On the way into work this morning I was surprised and happy to hear a piece on how the practice of Mis en Place can help us all in the time management of our daily lives. I’m sure the recognition of the work required in the kitchen was appreciated by anybody who has spent time there. Mis en Place has been an established term in kitchens since the time of Auguste Escoffier. The great chef and father of the grand cuisine who still influences us today saw much in the military that could be applied to kitchens. Our classic uniforms where based on those of the soldier in the hot climate of North Africa. The Brigade system, the underlying structure on which the organization of the kitchen staff was based is very much a product of the military. From our first day of training, Mis en Place or “put things in place” was the basic tenet of our profession. Organization of the station; the food we prep and place in ninth pans, the sauté pans and side towels, the salt and pepper all have to be where they can be grabbed exactly when needed. As important but less often acknowledged is the need to remain clear and unencumbered as we work. You may know that everything in the kitchen is where you want it, but what happens after that pan or product is used? If you are truly going to be on top of your game, cleaning as you go is imperative. The kitchen must not be cluttered with all of the equipment and utensils that you used thirty minutes ago. The kitchen, not just the dinning room, is part of the Ballet of Service we perform during an event. During events you may have a staff member to help accomplish this work but for the day to day it is your responsibility to see it gets done. Often times Mrs. Starkey will offer guests a peek at the kitchen upon the completion of an event. They are curious where, hopefully, such a fine meal came from. How would you like yourself to be seen? What would you like the last impression of your Principals’ guest to be?
As a Private Service Chef or Cook there is much we can do in managing ourselves within the kitchen. Our self-directed motivation requires us to have a clean uniform, a clean appearance, and timeliness in our arrival and meal presentation. Mis en Place requires us to have an organized mind. We accomplish our “to do” lists, and then rewrite them and write them again until the task is completed to the high standards of the household.
All our planning and organization however can be undermined if the execution is not professional. We teach the established wisdom here at Starkey International that we a judged first by how we look, then by how we speak, how we act and last by what we say. If the kitchen appears clean and organized, stress can be eliminated and you can focus your mind on the task at hand and still be able to direct the other activities around you during service. In order for this to happen, cleanliness throughout the day, not just at the end of it, is essential.
Your Principal will notice and appreciate the impression of professionalism you have given their guests. It will give them confidence in you when you fulfill these standards on a daily basis. These are the values that elevate a Private Service Chef above the ordinary. Now let’s cook (and keep it clean !).
Chef Dale Eiden C.E.C.,
Private Service Instructor,
Starkey International Institute