Let’s talk about Rachel Ray for a second. Specifically, let’s talk about one of her most successful shows: 30 Minute Meals. Thirty minutes to cook that?! A full meal, start to finish, in 30 minutes! It’s like the meals she makes literally make themselves, and yet there doesn’t seem to any of that typical pop the dish in the oven and take out a fully cooked pot-roast trickery. She really seems to be cooking. So how does she make this performance look so easy? It is because Rachel Ray uses the “mise en place” approach to cooking and performance.
Unless you work in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant or speak French, you probably don’t know what the name of my blog (Mise en Place Leader) is in reference to. Mise en Place is a French culinary term that literally means “everything in its place.” Chefs use the mise en place method in their kitchens to simplify complex food preparation. They break down each element of the meal and prepare the parts of the end product (usually dinner) so that when the kitchen is buzzing during the dinner rush, everything flows as smoothly as possible. The majority of the preparation and the tedious work are done before a customer even walks through the doors. Great chefs put in the necessary preparation before the pressure is on so that their skills in preparing each dish are displayed.
Rachel Ray can cook a 30 minute meal because all the onions, peppers, and spices have already been chopped and measured. Her oven is pre-heated, and all the cooking utensils are within arm’s reach. Without a constant reminder to myself to focus on the preparation, you would find me in the kitchen running around trying to find a chopping knife for my pepper while my chicken begins to burn and I’m yelling at my girlfriend to grab the mixing bowl since I also forgot to make the curry paste!
Few people recognize that preparation beforehand can save so much hassle and frustration during the “main event.” This is true in the kitchen, and it’s true in life.
In my career as a mental conditioning and leadership consultant, I like to think of myself as a strength and conditioning coach, but for the mind instead of the body; it doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are when you start working with me, my job is to make you mentally stronger so that you can perform at your best in the most pressure-filled moments. This philosophy fits in perfectly with the “mise en place” approach because a strength coach is all about preparation. I, like a strength coach, cannot accompany my clients onto the field, into the boardroom, or into the interview.
It is my job to help them put everything in its place so that they can concentrate on the performance itself.
Now, I am by no means saying you can’t get anything done if you don’t put in the proper preparation time. Plenty of dinners, interviews, and games have turned out fine without adequate preparation. I am sure you can think of a few examples from your own life. However, ask yourself how much you were able to enjoy the moment of the performance when you didn’t get yourself organized. It was most likely stressful and you can barely remember the performance itself. Compare that with a time where you diligently prepared and took the “mise en place” approach; the event may have even had a feeling of déjà vu, like you had already seen the final product and desired outcome because of how well you prepared.
Today’s lesson is simple:
Any performance, like a well cooked, timely meal, requires the majority of the work to be completed beforehand. Take 5 extra minutes before starting a task today and prepare what you need. See how the task itself changes.
My ultimate goal is to teach you what factors are most important in developing yourself as a professional, a leader, and a person. With my first few posts, Something Worth Cooking and Steroids and Microwaves, I tried to get you to find your passion and be willing to wait for something great, but put your focus on each step during that journey. Mise en Place Leader’s narrative is about preparation. It’s about preparing yourself to be great at whatever it is you do, and focus on the preparation for the “moment.” That way, when that moment comes, performing at your best will seem as easy as a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal.