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• Last updated: October 26, 2020

Podcast #652: Chefs’ Secrets for Organizing Your Life

The kitchen of a busy restaurant can be a chaotic, frenetic environment. But the best chefs create a kind of personal eye in this storm, from which they can efficiently craft meal after meal without ever moving their feet. The system they use to do this is called mise-en-place — a French word that means “to put in place,” and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement.

My guest today spent years interviewing over a hundred chefs and other culinary professionals about the mise-en-place philosophy and then translated it into a system that can be used outside the kitchen in a book called Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind. His name is Dan Charnas and we begin our conversation with how Dan, a writer, realized that mise-en-place was something that could be used by everyone, and the system’s three general principles and ten tools. We then unpack some of those tools, both in how they’re used by cooks in the kitchen, and how they can be applied by regular folks at home and the office. We begin with the importance of squaring your checklists with your calendar and the one organizing process Dan most recommends: something called the 30-minute “meeze.” We then discuss how to arrange your physical working space for greater efficiency and the importance of working clean. From there, Dan explains what he thinks Stephen Covey’s famous idea of putting first things first doesn’t take into consideration, and why it’s important to understand the difference between what Dan calls “process time” and “immersive time.” At the end of our conversation, we discuss the tension between perfection and delivery, the way the “call and call back” communication system used in kitchens creates teamwork and respect, and the fact that the success of any organizational system rests on daily commitment.

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Show Highlights

  • What is mise-en-place? Is it a codified set of rules? An unspoken guideline?
  • The 3 principles and 10 ingredients of mise-en-place 
  • How chefs plan their work shifts 
  • The importance of squaring your list with your calendar
  • The 30-minute “meeze” 
  • Why are chefs always cleaning?
  • The case for a clean desk 
  • Process time vs. immersive time 
  • What Stephen Covey gets wrong about “First Things First” 
  • How chefs process feedback 
  • What do chef shows get right and wrong about the cooking/restaurant process?
  • How do chefs communicate in the kitchen? 
  • Why hierarchy is actually important 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

work clean by dan charnas book cover.

Connect With Dan

Dan’s website

Dan on Twitter

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