Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mess in Place

As the newest cook in the kitchen and the one with the least experience, I'm on the garde manger station. It's considered to be the sissy's station by the more experienced cooks mostly because GM cooks don't have to deal with one important element during service that the others do. Heat. It is in fact probably the easier station but there's a lot more precision that's demanded out of garde manger and it is undoubtedly the most prep heavy station in any kitchen. Two other cooks and I are responsible for putting out the first few plates like salads, ceviches, and tartares that go out to a table as soon as the order is placed. Of course, this puts us against the clock right from the start.

I come in to work for the dinner shift at about 1 pm every day ( a whole hour earlier than I'm supposed to). I then get to work on my monstrous mise en place list for the 10 dishes the station is responsible for. I have added part of it here to give you an idea of what my first couple of hours are like.

4 shallots minced
2 bunches of chives thinly sliced
1/2 bunch of mint chiffonade
1 bunch of thyme chopped
1 cup of chopped mixed herbs
2 seedless cucumbers cut into small quarter moons
1 zucchini sliced thin
1 small box of cherry tomatoes thinly sliced
2 bunches of spring onion fine julienne
2 beets cut into small semi-circular slices
2 heads of frisee cleaned and cut
4 Belgian endives cut into small sails
1/2 loaf of bread sliced, cut into shape and lightly toasted
15 mini baguettes sliced thin and lightly toasted
6 thai bird chilies finely chopped
3 sheets of rice paper soaked and cut into long strands
10 shiitake mushrooms cut into small strips and cooked in mushroom stock

Mise en place is a French term which means "everything in place". What it really is is a mess in place. It doesn't just refer to the actual vegetable prep but also having your utensils, plates, sauces and such on hand and in the right place positioned according to the perfect laws of ergonomics. The better your mise en place, the better your night will be. Every professional cook in the world will agree to that.

Now it's 4:37 pm and there's just 23 minutes till the doors open and the order tickets pour in. Ironically enough , I'm starving and wish I'd taken another bite of pizza during my 3 minute "dinner break" for family meal. I'm in the way of the dishwasher mopping the floor, and the chef is breathing down the the cooks screaming for them to be ready. I have to help set up the station for service and I still have two more things to finish to get my mise en place in order. Oh, and I completely forgot about my croutons in the oven that are now probably well past burnt. Welcome to my world.

1 comment:

  1. “The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.”

    -Bryan Miller