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Mise en Place (Everything In Its Place)

The Importance of Planning and Preparation

Posted by BrandonFertig - July 16th, 2015

Once upon a time, not long ago, my life revolved around the kitchen and the restaurant industry. My first discovered passion was for fitness, my second for cooking. I took up cooking in my late high school years, where I made a miraculous finding: I enjoyed playing with food, and somehow I even made it taste good. Image title
This was miraculous for me because I grew up a very, very picky eater. I didn’t just cut the crust off of bread. I hollowed out the inside of bagels because I was not fond of the outer ‘crust’. I ate milk with cereal, but always poured most of the milk off of my spoon because the taste of the milk alone was disgusting. I would not even indulge in a sip of water, because the flavor (or lack thereof) was gross to me. Vegetables had never before been eaten until I learned how to cook with them.

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What I Learned

I have seemed to always have an ability which I believe most others do as well once it is realized. If I wanted to immerse myself in something specific, I could be great at it. So I immersed myself in everything food related, and found a passion for food. I had previously worked as a busser in country clubs since I was 14 years old, and when I was midway through age 17, I had transitioned to the back of the house (also known as the kitchen). Soon I was on my way to Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island and life would never be the same again. I discovered an opportunity for a new beginning, a chance to break away from all of the beliefs and agreements I had made to myself in the past, and create a new outlook on life. And so I did. And so I kept winning throughout my entire time there. Success is a process, it is a journey in which obstacles are overcome and small achievements add up along the way. Very early on in my culinary journey, I was taught something vital to all culinarians alike: Mise en Place.

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What Is Mise en Place?

Mise en Place (pronounced MEEZ-ahn-Plahs) is a French term for having “everything in its place”, translating to peace of mind as a result of preparation. It is remarkable how this terminology transfers over to every walk of life, and it’s also remarkable how so many culinary students have it tattooed on their skin but do not practice the concept, not in life nor in the kitchen. It is IMPERATIVE that an individual has an organizational plan towards everything in this life. I believe that if you do not have a plan – a one year plan, a five year plan, or a ten year plan – then you are just wandering aimlessly through this world.

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How Mise en Place Works

When you are working in a kitchen, everything revolves around proper preparation. I don’t know of any business for that matter which could succeed without the ability to plan and prepare. The last restaurant I worked in, Gracie’s in Providence, RI, was an upscale New American restaurant which served only dinner. Therefore, our routine consisted of arriving at 11 o’clock, food preparation for service until just about 5 o’clock (start of service), and a team meeting at the end of the kitchen breakdown at about midnight. There are no breaks during service. Once the ball starts rolling, it doesn’t stop. If your station is not fully prepared for service, you were going to go down in flames. Luckily, I have yet to ever experience a service that has ever gone down like that. Then, even after our service we would have a meeting to discuss our plans for the next day and the rest of the week, whether it was menu planning or it was an event briefing. We had to always be prepared in advance. This scales from having a sanitation bucket and a towel on your station all the way to making sure that there is enough salad for the party on Saturday. The concept of Mise en Place is all-encompassing. You should now be able to see just how it applies to situations outside of the kitchen as well.


Mise en Place - Not Just For Food

You must use Mise en Place for your fitness lifestyle too. This ranges from having your workout prepared and planned for the day (even for the week or the month), to having your meals ready for the week, to simply having your gym clothes in your gym bag. The reason why I am so passionate about fitness and personal training is for this simple reason: much of what we do in the gym and outside of the gym, working towards our goals, transfers over to every facet of life. As I stated earlier, the same goes for the culinary industry to some extent, in addition to other industries (also to some extent). Fitness is different though. The kitchen cannot compare to the gym in this regard. What we learn as a result of our time spent in the gym is passion, discipline, dedication, clarity, visualization, mental and physical strength, and the ability to outwork, overcome, and achieve (3 of my favorite social media hashtags).


Those are only a FEW of the characteristics we learn to develop in the gym. Fitness is a LIFESTYLE. It is about making yourself better not just physically, but in EVERY area, especially mentally and physically. I do feel bad for the countless numbers of people who are in the gym daily but never reach this realization. They continue to improve physically to some degree, but they remain mediocre as a whole person. What a waste, if you ask me. When I put a few hundred pounds on my back and I go down into that squat, when I come up you can bet I’ll be a different person. It’s not just the act of lifting the weight, looking better, or getting stronger. Rather it is the idea of a total, multi-dimensional transformation – IF YOU ALLOW IT TO BE. If you do not welcome this, then you will not grow as a person, and I’ll bet you even give up on the gym somewhere down the road, all because you did not welcome the mindset transformation.

Conclusion

At this point, I trust that we are on the same page. You understand exactly what this term Mise en Place means now, and you can see exactly just how it can be so useful to remember and call on. Make a promise to yourself, that you will begin to focus more on planning throughout your life. I’m not saying you must dive into specific details all the time. Develop a five year plan. You don’t have to describe the latitude and longitude of where you will be, but just a general idea of where it is you want to be. And as long as you want to be there bad enough, so bad that you NEED to be there, you WILL get there. Consider committing to some daily planning. Maybe a daily routine will benefit you; I know it has for me. I was never a ‘morning’ person until I read a blog post by Jaret Grossman about his daily routine. That day I made a commitment to waking up at seven in the morning on a daily basis, and with only a few allowed exceptions, I have been doing just that, and have been achieving more small wins on a regular basis than ever before.


Make a list of things you plan to do that day. Prioritize them as well. Prepare your meals way ahead of time so you do not encounter the stress of deciding what to eat. Also consider adding a few specific goals to your daily routine. For example, I have recently dedicated myself to doing a number of mandatory tasks each day including which include playing an academic learning game (my choice is Elevate, another option is Lumosity), and the list goes on. I track these daily accomplishments with an Android application called Rewire. I’d recommend you take a stab at replicating this concept and watching how you begin to succeed more and more each and every day. The more you continue along this path, the more you will begin to connect the dots of your life, thereby finding the parallels between everything you see. If you do not already, you will soon begin to see how fitness is a lifestyle, and all your goals are achievable through this lifestyle with a bit of planning and preparation.

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“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” - Whitney M. Young, Jr.

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MEMBER COMMENTS

AnabolicAliens

Having solid sources around is absolutely crucial. Seriously.

BrandonFertig

Thanks for the section titles @scott_herman!!

Scott_Herman

haha, anytime bro :-P

ohawkey

Great read. Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.

JoeHurricane

Planning ahead is super important. I am good at planning some things, but I really need to get into planning out my days a lot more - even my workouts need more planning at the moment. Plan for success.

Great article @brandonfertig!!

Whisper

a refreshing change this was, reading the article! Much deeper than the usual content you see in most sites :)

BrandonFertig

So far that's the only type of articles I've been putting out! It's only a matter of time until I dive into exercise science though.

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