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Mise En Place

Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas], literally "putting in place") is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as "everything in place", as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meatrelishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook requires for the menu items that he/she expects to prepare during his/her shift. - Wikipedia

This is the part of cooking that is really about - GETTING OUT ALL YOUR TOYS.  Not only all the utensils and proper accoutrement, but all of the food and ingredients.  Although it is a technical aspect of the kitchen and involves each food item,  accurate scales and measures, bowls and cutting boards, I cannot rid my mind of an image from childhood.  Mise en place always makes me think of my Play-doh Fun Factory.

I know it is totally silly, but I can distinctly remember doing mise en place when I played with the fun factory - without knowing what the devil mise en place was.  Are you with me.  You set up the machine, the rolling pins, the knives, the play-doh, and then all the extras that you thought should be there.  There were cups and pans and water (not an officially sanctioned event), there were plates and spatulas and cookie cutters.  It was all layed out on the table, everything in order; everything in its place.

OK, enough of the digression/regression.  I think you get the picture.  And, I hope I have not ruined your elevated status as a cook so that when you say mise en place - with your best French accent - that you think of little Tommy and his Play-doh Factory.  Alas, there are worse crimes...

At any rate, mise en place is truly the pulling it all together piece.  It is the prep time.  Make sure you have everything you need at your disposal - immediate disposal.  If you need the scale, then get the scale out and bring it over.  If you need the knives, get them - over here.  Bring it all together.  What happens is that this puts you in one space so that as the magical, mystical love that goes on when you start to create something is not disturbed.  So many folks miss the sacredness of cooking cause they are too busy running around and getting stuff at the wrong time.

So, think about your current practice of cooking and see if you can't FRENCH it up a bit by doing mise en place, like the BIG CHEF's.  It'll change your life and your cooking.

Here is a nice article on mise en place in the bigger picture:  How to Survive in a Professional Kitchen by Chef Jacob Burton.  Let's you know how to organize yourself so you can survive the whims and woes of the professional kitchen.  Good Stuff, Jacob.  Thanks!



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