14 October 2005

Getting disciplined

Chefette has certainly had to buckle down this week! Revising for exams, digging deep into the emotional reserves, and -- above all -- subjecting herself to The Discipline Of Mise En Place. Otherwise known as MEP. Or, as Anthony Bourdain would say, 'your meez'.

For the non French speakers, MEP literally translates as 'put into place'. It's basically about getting all your equipment and ingredients for the task at hand organised and ready to go. And it's one of those things I'd thought I was getting pretty good at at home, having learned from a few unfortunate mishaps over the years. Oh, how naive!! Home conditions are miles away from a commercial / instruction kitchen, and it's easy to forget steps or miss things out when you're rushing against the clock to prepare and serve a full English breakfast, a treacle tart, and a beef stew -- and do all the associated cleaning -- within 3 hours.

The inseparable corollary of MEP-- also an integral part of Kitchen Discipline -- is 'working clean'. By that I don't mean turning up in pristine chefs whites, and having good food hygiene, although those are certainly part of it. What I mainly mean is having your workspace as clutter-free as possible. Think minimalist zen rock garden, as opposed to English country cottage garden.

Of course, these two rules -- having everything at hand, and being as clutter-free as poss -- are essentially in opposition with each other, so getting the right balance is an art form as much as a science. And boy, am I struggling to get the balance right.

One thing I am perfecting is the Art of the 3 Bite Lunch. I've been on the late side of service quite a few days this week. ('Service' = serving your dishes to the instructor, and getting his comments on your food.) When you're cooking in the morning, if you can serve before 12.45, you have a good hour to eat lunch, wash up, get changed, and get yourself down to the demonstration room. But if you're serving at 1.40pm, you've got less than 20 minutes to do all that. So I'm mastering the art of, when running late, taking 3 ginormous bites of whatever I've cooked and making it suffice for lunch. Yesterday it was three profiteroles filled with cream and topped with chocolate sauce. Today it was three mouthfuls of fish pie. Not terribly glamourous, but effective!

That's pretty much it, except to say I'm hopeful that I've hit the pass mark on my exam last Wednesday. Wish me luck.


Angus said...

Dearest Margaret, what a fantastic read! I've just caught up with all your adventures and WELL DONE for doing so well so far (no surprises, REALLY darling?!). I'm so thrilled you've embarked on this exciting journey. Good luck for your exam! Big kisses from Prithvi and I... Xx

Mem Herself said...

Thanks for the vote of encouragement, babe.

OperaKing & Accomplice said...

Sounds like they keep you very busy at the school. Congrats re the tarts and meringue turned out well. Its is very enjoyable to be able to follow your cooking school exploits.

prithvi said...

Darling Mem

LOVING the spirit shining through in your words! Can't wait to see you and hear all the details.

Kisses from Angus and I
Prithvi xx