“Mise-en-place is the religion of all good line cooks… As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system… The universe is in order when your station is set.”
- Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
If it is time for you to cook up a business report, proposal, or other major document, you might want to take direction from the time-honored system used in restaurant kitchens around the world.
Mise en place is a French term that means “put in place” and describes the way chefs get organized for dinner service in order to produce good food quickly and under great pressure. It involves precise preparation, so that when the work begins, everything and everyone is ready and knows what to do next. Because time, resources, and space are precious in a restaurant kitchen, chefs use this system to make the most of them.
Professional chefs call it the “Meez” and say it is much more than a system. It’s a philosophy, and a state of mind.
In a report from National Public Radio’s “The Salt,” Melissa Gray, a student at the famed Culinary Institute of America says she even knows people who have had mise en place tattooed on their body. “It really is a way of life… 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.”
PRINCIPLES OF MISE EN PLACE
Chefs have designated workstations. They ensure their knives are always sharpened and tools placed within reach. Before service starts, they review recipes. Then they prep the ingredients, sometimes getting set for a three-hour dinner service with six hours of prep time.
If you have a major business writing project coming up, do your mise en place before beginning. Compile the information/statistics you know you will need and create an information mapping system that works for you. Line up the team of people who will be contributing to the project and make sure each person knows their role. Sharpen your business writing skills by taking a business writing course. Plan ahead so that when the deadline approaches, your document is cooking away and almost ready to serve.
Working clean is a matter of pride to a professional chef, and crucial to ensure that nobody gets sick from their food. Proponents of mise en place keep their work stations picked up, as they go, so there are no dirty pots stacked on the cutting board or vegetable clippings clogging the sink.
Working clean on a writing project translates to keeping your work area organized in a concept map or outline and checking in with the team to see if they are meeting deadlines. A document is created with a process. It also includes saving pertinent information (where you know you will find it) for future projects. A good business writer who works in a mise en place manner doesn’t have to start from scratch with each writing project.
Slow down to speed up:
Proponents of the Meez know that it is better to work in a controlled manner, even if it means slowing service a little bit, than to risk putting out inconsistent, poorly presented dishes. After all, if a diner has a problem with the dish, they might return it, and then it has to be cooked all over again. That’s a big waste of time.
The same goes for a business writing project. Rushing through and sending off a document that is not on target, or contains inaccurate information and typos, can result in having to redo the document or even worse—the loss of business.
The majority of business documents follow a recipe of sorts. Readers expect that proposals will have X and reports contain Y. An appropriate business writing course will enable you to write efficiently (spending 30% less time writing), with the goal of getting a positive business response from the document.
Most importantly, you will learn to analyze who the target audience for the document is. Too often, documents like business proposals are shaped around what your company offers, instead of what the client needs. That approach is like making a dish from what you have in the fridge, instead of using the ingredients that the recipe calls for.
“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”
- Julia Child
The same is true for great business writers. Make sure you get right into the kitchen and work on one of your writing projects.
SPEAK THE LINGO
Do you speak chef? Do you know that “in the weeds” means you are running behind? Just as a professional kitchen has its own language, so does business writing. Learn about language and style to ensure that your document speaks the lingo of its target readers.
Instructional Solutions has a business writing course that will sharpen your writing skills and enable you to produce high quality business documents, no matter how crazy it is in your company kitchen.
Contact us to learn more, and bon appétit!