What do you do when you find yourself with two or more helpers in the kitchen? Do you get distracted? Do you panic about assigning them the task of whipping the eggs to soft peaks? Take a cue from food television chefs and try the sous chef technique to take control of the situation. My wife and I cook meals together in the kitchen. We often grumbled at each other, got distracted, and in general found that two cooks didn't make the meal cooking process go any quicker... that is, until we adopted a sous chef technique for meal prep that we now use on the regular.
This idea came about from all the food television we watched together. We were always envious at how everything was already prepared and ready to go. "Oh, let me just add that pre-measured 1/2 cup bowl of sugar to the mix" and "Now I'll just beat in those already divided eggs, one at a time."
We then realized that if one of us prepared all the ingredients, and the other handled all the main cooking tasks that perhaps that 30 minute meal might actually get done in 30 minutes. We call it the sous chef technique, and it's something you can adapt to any situation where you may have more than one set of hands in the kitchen, whether a roommate situation, friends who arrived early to your dinner party, or a husband-wife duo like ourselves.
For this technique, you simply designate a sous chef (or chefs) to prep all the ingredients. Tell them not to be shy about getting out bowls or plastic containers to separate all the ingredients (otherwise known as mise en place, which we've written about before). Then you can just toss and add ingredients as needed by the recipe. This technique also works best if you have two versions of the recipe. So my wife usually reads the cooking directions on the iPad, while I go through the list of ingredients on my iPhone. If we're following a magazine recipe, then I just take a picture of the ingredients on my iPhone and then go to the other side of the kitchen where I chop and prep.
The great thing about this technique is that you can also apply it if you find yourself on different schedules. For instance, I may slice all the onions, chop the tomatoes, and dice the carrots before I go out to the gym. Then when she arrives home she can simply start with those separated bowls of ingredients to get dinner started for the evening. This technique really does make cooking go by more quickly and you may find yourself welcoming more cooks in the kitchen versus keeping it all to yourself next time around.
How do you split tasks with multiple sets of hands in the kitchen?
Related: Basic Technique: Mise en Place
(Images: Chris Perez)