CIA-Style Organization (It’s Not What You Think!)

When you walk into a 5-star kitchen, you’re stepping into a truly magical place.

Dozens of hands move at lightning speed, people buzz about, knives (and unsuspecting ingredients) fly through the air with ease and ferocity. But, while it may seem like a barely restrained ballet of ultimate chaos, everything is carefully organized in accordance with the principles of mise-en-place. French for “put in place,” it’s not just a philosophy or an order of operations. It’s a way of your surroundings and what is required of you, while keeping you on your toes and ready for action at a moment’s notice. At its core, mise-en-place is all about preparation.

Think about it, an expert chef will do hours of prep work for just one meal. That extra time isn’t solely devoted to chopping up onions and picking the best filet. Culinary pros focus unbelievable amounts of attention on everything from their clothing choices (and upkeep) to the layout of their station. CIA (Culinary Institute of America) instructors even expect students to identify where each tool is blindfolded. Everything has its place which is selected to give a chef the most efficient access to his or her tools.

And it’s not just about proximity, mise-en-place embraces the power of working clean. You’ll never see a super chef with a workstation that’s covered in crud. While it may sound contradictory, another key component to mise-en-place, is slowing down to speed up. Each task is given its proper time — there’s no rushing excellence, especially in food!

Imagine the kind of force you would be with mise-en-place as your way of life.

When time, resources, and space are precious, when you know just how far you can (and should) stretch your efforts, when everything is in its proper place, the force of a 5-star kitchen can transform your productivity.

Start your day the night before and draw up a list of anything that needs to be put into its place for the day. As award-winning chef, Wylie Dufresne says, “Become one with your list … the list is scorched into your head.” Organize your world, top to bottom, so you can move through it with ease and efficiency. While you may not be able to access everything at your desk blindfolded, keep your essentials close at hand, and always know where they are. Make sure your desk is clean and uncluttered by materials from other projects. And always remember to give every venture the time and care it’s due.

Invest in the prep, and give the same attention to all elements of your life, not just your time in the office. After all, time is fleeting, but when mise-en-place­ defines how you work, you’ll be sure to savor every delicious moment!

Could your life use a little mise-en-place?

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