I realized as I thought about our Foodie Friday topic for this week that I’ve neglected to write about the most basic, and important, step in cooking. Turns out that it’s a pretty important business subject too. That step is doing one’s mise en place. It’s a French term that means “to put in place” and sounds like “meez en plahse”. No professional kitchen would dream of opening for the evening without the mise having been done. No other business should either.
Doing your mise means you cut up your onions, mice your garlic, and get all the other ingredients for your dish ready before you start to cook. It has the added benefit of showing you right away if you have all the components necessary to make your recipe or if you need to rethink your plan. It means you heat up the pan or turn on the grill so it’s hot before you begin. When I’m cooking a number of dishes, I do all of the mise at once. That step allows me to cook the dishes without worrying if my timing will be upset by having to slice or dice some forgotten element. It’s the only way that a restaurant kitchen can crank out dozens of dishes in a reasonable time period. After all, can you imagine how long you’d be sitting if the cooks had to dice onions or search for a carrot in the middle of the evening rush?
You should be doing mise in the office as well. Starting the day by taking the time to mentally prepare yourself and your staff for the day’s tasks may seem like an unnecessary waste of time but it helps avoid a lot of crisis situations. A manager’s job is to make sure his team has what they need to do their jobs and doing the mise by walking around first thing is a good step in that direction. Diving right in to email is like turning on the stove before you’ve brought the protein up to room temp first and making sure you have the sauce components ready to go. The pieces of the day won’t go together nearly as well. Most people’s minds are clear first thing in the morning. That’s the time to prep.
Everyone knows “Ready, Fire, Aim” is a bad idea in business and in the kitchen. Doing your mise is both “ready” and “aim”. It assures that the great product you have in mind is what you produce in the end. Make sense?