Running a Mise En Place Business

mise en place business
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If you’ve ever worked as a chef then you’re familiar with the French term “mise en place” which roughly means “putting in place.” This little phrase is the foundation of the culinary world of which France has always been the center of this world.

In the culinary world mise en place is the practice of assembling all the ingredients that will be used for a dish or shift beforehand. Gathering your herbs and spices and dividing them out into the portions you will need, chopping your veggies appropriately, having your meats marinated the night before, assembling any knives, plates, bowls, or other tools that you’ll need during the cooking process. Even ordering the food in a timely manner so next week’s menu will be in-house when it needs to be. This is all mise en place.

Mise En Place Means Prepared

What can this practice teach us about running a business or being a successful leader? Plenty. Mise en place doesn’t mention being prepared, but it is the epitome of being prepared for the work at hand.

Imagine a chef or line cook not practicing mise en place. She arrives ready to cook a delicious meal of Chilean sea bass and asparagus with a nice risotto. I’m already starting to get hungry! She fires up the stove and places a skillet on top to which she adds some oil. They she goes to grab the sea bass from the freezer. She forgot to defrost it last night, but there isn’t time for that now so she slaps some salt and pepper on the hockey puck of a fillet and tosses it into the pan.

She also grabs a pot and adds all the ingredients for her risotto assembling them as fast as she can to keep the risotto cooking. She goes back and flips the sea bass hoping it cooks through without burning the outside.

Now it’s time to start cutting the ends off her asparagus and firing that as well. She has to go to the back of the kitchen to grab a clean pan which is about a 3 minute walk. She’s really running now trying to keep up with the three dishes since she is assembling things on the fly and the ingredients, spices, and pans aren’t assembled where she needs them.

When she gets back the risotto is boiling over since she wasn’t watching it on her trip to the dishwasher so she has to clean that up and turn the heat down. The asparagus finally gets into the pan and starts cooking. The sea bass comes off the burner a charred mess, yet with a nice frozen center just the way no one likes it. The fish has to sit for about 25 minutes while the risotto finishes cooking and the asparagus is getting cold as well.

Finally she plates everything and delivers it to the waiting customer who is understandably annoyed at the frozen center charred sea bass, cold asparagus, and chunky risotto she was served. What went wrong? Is the chef just bad at cooking? No, it’s something different.

Our unfortunate chef was a victim of poor preparation. It didn’t matter how good her skills were because in this instance there was no way her skills could have overcome her lack of planning and preparation. Not being prepared is like a runner trying to win a race with 30 lbs ankle weights, running into the wind, uphill.

Preparation is the foundation of what our careers must be built on. Did you get enough sleep last night, are you working out, eating right, have you studied the topic at hand? These are all mise en place in a way.

As CEO, my job is to remove obstacles from my team’s path. My company depends on my high level view to see obstacles in the horizon for my company as a whole and prepare the company to avoid or overcome those obstacles. If I’m working down in the details with my team my view is hampered and I can’t see the bigger issues that may loom. It may feel like I’m working hard, and I am, but I’m not doing my job.

If you’re in middle management then you are relying on the CEO to communicate macro issues that the company should be making adjustments for and your role in the mise en place business is to look out for smaller, more immediate obstacles and prepare your team for those.

The front line employee is also preparing in a mise en place business. They have their job specific tools ready and organized. The craftsman has a sharp chisel, pencil, and hammer in an organized tool belt so he can accomplish any task that comes his way in the course of the day. The office worker has an organized desktop and filing system so they can easily access the reports and spreadsheets they need when they need them.

Running a mise en place business means everything in its right place and everyone prepared for the work ahead. It is the foundation of a successful business. Without mise en place the work can be done and profits can grow, but they won’t grow at the same pace or they will require extraordinary effort. Make your job easier and think about how you can apply mise en place to your business.

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