Knowing your way around a kitchen is an actual thing. Ask any veteran Back-of-House (BOH) professional in the service industry what separates successful kitchens from the train wrecks, and the termmise en place is likely to come up pretty quickly.
Mise en Place (pronounced mi zɑ̃ ˈplas) is a French phrase that literally means “putting in place” but is often translated into English as “Everything in its place.”
In other words, the secret to a successful kitchen isn’t just about ingredients and know-how. It’s also about flow and function. Here are five steps you can take to organize your kitchen like a seasoned professional.
The mark of a well-run kitchen is not marked by activity but by stillness. Chefs and BOH veterans set up their stations to minimize the need to leave it. Make sure your ingredients are nearby and measured, your tools cleaned and sharpened, and that you have everything your menu demands and nothing that it doesn’t.
Professional Kitchens are set up in stations. There is a prep station, multiple cooking stations, plating stations, pass through, and other unique stations depending on what that restaurant specializes in. Your home kitchen should be set up to do the same. Think of your kitchen as a series of different zones. This will allow for better organization and flow.
Speaking offlow, the way you organize your kitchen has a lot to do with moving the flow of food from preparation to pass through just like a well-run restaurant. Most kitchens are organized in a triangle with focus points on food storage, cooking area, and clean up.
Whether you are designing a new kitchen or simply reorganizing your cabinets and pantry, think of your kitchen in light of moving your meals along from gathering ingredients to clean up while keeping in mind the need to eliminate movement and steps at each step along the way.
This might seem like common sense but I’m willing to bet that if you walk into your kitchen right now, there are easy improvements that could be made. You shouldn’t need knives near your stove, you need your pots and pans. Glasses and plates should be nearer to where you eat and plate your meals. Your pantry should be near your refrigerator and prep area. In a room known for its sensual effectiveness, never forget that common sense should come first.
The habit of strategic food storage can make a huge difference, but I have found that it’s the hardest to get people to apply to their home kitchens. In professional kitchens, everything is labeled with dates and content, but I’m willing to bet you have more than a few dishes in your refrigerator that contain leftover ingredients and meals that you would have to think pretty hard to come up with when they were originally put there.
Invest in stackable clear containers of one variety, a roll of masking tape, and a sharpie that are all stored in the same place near your refrigerator. This means that all your lids and containers will match, eliminating the dreaded time spent trying to find a container with a lid that matches. Everything gets a label and date, with the oldest date on top. Labels are always stored facing out, and nothing should be “buried” behind another stack. If things begin to stack up or get buried, it means you’re not using your leftover ingredients and need to look at the waste going on in your kitchen.
Okay, those are your marching orders. Let’s see what you can do with them. Like us on Facebook and send us your before and after photos. Tell us about any tips and tricks you have found that work. We’re stronger and more effective together.