Work Clean: What Great Chefs Can Teach Us About Organization

Work Clean Cover Dan Charnas’ book presents what he calls “the first organizational book inspired by the culinary world, taking mis-en-place outside the kitchen”.  Wikipedia defines Mise en place (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) as a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.”

The term refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients. I learned this technique in foods lab in college where we were taught to leave our lab kitchens in the exact same way in which we found them so that each succeeding class would find their tools and ingredients in the exact same location. I still practice these habits in my home kitchen and in my office as well. I find that it eliminates the stress of trying to find things and guarantees that I have the right items readily accessible. And in my book Good Food for Life: Planning, Preparing and Sharing this technique is applied to managing food at home. But following the mis-en-place principles can be integrated into any aspect of life, not just to the kitchen.

Charnas challenges the reader to commit to the values of preparation, process and presence in order to live a lifestyle of readiness and engagement. He likens the practice of mis-en-place to other spiritual practices and he outlines 10 major principles of mis-en-place for chefs and non-chefs in order and to work clean:

  1.  Planning is prime
  2. Arranging spaces and perfecting movements
  3. Cleaning as you go
  4. Making first moves
  5. Finishing actions
  6. Slowing down to speed up
  7. Call and callback
  8. Open ears and eyes
  9. Inspect and correct
  10. Total Utilization

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to restore or establish order and to be present in their life be it in the kitchen, the garden or in the workplace!

Good Food for Life

Maggie Davis’  book, Good Food for Life: Planning, Preparing and Sharing, has been published and is available on Amazon and in bookstores. Click on the photo to see more.

Click here to listen to Mindy Todd (WCAI – The Point) interview Maggie about Good Food for Life

“Do you want to have more energy? Want to be around to see your children and grandchildren get married and raise their families? Read this book… and then live it.”

Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life



Vegetable Paella

See more about Plenty

This version of Paella is as good or better than any I have had when traveling in Spain. I have adapted it from one of my favorite recipe books, Plenty. The veggies take on the smoky flavor of smoked paprika instead of from sausage. And the short grain rice lends a creaminess to this delicious earthy dish. I have used Calasparra rice from Spain which I found on or arborio (risotto) rice also works well. This is a warming and colorful winter entree that you will want to make again and again!

  • 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red & 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 small fennel (anise) bulb, cut in strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup Calasparra rice (or another short grain rice)
  • 6-1/2 Tbsp good quality sherry
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 2 cups boiling chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cups frozen edamame or green peas
  • 12 small plum tomatoes halved (or use 2 cups grape tomatoes halved)
  • 1/2 12-oz jar of marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained
  • 15 pitted kalamata olive, crushed or halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 lemon quartered for a garnish
  • Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or a large shallow skillet and saute on low heat for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and fennel and cook on medium heat for another 5 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the bay leaves and spices and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute then aedd the stock and 1/3 tsp salt if desired. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan and don’t stir the rice during the cooking.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes and edemame over the rice and cover the plan tightly with foil. Let rest 10 minutes.

Take off the foil,. scatter the olives on top of the paella, sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4-6.

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