Creativity and Mise en Place – Pastry Edition

a dessert by Jordi Roca

My introduction to the execution side of creativity was in my mother’s catering business that she ran out of our home when I was a kid. She called the business Gorgeous Food and the vision for the business was true to its name. The focus was on presenting fresh, seasonal ingredients in their most beautiful form. “Presentation is everything,” my mother used to say.

When prepping for an event, my mother would describe her vision, then set me up in the kitchen with the ingredients and tools I needed to execute – mise en place. I loved it–the openness of creativity combined with the orderliness required for assembly was a spot that I felt at home in.

It’s no surprise then, that in my adult life I LOVE watching cooking shows, especially ones that feature masters. This past weekend I watched Chef’s Table: Jordi Roca. Standing in the shadows of his mother and older brothers, Roca struggled to find his voice for a long time. But he eventually found it in pastry.

My favorite part of the feature is watching the chef experiment with sugar. There are many scenes, played back in slow motion, in which Roca is spinning sugar or blowing it into glass-like forms then filling those forms with emulsions or creams. The creative process is mesmerizing. But what must be just as good, though they don’t show it, is how his team sets up for production – mise en place. I’d like to see that, too.