Mise en place

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Mise en place (pronounced “MEEZ ahn plahs”) is a term of art in cooking. It’s French for “set in place.” In a fine dining kitchen, it means having all your ingredients prepared and equipment ready to go when service starts.

When a cook does this, he or she doesn’t have to stop and assemble or prepare items during the busy time in the kitchen. Then, the cook can concentrate on cooking, not finding or preparing ingredients. Short order cooks, like my Aunt Dot, do the same thing, but without the French terminology.

The first time I ever heard the term connected to business was when it sprang from the lips of Thomas Keller on the Charlie Rose show. Keller is one of America’s great chefs and the owner of the fine dining restaurants The French Laundry in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City. He also owns Bouchon in Las Vegas.

Those restaurants are award-winners. Keller also owns several other restaurants and an olive oil company. The French Laundry has been in business for more than twenty years

He’s a successful restaurant owner now, but it wasn’t always that way. His first restaurant didn’t make it. He says it’s because he didn’t know what he didn’t know. He puts it this way.

“When you’re a cook, you go into service with mise en place, everything you need for a successful service. I knew how to do that as a cook. But I didn’t know how to do my mise en place to have a restaurant.”

Keller learned that he didn’t know enough about the front of the house or about restaurant finance. So, in his next venture, he made sure he had people who knew those things well.

What do you need to do your mise en place? What needs to be prepared, within easy reach, and ready to go? What skills and resources and people do you need to succeed? A ritual of careful preparation will make you more effective the same way it works for cooks.

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