Just because you are busy, are you really working to the fullest extent of your ability?

“Every day, chefs across the globe churn out enormous amounts of high-quality work with efficiency using a system called mise-en-place – a French culinary term that means ‘putting in place’ and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement.”  Journey into the kitchen in Work Clean (Rodale Wellness 2016) the new book from culture, lifestyle and business writer Dan Charnas.  It is there among cutting boards and Cuisinarts and carefully prepared ingredients that the best practices of how to work in a focused and disciplined manner… so posits the author.  Culled from over 100 interviews with culinary professionals, Work Clean is the first-ever book about mise-en-place.

Mise-en-place for the rest of us…  Mr. Charnas is  journalist, not a chef.  He points out early on that his book was written for the layman.  With no professional experience in the kitchen he (years ago) noticed something “beautiful and elegant” that transcended kitchen work.  Mr. Charnas uses the pages of Work Clean to highlight this time honored method of order’s applications well beyond the kitchen. In the culinary arts mise-en-place means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.  Yet for many chefs, the concept is more of a tradition of focus and discipline -an ethic of working and being.

The author opens the book suggesting that the culinary arts is the only profession to have developed a refined philosophy and comprehensive system of how to work. Using three sections (entitled First Course, Second Course and Third Course) the author cleverly and concisely spells out the system – serving up 10 ingredients (or principles) to set the reader up for success regardless of occupation:

  • Planning is Prime
  • Arranging Spaces, Perfecting Movements
  • Cleaning as You Go
  • Making First Moves
  • Finishing Actions
  • Slowing Down to Speed Up
  • Open Eyes and Ears
  • Call and Callback
  • Inspect and Correct
  • Total Utilization

In addition to his career as a college professor, the author is a seasoned yogi who has taught the practice for some two decades.  It is through that lens of well being that Mr. Charnas imparts his experiences and observations – equal real estate granted to both mise-en-place’s power to nourish the mind and its role in increased efficiency.  Using case studies from chefs such as Thomas Keller, Dwayne LiPuma and Marcus Samuelsson he drives home the way in which these professionals rely on mise-en-place to combat the “impossible rhythm” of the kitchen on any given day.  In the details of their practices, the crossover potential resonates most.  Early on in Work Clean, the author quotes LiPuma of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) as he trains his rookie chefs… “You’ll see.  By being organized, you will be more efficient.  By being more efficient, you will have more time in your day.  By having more time in your day, you will be more relaxed in your day: you will be able to accomplish the task at hand in a clear, concise, fluid motion.  Like oil on glass.”

Work Clean Author Dan Charnas

The Daily Meeze, a thirty minute planning session that puts everything in place of the next day is great takeaway from Work Clean. “Don’t over schedule yourself.  Be honest with your time.  Make hard choices so your day ahead doesn’t make them for you.”  Mr. Charnas charges that “chefs know there is a big difference between working hard and working clean”.  Work Clean shares their secret for achieving that honest balance. It’s an instructive read from start to finish – one that invites the reader to take stock of their professional practices and also invites plenty of inquiry.  Just because you are busy, are you really working to the fullest extent of your ability?  Hmmm… Work Clean is a timely probe for one an all.

The Work Clean App, a recipe to “get ready for tomorrow”, serves as the book’s companion to better incorporate the Work Clean personal organization system into your day. Find the app on iTunes.