin. Without it, mistakes are made, time is wasted, and your creation will not become what it was destined to become.

“It starts with your list,” says Wylie Dufresne, the James Beard award-winning chef and owner of New York restaurants wd~50 and Alder.

Advertising

“What I used to do is, let’s say I had 23 items of mise-en-place I had to do every day. So I’d take a pad and I’d write them all down on the way home. And then I would crumple the list up and throw it out,” he says. “On my way to work I’d write the list again. And you become one with your list. You and the list are the same, because the list is scorched into your head.”

Dan Chamas’s article says, ”But for many culinary professionals, the phrase connotes something deeper. Some cooks call it their religion. It helps them coordinate vast amounts of labor and material, and transforms the lives of its practitioners through focus and self-discipline”.

“I know people that have it tattooed on them,” says Melissa Gray, a senior at the Culinary Institute of America. “It really is a way of life … it’s a way of concentrating your mind to only focus on the aspects that you need to be working on at that moment, to kind of rid yourself of distractions.”

Advertising

And it’s a habit that some culinary students carry with them even when they’re not in the kitchen. “You mise-en-place your life. You set up your books for class, you set up your chef whites, your shoes are shined, you know everything that you need every step of the day,” says Alexandra Tibbats, another student at the CIA.

Gray says that she now arranges her home office as she would her mise-en-place. “My desk is specifically organized based off of where I reach for things the most. [It’s] being so methodical to the point that you continually put your pen back in one specific place.”

3. Have your time in place (your clock).

Dan continues by saying that some chefs believe that mise-en-place is nothing more than a kitchen version of good old-fashioned military discipline. After all, the rigid culinary hierarchy codified in the 19th century by Georges-Auguste Escoffier is called the “brigade system.”

Advertising

“A chef, because of mise-en-place, he’s always on time,” says Andre Soltner, dean of the International Culinary Center in New York City.

He demands the same kind of efficiency outside his kitchen. “If I go to the doctor, and if he’s not ready, I leave. And that’s because of mise-en-place.”

So center your life with your Compass, find your mindset with your Zen, and prepare each day on time with your Clock just like you were in the kitchen or conducting a symphony orchestra. No one else will do it better! Find out where your “Mise-en-place” is today and live a delicious and nutritious life tomorrow!

 

Featured photo credit: Bruce Binn at Spork via ts1.mm.bing.net

More by this author

10 Powerful Movie Quotes That Will Change Our Lives Snapshot of La Petite Joie de Vegan chef The 9 Sagacities of Mining Your Snapshots 3 Things to Learn From Chefs Who Practice “Mise En Place” 5 Reasons to Keep Our Wine (Life) Glass Half Full 10 Navy SEAL Life Lessons You Can Use Every Day

Trending in Communication

1 How to Stop Living on Autopilot with Antonio Neves 2 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life 3 7 Ways to Make Life Changing Decisions 4 Living in the Past? 7 Ways To Let Go And Live A Happy Life 5 What’s the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Live with Meaning

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 4, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

Advertising

1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

Advertising

5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

Advertising

“Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

Advertising

“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

Read Next