Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Chef's Guide To The New Year

Many of you may not know but several years ago I took a sabbatical and left the mental health field.  While most people use a year off to travel or take on a journey of self-discovery, I enrolled in the patisserie and baking program at Le Cordon Bleu.  It was an experience I will never forget and even though I now only bake for fun, I learned some lessons that are still applicable today.

If you have any romantic visions of what culinary study looks like, let me dispel them.  It sometimes felt as if I spent as much time scrubbing floors, washing dishes, and treating burns as I did baking.  The foundation of our training was “mise en place” which in French means “everything in its place”.    Culinary students tended to be more creative and artistic than the average person so our lean was to create, not plan, prepare, and clean.  Our chef instructors quickly corrected that (hell kitchen is more realistic than I’d like to think).   We were judged not just on our dish, but on our organization and cleanliness of our work station.   From this experience, I discovered three aspects to mise en place that can apply to our everyday lives.

  1.  Prepare - before you start, have a vision (recipe) of where you want to go.  Have a goal, a clear vision of what you want the end product to look like.  Decide what tools or support you might need to get there.   In class we’d have to submit a drawing or written description of what we were going to create before we even started.   What is your goal for the year?  How do you want things to be different?   What do you need to put in place to reach your goals?
  2. Create – even if you’ve gathered all the ingredients, the meal isn’t going to cook itself.  We have to do the work.  Sometimes we have to be creative, adapt, be flexible but we can’t give up.  In school, we had to present something.  If you made a cake and it totally fell, you had to get up in front of the whole class and present a fallen cake.  There was no out, no do-over.  Life is that way.  We have one go around, one opportunity to create the life we want.   
  3. Clean As You Go- While creating, we make a mess.  We have things that didn’t work out, tools we needed at one point but no longer need.  If we don’t clean as we go, the dirty dishes and tools get in the way of our new project.  Our past is that way.  Keep the memories and lessons that are helpful moving forward and get rid of the ones that are just getting in the way.

So, for this New Year, get everything in its place and make it the best year yet!  Happy new years from me and my family to you and yours.