intro ... help with 'mise en place'

Joined Aug 22, 2001
Hello ChefTalk Cafe,

intro ...
I am a professional engineer who enjoys cooking and all things food. I have previously helped to cater weddings, office parties, etc, but have recently "retired" due to the birth of my daugher Madeline.

help with mise en place ...
I am a wonderful cook if I limit myself to the meat entree or a side vegetable dish. I am not so wonderful if I have multiple dishes to get on the table. Typically, I will focus on one difficult dish and the rest of the meal must be simple reheats from a can.

I would welcome all tips regarding food prep and kitchen organization. Here is a simple example of the help I am looking for:
Peel potatoes a few hours ahead and store them in cold water.
Other suggestions on things like pre-cooking meats and prepping vegetables would be very welcome. Thanks.

Joined Sep 22, 2000

Welcome to The Cheftalk Cafe.

You would be surprised how much you can do A day or two before.
- Eg; The potatoes... peel and keep in water up to two days.
-Your veg. Prepare and blanch the day before.
- You can also prep. Protiens the day before. But do not season till the day of the party.
- Prep your salad the day before and assemble the day of.
-Dessert you can prep and assemble in some cases the day before.

Of course this all depends on your fridge space. Everything you preprep. goes into the fridge the day before. Gotta go I have a lot of prep. to do at work today....

Joined Aug 14, 2000
Nice to have you Brian. I can sympathize with your organizational dilema. If I am making a single item, it is often very good. If I am preparing dinner for 6, I am often in the weeds :) One thing I have learned is to "script" the preparation. Figure out how long each dish will take to prepare, how much time you will need to prepare the longest one, how much breathing room you want from end of cooking to seated at the table and how much time you want to spend with your guests. Often most of the mise en place can be done a day ahead; onions can be diced, carrots peeled etc. If you can, group these things together in your fridge. When you start cooking, start with the lonegst prep time and work through the shortest.

Welcome to ChefTalk
Kyle (From deep in the weeds)

[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: KyleW ]
Joined Mar 13, 2001
I also cook for two and am quite at ease. Like KyleW however, I could get very deep in the weeds for 6 and more.

and welcome to Cheftalk Brian, amongst great chefs and wonderful home cooks!


[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: Kimmie ]
Joined Mar 30, 2001
Welcome to chef talk Brian:

Think about your catering experience and draw on it. When catering, one always attempts to do as much in advance as possible. It really easy to get into the weeds feeding the 500 if you are not prepared.

Kyle's scripting idea is a good one. Write it all down and you will have an idea in advance when you need to do what. ( Good straight line engineer type stuff - yes?)

Choose your dishes so that you are doing one fairly technical/bang up dish with relatively no fuss sides (lose the can opener). Practice this for a while. When you are comfortable with that - then add one more more advanced dish, and so on.

Is it a dinner party setting that you are worried about? Don't invite the boss over until you have had a chance to work on your "chops". Practice on close friends who you are comfortable with and then once you feel confident juggling your pans, move on to cooking for employers, in-laws and important political officials.

Congratulations on Madeline by the way. That is a very pretty name.

Linda Smith

[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: Linda Smith ]
Joined May 1, 2001
I find myself cooking for 6 to 10 people fairly frequently and have evolved a few guidelines:

1. Cook nothing for a patry that you haven't already cooked for a family (2 or 3 people) dinner. Following a recipe you've never done is a sure rode to confusion.

2. Prep everything you can in advance.

3. Be fanatical about your mise en place. The missing item will always be the one that has to be added right now

4. Post a menu in the kitchen (post 2 if your prep area is far from the stove). Nothing is more frustrating than finding a dish or a course in the fridge after the guests have gone.

5. Script your prep and cooking. It's too easy to forget to heat the water for pasta or stock for risotto.

6. If you mustmake risotto, get a helper!

7. If you know a really good baker, buy dessert. Or appoint the spouse chef de partie.
Joined Aug 22, 2001
Thank you for the very helpful replies. My catering experience has helped me to control my anxiety as a sauce won't thicken or a meat won't brown. I'm still prone to swear when a large kettle of water refuses to reach a vigorous boil.

I believe a large part of my problem has to do with a lack of space. Our refridgerator is usually rather full with pitchers of juice, jars of half-eaten baby food, and gogurts. I'm constantly rearranging to find room for a meat marinade or the salad bowl. Counter space is almost nonexistent. These limitations make it necessary to keep ingredients and equipment where it is until the last minute.

My other shortfall is making dishes for the extended family without prior experience with certain ingredients or recipes. I simply don't know how long a certain vegetable must be steamed and I start substituting for recipe ingredients that I don't have or like. Ask my mom about the black bean salsa incident; it had a heat rating of 16 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Thank you again for the greetings and helpful advice.

Joined Mar 13, 2001
Ah Brian,

The rule of thumb for chiles is this:

The smallest are generally the hottest!

Joined Mar 30, 2001

Not to worry, everyone here is guilty of a "black bean incident" or two. All I can say is Practice, practice, practice. You'll get there.

Sounds like there might be a second fridge in your not too distant future as well. I acquired fridge number two after storing my fridge overflow outside on top of the woodpile at Christmas. The neighbours dog, being in spirit of the season, came over and ate all of the dressing. :eek:


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Welcome Brian nice to meet you. I can't think of any helpful tips right now but It will come to me eventually. :)
Joined Aug 29, 2000
This is probably one of the hardest things to learn. I started as a young'un in the kitchen, and found timing and prep most difficult. (I helped my mom cook for our family of 6.) But the experience sure paid off when I had to prepare a seder for Passover! Talk about prep and timing.... that meal goes on for hours and has the force of tradition behind it. If the potato kugel doesn't taste just right, they'll remind you next year, be sure of it. I guess it'd be the same for any big holiday meal. Getting you "mess in place" is an art worth cultivating! I was interested to learn that potatoes keep for 2 days (whole, I'm assuming) and that other veggies can be blanched. And Linda, we are lucky to live in the great white north sometimes, aren't we? My garage is my walk-in for about 4 months of the year!
Joined Apr 30, 2001
Welcome to ChefTalk, Brian.

I once couldn't find jalapenos when making fresh salsa and thought that one of those "little orange peppers" would sub okay....

Hey Mezzaluna, ever leave pop in the "garage fridge" a little too long and have it explode all over the place? At least a month or so out of the year, it be too cold in my store room to store some things.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Ouch Nancya,

Burning subject

I wish I had a second fridge too...I absolutely hate reorganising everything to fit something in for a half hour...

Joined Aug 22, 2001
While the conversation is on refridgerator space ...

How do you refridgerate 4 dozen deviled eggs (96 halves)?

This is a simple appetizer (use crab meat for the filling) that I often prepare for office parties. My method of plastic trays stacked on baking sheets separated by plastic cups is quite an eyeful.

Do they make special trays with egg-shaped slots for dozens of deviled eggs?


Joined Aug 23, 2000
For the deviled eggs: I'd either stack covered cake pans or (how's this for desperate) use muffin tins. Foil 'em after filling and stack 'em staggered so that the bottom of one muffin depression rests between depressions on the one beneath it.

Great thread. I always find out how improvisational I can be when I'm prepping for our annual Labor Day BBQ. Spare ribs and Thai chicken skewers for 100, and you're dreaming of installing a walk-in, just for the week.
Joined Mar 30, 2001
Very funny Live to Cook. We will watch for the mushroom cloud from your expoding fridge here on the other side of the lake.

WRT the devilled eggs, in my catering days Brian I had several special glass trays with impressions for the eggs that would each hold 2 dozen plus halves. They were old, bordering on antique. Check out flea markets and antique shops.

Cheers- Linda
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Hey Linda,

I collect everything that qualifies as "kitchen antiques". I will keep an eye opened for such a great find!

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