Mayo's Clinics

May 25, 2022, 14:39
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Mayo’s Clinic: Mise en Place

08 July 2015

An understanding of “putting in place” is one of the most important skills for culinary students to learn and practice in becoming professionals. Says Dr. Mayo, proper mise en place is actually composed of three parts—all of which do double duty in the kitchen and dining room.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

In the last “Mayo’s Clinic,” we completed a three-part series on using out-of-class learning experiences such as interviewing, structured observation and shadowing. This month, we will talk about a core issue in culinary education: mise en place.

Mise en place—literally, the phrase in French means “putting in place”—has become a personal and professional discipline for chefs. It structures the way they work in kitchens and, for many of them, how they organize and structure their lives. There are even articles such as “For A More Ordered Life, Organize Like A Chef”published in the NPR blog, “The Salt,” that point out how useful the discipline can be in life.

As we teach our students to learn and practice mise en place, it might be useful to remember the three dimensionsof mise en place: physical, intellectual and emotional.

Physical Mise en Place
One of the primary foundation skills we teach new culinary students involves the practice and importance of organizing their stations in a kitchen before they start to prepare food. It is a matter of both arranging the equipment and the ingredients since both are critical to successful cooking.

We teach them ways of placing their chopping blocks, knives and other equipment on the counter in a particular manner and in a specific pattern that encourages efficiency and effectiveness. In the same way, teaching students to bring all the ingredients together before starting to work saves them numerous trips to the food-storage area or walk-in.

Even though students spend much more energy doing everything in a disorganized manner, they often forget to prepare their station fully or to review everything they need before they begin to embark on food preparation. Only our practice of teaching mise en place and inspecting work stations ensures that they learn to organize the physical mise en place completely.

Intellectual Mise en Place
A second challenge involves helping students learn the value of intellectual mise en place: clearing the mind and focusing on the tasks at hand that day.

In many ways, getting cognitively ready to prepare food becomes even more important than physical mise en place. It requires emptying the mind of extraneous thoughts and thinking through the various steps in preparing a dish or set of dishes. It takes clear thinking about what needs to be done first because it takes more time to prepare, needs time to marinate before cooking, requires rising before baking, or demands several cooking steps before serving.

Instead of thinking about what will be served first, students have to learn to think about what will be the most difficult items to prepare or take the most time to prepare. While awareness of this way of organizing tasks comes second hand to professional chefs, it is often hard for students to learn.

Emotional Mise en Place
The third aspect of mise en place refers to preparing oneself to work with others, to present a positive attitude and to act like a professional at work.

Part of emotional mise en place requires learning to leave emotions behind when entering a kitchen or dining room and work hard and efficiently at the tasks of the shift. It means recognizing that work is hard, fast and important and the focus needs to be on food safety, food preparation, food quality and food presentation regardless of how you feel.

One of the ways that many chefs learn to put aside current feelings and bring positive energy and a team spirit to the kitchen involves preparing, emotionally, to greet team members, smile in the kitchen and make the day or shift successful while putting on the chef’s whites and a toque (in whatever form the school or restaurant requires).

Dining-Room Mise en Place
Mise en place, a critical practice in kitchens, is especially important in dining rooms, as well. Preparing service areas, replacing equipment and linens, arranging table settings and decorations and structuring the dining room takes both physical mise en place (students need the equipment to do it right) and intellectual mise en place (the awareness of what the menu demands in terms of service pieces, extra plates and dishes and the sequence of service).

The emotional mise en place becomes the most critical because welcoming guests, treating them well and providing positive hospitality and friendly service can overcome the impact of a poor meal. But poor service can destroy the best prepared food.

Summary
Thank you for reading this column discussing the three aspects of mise en place—physical, intellectual and emotional—which is one of the most important skills for culinary students to learn and practice in becoming professionals. Next month, we will discuss what to help students learn to make mise en place a daily habit in all aspects of their lives.

If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want to share, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will include them in future “Mayo’s Clinics.”


Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe, and is a frequent presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide.