6 Organizing Tips to Steal from Restaurant Kitchens

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Charity Burggraaf)

I love peeking inside restaurant kitchens — behind that swinging door (or window or diving wall!) is a hive of efficiency designed to get food made and plated as quickly as possible. These spaces are also designed with efficiency when it comes to cleanup throughout — and at the end of — the night.

While your own dinner service is probably a little slower, there are definitely some smart organization points that you can incorporate into your own home.

1. Hang frequently used gadgets.

Whether it’s copper pots hung from a rack above the stove, or ladles and other tools on a rail behind the cooktop, having your go-to items easily positioned to grab at a moment’s notice is key. While you certainly don’t need to hang every single thing you own, the stuff you reach for again and again might be a good idea.

2. Nix the closed cabinets.

Think about it — have you ever seen a professional kitchen with cabinets? They almost always have door-less shelves! Whether you choose stainless steel industrial-style shelves or rustic wooden ones, open shelving makes it easy to see what you have and grab it at a moment’s notice. And if you’re only storing what you’re actually using, it won’t have a chance to get dusty!

3. Designate zones.

While you might not have the square footage — or the staff! — to have separate fish, pasta, and pastry stations like the pros, you can certainly store like with like. Stash mixing bowls, cookie sheets, and other baking equipment together in one cabinet. Keep your oils and vinegars together near the stovetop and your coffee fixings together near your mugs. The less time you spend moving around the kitchen as you cook, the more efficient you’ll be.

4. Store dishes near where you wash them.

When you are washing thousands of dishes every day in a restaurant kitchen, you certainly don’t want to waste time walking halfway across the room to put them away in between uses! And even though you’re not using nearly as many dishes a day, you have plenty of other things to do besides wander back and forth from the dishwasher to the cabinet. So take a cue from the pros and store your dishes as close as you can to where you clean them.

5. Label everything.

Chefs never have to guess what’s in that weird container in the fridge or when it was put in there, because in professional kitchens everything gets labeled. Use masking tape and a marker to label the stuff in your freezer. While you’re at it, condiments and pantry staples could benefit from this treatment, too.

6. Make space to work.

A proper space for mise en place and plating is a must for a busy kitchen. Chefs don’t have time to waste balancing plates on the edges of sinks and redoing them when they inevitably fall onto the floor. Make sure you have enough counter space to work comfortably before you even turn on the oven. Use the kitchen table if you have to!

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