Gail Simmons' Simple Strategy For Streamlining Dinner

January 18, 2018

I’m not a particularly patient person, which definitely presents some challenges in the kitchen. More often than not, skimming through a recipe results in some last minute substitution or frantic multitasking.

But as crazy as I might feel simultaneously shredding cabbage while caramelizing onions and toasting almonds, it’s nothing compared to the heat of a professional kitchen. Which is why I perked up when I came across Top Chef judge and accomplished chef Gail Simmons' reflections on her years of watching frazzled and fearless chef contestants in her latest book, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. In Gail’s words, here’s the first thing you need to know for a successful dinner.

Mise-en-Place Is Everything

If there’s one mantra that all professional cooks life by, it’s the term mise-en-place. French for “put in place,” it refers to having your ingredients prepped and your tools and equipment ready before you begin cooking, so that when the literal and proverbial heat is on you can move fluidly through a recipe without missing an ingredient or a beat. In other words, be organized. At home, practice mise-en-place like this:

  • Carefully read through a recipe in its entirety before shopping—and again before you begin cooking—to account for and organize your ingredients and tools.
  • Clear counter space (as best you can) before you begin prepping, and clean as you work to maintain an uncluttered space.
  • Prep your ingredients as indicated in the ingredient list before you begin cooking (e.g. slice your onion, cube that bell pepper, grate your ginger, measure out your flour, etc.), then organize them in small bowls near your stove or work area so you can easily see and reach for them as you cook through the recipe step by step. Ingredients that are added in the same step of a recipe can often be combined into one bowl to further streamline your effort.

Mise-en-place is an important practice to employ for any dish, but especially those that come together quickly once the cooking is underway.

Interested in trying mise-en-place yourself? Here are some recipes where prep is crucial:

Text excerpted from Bringing It Home by Gail Simmons. Copyright © 2017. Published by Grand Central Life & Style. Reprinted with permission.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • AntoniaJames
  • eakesin
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Nancy January 21, 2018
Mise en place is important in restaurants and food shops because of the volume and speed needed there.
In the home setting, not always important or an improvement.
YES do mise-en-place when you are learning...a new technique, a new recipe, a whole new area of cooking, or when making a lot of food.
NO don't bother with it when making an old familiar recipe.
For good ideas on this, see Antonia James' link in her comment and this article by Alice Medrich from 2016.
So use your judgement, and choose your set-up method. Or none ;)
AntoniaJames January 18, 2018
For another perspective, may I respectfully offer the following: . ;o)
eakesin January 19, 2018
Thank you for sharing this alternative perspective. In this helpful document you have characterized my approach to preparation for many meals...although I suspect I am not quite as efficient as you are.
sexyLAMBCHOPx January 19, 2018
AJ's approach is common for some home cooks. I'm one of them, I just don't document it because of my work and client commitments, but I suppose its content for her blog. ;0) Good stuff!