This is a french culinary term that nearly all most professional kitchens use; the literal translation is “putting in place.” It is the kitchen version of the 5 p’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
What it means in reality is to get all the preparation done ready for service, to get set up and ready to rock. For most kitchens this is the time first thing in the morning when the deliveries arrive, taking the raw ingredients and preparing them into dishes or at the least the components to make the dishes. Making sure that sauce bases and stocks are made; vegetables washed and prepared; tomatoes sliced; fish, boned, skinned and portioned; lettuce washed and dried; along with the thousands of other little jobs that need doing before service begins. By doing the mise en place it increases service speed and the way the we can cook the dishes to order as quickly and as freshly as possible. If we did not do this service would be impossible and a restaurant simply could not run.
We have a saying in kitchens – Mise en Place saves your a**
It does not have to be limited to just the professional kitchen, it is good practice in the domestic kitchen too, by preparing everything you can in advance before cooking, the easier, cleaner and quicker the cooking becomes. Have you ever started a recipe got half way through and realised you need diced onions that are still in the cupboard whole and un-peeled, never mind diced. Make life easier on yourself, read your recipe through at least twice, then prepare and weigh your ingredients (mise en place), finally then you can go through the steps of the recipe. You will find this a much easier and more efficient way to work, especially if you are trying out a new recipe for the first time.
Good Luck and Happy Cooking!