Mise en place

I learnt a new word today – mise en place. I came across the word in the brilliant book ‘The Practice : Shipping Creative Work’ by Seth Godin. The dictionary meaning is ” the preparation of dishes and ingredients before the beginning of service.” 

Seth Godin writes in the book : “A skilled chef will be certain to arrange her cooking supplies before firing the stove. All the ingredients will be chopped, measured, and laid out. This prevents last-minute urgencies, but even more than that, it gives her a chance to visualize what’s to come. Seeing the tools and ingredients, ready to go, prepared with care, opens the door for intentional action.” This is a very important culinary skill, which is fundamentally linked to the process of cooking. Melissa Gray, a senior at the Culinary Institute of America. “It really is a way of life … it’s a way of concentrating your mind to only focus on the aspects that you need to be working on at that moment, to kind of rid yourself of distractions.” (1)

I could relate this ‘intentional action’ with the design framework (above image) we are working for semester 5 design studio at WCFA. Shreyas Baindur (his blog) and me are teaching this course together. The online format pushed us to be more precise with the planning of the learning outcomes of the semester. This is our mise en place for the design of a public building. It looked a lot messy before it reached this stage. It contains the key questions, context of the project, methodology adopted, layers addressed, readings, readings morphed into methods (like the book Manual of Section)

But after we made this framework lot of things are falling in place for us. Like the input lectures, sequencing the design process, revisit/remind the students of the framework during the mid reviews. The biggest help is that it is keeping us focussed – both at macro level outcomes and micro level table discussions. Even the students find it comfortable to know what they are expected from the semester. Once the ingredients are in place, we can focus on the cooking. So through this framework, we can demonstrate how a certain set of ingredients will produce a certain dish. Students can take the structure, change the ingredients and cook their own dish as they move ahead. With the mise en place – starting point is clear, thus one can trace and evaluate the process for further improvement. This mise en place could be a great tool for the thesis students in particular (and also the guides, including me), as so many of them have the whole store room on their table 🙂

Notes :

Source to the image on the top : https://www.seattlemag.com/sites/default/files/field/image/0413misenplace.jpg

(1) Link to the essay : https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/08/11/338850091/for-a-more-ordered-life-organize-like-a-chef