CHEF DEZ: Organize your kitchen properly and food prep won’t be so daunting

Think like a restaurant and you’ll perform like one

One of the most common reasons as to why one doesn’t cook from scratch more than they currently do is because of how long it takes to prepare ingredients for the meal.

Whether it involves slicing, dicing, measuring, or simply getting ingredients out of the fridge and pantry; let’s face it, these tasks require some time.

In a world of horrible pre-cooked, pre-packaged foods that are meant to enhance the schedule of our busy lives, I thought it would be practical to discuss options to make food preparation easier, rather than avoiding it altogether. There are many things one can do in their kitchen to simplify this pre-meal burden.

Having to gather fewer ingredients from your pantry not only reduces time, but also makes a recipe easier to approach psychologically too. These tips come from my experience at working in restaurants.

Have a small dish of salt and a pepper mill at your fingertips on the counter at all times. Chances are if you’re going to cook, you will need these 2 crucial ingredients. Another great idea is to keep a couple of plastic squeeze bottles of oil handy.

One could be filled with healthy no-heat/low-heat oil like extra virgin olive oil, and the other with high heat tolerance oil such as grape seed oil, avocado oil, or even canola oil. You can also arrange spices/herbs that you enjoy using on a regular basis in decorative containers by the stovetop for ease of use. Imagine how inefficient a restaurant would be if they had to gather ingredients from around the kitchen for each meal they prepare.

Think like a restaurant and you’ll perform like one.

Reduce clutter and always have a prep area ready and waiting. Every kitchen should have an open area in close proximity to where the kitchen knives are kept, reserved for pulling out a cutting board. If preparing every meal includes a task of de-cluttering your countertops, the chances are greater that you will not bother to cook to begin with. If you currently keep your knives in a knife block, then a wall-mounted magnetic strip for your knives may be the perfect solution to creating this vacant counter space. A beautiful wood cutting board that you are proud to show off in a permanent location also makes it easier to get started.

General accessibility of all cooking utensils, including pots and pans, will also play a big part of your successes in the kitchen. Take some time to reorganize based on your cooking habits. We keep a couple of pottery canisters on the counter that hold are most used utensils like wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks, etc. If you have the space in your kitchen you may consider installing a pot rack that hangs from your ceiling. Tools that are easily accessible will not only make the task easier, but they may inspire you as well.

Start a collection of recipes that you not only love to eat, but also you find comfortable to prepare. Maybe arrange them in a tablet that you keep in the kitchen or printed in a binder with plastic page covers to make them splatter proof. The decision-making process of “what to make” can become one of the largest time wasters when it comes to preparing a meal. We all have a collection of cookbooks, but we need to take one step farther and create our own assortment of recipes from these books that we know and love. A quick flip through this customized compilation will get you moving in the right direction a lot faster.

Lastly, consider taking a knife skills course. Chances are you have a kitchen and plan to continue eating food the rest of your life, so the small cost amount of such a course will be an investment and pay you back one hundred-fold. This will be a saving of not only your future time, but also your future health as well:

Whenever one cooks from scratch, there is a greater ability to control ingredients and ultimately what goes into your body.

Chef Dez is a Chef, Writer, & Host. Visit him at

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