Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Friday, April 2, 2010

Everything In Its Right Place

“Everything in its right place” isn’t just the title of one of my favorite Radiohead songs; it’s one of the fundamentals of proper cooking. The term mise en place, literally means “put in place”. Simply put, gathering all of your ingredients and utensils is an important step in food preparation. You could say that organization and foresight are the first two ingredients in any recipe.

At Mirepoix, I am known for being obsessively single-minded about our mission and our brand. Since our mission is to “teach people to cook and think like professional chefs”, the principle of mise en place is reinforced at every class for two very practical reasons.The first being that we are on a tight schedule; 3.5 hours isn’t as long as you think it is when you are working on preparing over 12 recipes! Secondly, being organized and neat is essential to kitchen safety.

More importantly, though, applying the basics of mise en place in your kitchen will aide in your quest to become a more competent cook, and, it makes the process much more enjoyable! After all, cooking is a lot of work; you should at least have a good time! I am often saying that people make things way too hard on themselves – don’t complicate it and don’t drag it out! Good cooking, as well as peaceable living is easy, not hard!

Here are the three basic things that working like a professional chef will do to enhance your next culinary undertaking:

Avoid an emergency trip to the pantry, neighbor or, worse – the grocery store at a critical step in your recipe
Save time
Better tasting food

Avoid an emergency trip - By gathering, trimming, dicing, and measuring all of your ingredients first, you will be able to avoid the inevitable and annoying realization that you are out of, or don’t have enough of a particular ingredient. The order of events should literally be: read the recipe, gather ingredients, wash/trim/slice/dice, measure. All of your prepped ingredients should be lined up (not combined) in small dishes or containers so that you can check one last time to ensure that you have everything you need, and in the right quantities. The LAST step is the cooking.

This is the LEAST fun part of cooking, the “grunt work”, but it is the most important part in order to make good tasting and properly prepared food. In restaurants, we spend hours getting everything cleaned, prepped and ready to go before service. When a chef begins service, everything he or she needs is right at hand, and ready to use. He isn’t peeling and dicing carrots in between meal tickets – this has been done hours before.

Save time - by doing all of the necessary prep work, you will be able to quickly and seamlessly prepare the recipe, simply because all of your ingredients and utensils will be at hand. At this point, it’s just assembly and proper cooking technique.

Better tasting food - You won’t be as likely to burn or scorch a pan because you are chopping cilantro, peeling carrots or dicing the remaining ingredients. By having everything in its place, you never have to be distracted because of disorganization or poor planning.

To learn more about the Mirepoix Cooking School, visit our website at and register for one of our classes!

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