Mise en Place (French); verb: to set or put in place
I find watching cooking shows to be cathartic. We, as viewers, watch a talented, gifted celebrity chef put together a meal with pre-measured ingredients calmly and precisely. He or she creates something beautiful in a matter of 30 minutes or less. But we all know it’s not that easy. As home cooks, we never have anything pre-measured. We mince garlic on the fly and scramble to add that oh-so-important dash of salt.
So why do chefs talk about mise en place? Because it really does make things that easy.
The idea behind mise en place, or just “mise” in the professional culinary world, is to have everything assembled before you begin the actual cooking process. For our Alta Editions photoshoots, all of our chefs pre-assemble their mise. It’s not so that we can take a stunning, riveting image (Though we don’t mind that at all!). It’s so that they can show us how to cook a dish in the most efficient and successful way. When you have your ingredients pre-assembled and measured out, getting twenty orders in an hour seems like a piece of cake--let alone cooking for four in the comfort of your own home.
Finely chopping an onion or having eggs whisked ahead of time can save you from feeling lost and hopeless in the kitchen. You’re less likely to overcook your chicken or forget a key ingredient when you have everything set out before you. You can even pre-assemble elements of a dish in advance; spice rubs, for instance, become more complex and flavorful if they are prepared in advance and allowed to sit for a few days. Mise will help you to feel confident and in-control in the kitchen, and that is certainly something I can’t pass up!