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Nightmare Clean ups

This post is for Ed, who asked me how I keep from having nightmare style clean ups after preparing meals. Standing at the kitchen sink for an hour after eating is taking the enjoyment out of his cooking! So here’s my advice on how to handle it.

1. Every chef quickly gets familiar with the concept of mis-en-place. That’s a French term meaning everything in its place and it’s one of the first things addressed in culinary school. First, spend 10 minutes setting up your work station (cutting board, knives, pans needed, etc.) and getting out the ingredients you need for your dishes. Measure out what you need and place them on the counter in the order you will use them. Then put any leftover food products back where they will be stored or in the refrigerator. By the way, this is a safer practice for food that will be used in the future. This is another huge topic, but in a nutshell, uncooked and cooked foods both can only be safely kept at room temperature for so long and this time is cumulative. For me, that’s more reason to do it than the fact that 1/4 of your clean up just got done.

2. Also before you begin cooking, empty the dishwasher. Then clean up as you go. Some of your time while cooking is spent waiting , so use that time to rinse what you just used and put it in the dishwasher. Now you’re at 3/4  of your clean-up done before you sit down. All you will have is the last 1/4 after dinner – plates, silverware, serving utensils. If you are really lucky, everyone will carry their own plate over and you can just rinse and stash.

3. Hang as much on the wall as you can. There are all kinds of different rack systems available. I use Roesli (a German brand) because I like the flat bars and the utensils are cool. The racks hang all around my kitchen, with the utensils on them near the areas where they are most used. That helps me to cook efficiently because I can look and grab – no sorting through drawers to find what I want. In some places I also have hanging jars (with vegetable powders and spices in them) and shelves where I store food rings and other things I use often. When they’re in plain sight, it’s as easy to put them away as it is to grab and use them.

4. The last bit of organization has to do with cupboards. Most kitchens have piles of things in cupboards because of  the cupboard design. A standard 30″ cupboard will normally have two shelves. That means one of two things. Either things are piled up and hard to get at and/or you have a lot of dead space. To fix this, I had a carpenter install an extra shelf in most of my cupboards. Voila! No more piles and I could actually fit more in each one. It makes it a lot easier to see what you have, to get things out and to put things away, saving more time.

So you see, it’s simply a matter of keeping a good, organized routine. Nightmare clean ups: Be gone!

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