Mise En Place for Bar Prep

Hakkasan San Francisco

With a well-articulated plan, prep work in the bar and kitchen may be integrated or separated.

A restaurant’s bar and kitchen can act as completely separate entities, an integrated ecosystem, or something in between. But as bar programs evolve and improve to include fresh juices, garnishes, homemade syrups, and other ingredients there is an increasing need for bartenders to do prep work that crosses into kitchen territory. This leads to both problems and opportunities.

“Mise en place is more than ingredients in their place. It’s the base of the bar-kitchen-management relationship,” says Marcelo Nascimento of CIRCA Craft Consulting. At one of his clients, St. John’s Restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the former bar manager had the kitchen prepare syrups and other ingredients, but Nascimento changed the system so that the bar now acts independently. “I had to earn their trust and prove that I could simmer water and add sugar without getting in their way,” he says.

Separation Anxiety

Jessamine McLellan, beverage manager at Hakkasan San Francisco, says that unlike most everywhere else she’s worked, “The kitchen does not help us at all.”

That’s not a complaint, but a calculated design feature of the restaurant. “We have a dedicated area in the bar for infusions, coffee, juicing, etc.—and we have ownership over it. We are our own bar world and we do things our way. Of course, it helps that I’ve worked at other places and learned from chefs’ prep work and knife skills,” she says.

McLellan says teamwork is emphasized between the bartenders, bar backs, and baristas by not offloading work to the kitchen. “Bartenders learn all of the syrup recipes. They’re ultimately responsible for [the syrup], even if bar backs make it. And bar backs can take over a well so they can make drinks while bartenders are serving guests.”

Christopher Longoria, bar manager for 1760 restaurant, also in San Francisco, says he negotiated separate space for the bar, but only in storage. “When designing our kitchen and bar, Chef Adam Tortosa and I agreed on the space the bar can use without affecting the kitchen’s storage areas in the walk-in refrigerator, freezer, and dry storage.”

Longoria also uses kitchen equipment including blenders, the sous-vide bath, and ovens to prepare his complex ingredients for the bar.

His biggest challenge is in scheduling this work with the kitchen before service, and generally trying to stay out of the kitchen staff’s way. Luckily, this was considered and planned long before the restaurant opened.

“Trying to create a bar program that employs kitchen tools, time, and storage space when the design wasn’t meant for that wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be more challenging,” he says. “It would take a lot of communication on both teams. And in my experience, the plan should be plotted before trying to put it to work.”


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