Life lessons from the kitchen: Everything in its place
Ever wonder why the recipe you watched on your favorite cooking show takes so much longer than they say or show? I remember trying to do “30-minute meals” many years ago. I never hit the mark. I’m pretty sure that the closest I got was one hour.
Later in life I would learn a very important culinary term — mise en place — a French culinary term that means “everything in its place.” Simply put, in the kitchen, it refers to the preparation that is done before cooking. It involves everything from planning, preparing and measuring ingredients before starting to cook the food.
Mise en place is the difference between success and utter chaos in the kitchen. I’ve learned that the way blogs and TV shows teach us to cook is out of order. Most recipes tell us to do each step one at a time — chop the onion, then sauté it. While we’re sautéing, we’re supposed to chop the other vegetables and cut up the chicken. Ever had to turn the pan off because you’re not quite done chopping everything by the time the onions are done cooking? Here’s a little tip: If you want to get close to that 30-minute meal, you’ll have to first prepare and portion all of the ingredients.
Good chefs understand the value of good prep. Most of the work is done well before you ever light the stove. Great chefs understand mise en place as more than just a culinary term but a philosophy of life.
As I work to apply this philosophy in our business culture — ensuring that “everything is in its place” in all aspects of our business so we can best serve our customers — I’ve also begun to look at how this applies in family life. I strive to teach my children to have the right priorities. I try to model this for them by having everything in its place: God first, my spouse (vocation) second, my children, then other family, neighbors (including my career and business responsibilities), and finally the world at large.
We all know the importance of sharing family meals, but maybe we can take it even further. What if we could use the simple practice of preparing dinner to teach our children or grandchildren the importance of mise en place? Try involving your whole family in preparing a meal where you all take on a task of planning, preparation and getting your mise en place before cooking the meal. Not only would it provide more family time, but it would also provide a valuable and practical lesson in the importance of priorities. I can tell you from experience that practicing this culinary discipline will make preparing a meal less stressful. Why? Because when everything is in its place, there is less room for chaos.
CHRIS FADDIS is the founder of Bene Plates. Learn more at beneplates.com
Citrus Grilled Chicken Salad
2 oranges, 2 lemons
½ cup olive oil
3 tbsp honey (or agave)
4 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
½ bag baby arugula
1 Belgium endive
½ cup cherry tomatoes
½ red bell pepper
1 cup snap peas
Salt and pepper chicken tenders. Juice 1 orange and 1 lemon and place in bowl. Add half of olive oil and thyme to juice. Mix and cover chicken with this mixture; let stand for 20-30 minutes. Heat grill pan on medium. Grill chicken for 5 minutes per side.
In a new bowl, add honey, remaining olive oil, thyme and orange and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste; whisk together.
Wash and rinse all vegetables. Place arugula in a bowl. Chop endive crosswise and place over arugula. Chop the snap peas into thirds and place over top of salad. Slice red bell pepper and place in salad; add cherry tomatoes. Toss salad with citrus dressing; place on plate. Add chicken (three per plate) and enjoy.