Workflow strategies from a chef’s mantra.
Have you ever made your favorite dish at home and been surprised by the amount of labor and time involved? How do chefs, bartenders and baristas put out food and drinks so fast and effortlessly in crowded environments, but when you try to go and make a Manhattan yourself, it takes 15 minutes and you end up dirtying twenty dishes?
Many of us are right now experimenting with fermentation, pickling and baking sourdough bread or focaccia - it’s a great time to try your hand at your favorite dishes and drinks. Maybe you've looked up a recipe from Bon Appetit or cracked open a book on bartending like Dave Arnold's "Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail".
How we cook actually tells us a lot about how we plan, organize, and execute throughout different facets of life.
When we haven’t done something before we often follow the instructions to the letter and carefully review the ingredient lists to make sure we have everything at home. Most of these recipes are written with the home-enthusiast in mind. One of the first sections in the recipe article will be a list of ingredients, their mass or volume, and how they are to be prepared (diced, blanched, crushed, minced, etc). The remainder of the article is often a numbered step by step instruction on when to combine the various ingredients, along with other pertinent information like temperature and visual cues.
The difference between a home chef and a professional one (aside from equipment, ingredients and training) is that the pros don’t follow recipes; they memorize them. You may start your preparations 45 minutes before dinner, but they start planning, prepping and organizing for dinner service days in advance. When they go to make a dish all the ingredients are cut, sometimes pre-cooked, and organized for easy execution.
"Mise en place" is a French term meaning “everything in its place”, a mantra for this type of specific organization in the kitchen. It also refers to the prep work that makes a professional kitchen run smoothly. The phrase may have originated from the kitchen brigade (a hierarchy borrowed from European military systems) but cooks all over the world from Michelin star restaurants to burger joints and fast-casual spots use this mindset to master one key variable: time. This concept also applies to the latte you get in the morning and the cocktail after work - the speed at which you receive your drink relies heavily on preparation work (prep), side tasks and portion planning, although you rarely see most of these actions a guest.
In his book “Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life”, Dan Charnas transplants the tenets of this organization model outside of the kitchen and into our daily personal and professional lives. He presents ten principles taken from the mise en place playbook that can transform your work habits, including making lists, doing prep work, having everything you need for a task and of course a clean workspace.
Whether you’re working from home or in the corner cubicle, your environment ultimately affects your productivity. Espousing kitchen strategies designed to crush dinner rushes can help you crush your own rushes, such as shortened timelines, quick turnarounds or last-minute changes. Start by making a list of tasks you need to do. This should be a common practice, anyone who’s gone grocery shopping has done this. Here’s where the exercise deviates; now make a second list of all the things you need to complete those tasks. Look over your workspace and pull out what you need and put up anything you don’t.
This applies to your digital workspace too! How many tabs do you have open? How many icons are on your computer’s home screen? Closing tabs when you don’t need them is akin to cleaning your cutting board in between ingredients.
Looking to stay organized in the digital space? Check out our '10 Best Collaboration & Organization Apps' blog to help keep yourself organized.
Just like chefs, mobility is key in many industries. Whether it’s moving to a new restaurant or meeting a client across the world - working with the same tools no matter the location is key. Chefs pack up their knives and take a taxi, but what is the business application of this principle? Desktop.com.
Flexibility, simplicity, and collaboration are all key tenets of Desktop.com. Users can easily share their Desktops with other users and teams regardless if a PC, Mac or mobile device is used. With Desktop.com’s ‘App Store’, users can easily explore, find, and add apps to any of their Desktop’s from a growing selection of hundreds of integrated apps. An easy way to keep on task when working from your laptop (or phone) is to use a service like desktop.com to organize your web apps and link so you have everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Cooks on the line and drink-makers behind the bar get through Saturday rushes by doing a ton of prep work and organization beforehand. Take a cue from their habits and take a few minutes to organize your workspace for more disciplined creativity from anywhere in the world.