Skip To Content

    16 Kitchen Organization Tricks I Learned Working In Restaurants

    Because chefs are organization pros.

    Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed

    Hey! I'm Jesse and I've worked in kitchens my whole life. Lately I've been sharing some of the best cooking tips, secrets, and bits of humor I picked up along the way.


    But one thing I haven't touched on yet is how chefs manage to keep their kitchens so. damn. organized. It's maybe the most important takeaway.


    Chefs set up their kitchens differently than home cooks and spend a TON of time thinking about efficiency. Mise en place is life, and a proper setup makes cooking easier, faster, and more enjoyable.

    So here are 14 of the best restaurant organization tricks you can use in your own kitchen:

    1. Store small pantry items such as spices and seeds in deli containers...

    Instagram: @jjones0285

    Deli containers come in several sizes, are super cheap (you can get a pack of 36 for $20.95 on Amazon), and neatly stack on top of each other. Storing your pantry staples in them allows you to buy things in bulk and quickly access what you need. In restaurants, we store just about everything in them (including our morning coffee), and it helps us quickly find what we need when we're in a rush.

    2. And store bulky items such as flour and sugar in Cambros.

    Instagram: @mosiphine, Via

    In restaurants, we use HUGE Cambros to store our prep. At home, I use smaller two-quart versions (like this set of three for $29.83 on Amazon) to store my sugar and flour. This way, all I have to do is pop the lid and scoop out what I need. They're stackable, they're dishwasher safe, and they make measuring ingredients for baking so much easier (and arguably more precise, too).

    3. Practice F.I.F.O. (first in, first out).

    Instagram: @garyleybman, Instagram: @abowlfulloflemons

    Keeping track of all the food that comes in and out of restaurants can be difficult, but one way to make sure nothing is forgotten about is by practicing F.I.F.O. (first in, first out). Organize your pantry and fridge in rows and store newer items behind the older ones. That way, when you're in a hurry and reach for the closest food, the oldest is always in front.

    4. Create a safe space to store your knives to prevent damage.

    Instagram: @laura.cattano, Instagram: @gerome_zwarts

    Quality knives are EXPENSIVE, and nothing is more frustrating than realizing you bent the tip or chipped the blade. To prevent this, invest in a magnetic strip ($9.96 on Amazon) or knife dock ($19.95 on Amazon) to keep them from banging around. Knife blocks that live on the counter are great as well, but they're designed to hold only a specific set of knives.

    5. Ditch those soggy sponges for durable green scrubbies used in restaurants.

    Getty Images

    You will NEVER find a soft sponge in a restaurant. Why? Because they're GROSS and would quickly fall apart. Instead, use hard green scrubbies (like this set of 12 for $11.99 on Amazon) that don't turn into a crusted mess after scrubbing melted cheese or burnt pans. They're cheap, durable, and more abrasive than the standard soft sponges.

    6. Have at least two cutting boards and reserve one for sweet recipes...

    Getty Images

    In restaurants, we have different colored cutting boards for different applications to prevent cross-contamination. At home, I like to keep two boards ― one for cutting savory items and one for cutting sweets. That way, my chopped chocolate doesn't taste like garlic.

    7. And set them up as though it were your workstation.

    Instagram: @k_xierchez

    Typically, a line cook only has a few feet of work space, so it's important to set it up for success. Secure your board with a nonslip mat used to secure rugs ($9.18 on Amazon) or a wet paper towel and keep everything in arm's reach.

    8. Use Metro racks to create inexpensive custom shelving for your kitchen and pantry.

    Instagram: @edkernan9, Via Instagram: @dulcegrasosalado

    Almost every restaurant kitchen has at least one Metro rack. They come in a TON of sizes, are inexpensive, and are easy to put together. You can easily adjust the height and customize them to fit in awkward spaces, making them perfect for pantries. Check out all the customizable options here.

    9. Browse online restaurant supply stores such as Webstaurant for industrial storage options.

    Instagram: @cityfoodlombard, Via Instagram: @whoiswilsonwong

    Online restaurant supply stores have a HUGE selection of unique storage options for kitchens that regular stores don't (and at a much cheaper price, too). Check them out for inspiration on what to use in those tight spaces or awkward corners.

    10. Avoid storing food in places that get hot (like above the stove).

    Getty Images

    Cabinets above the stove or next to large appliances can get pretty darn hot. Avoid storing items that could go bad (like canned goods) in these spots and reserve them for plates and cooking tools. In restaurants, we tend to keep dry storage away from the hot line for this very reason.

    11. Learn how to organize your fridge like a restaurant walk-in.

    Instagram: @coyote_blossom, Instagram: @mealplanaddict

    Restaurant walk-ins are strategically organized, and your fridge at home should be as well. Foods that need to be cooked to a high temperature (like raw poultry or ground meat) should be stored on the bottom to prevent cross-contamination. (Also keep in mind that the back of the fridge is usually the coldest spot, so items that are delicate like herbs or fresh greens can sometimes get too cold and begin to wilt.)

    12. Get yourself a pack of big squeeze bottles for oils and vinegars, and mini ones for condiments.

    Instagram: @jercrad

    Sure, it may sound excessive to transfer things into squeeze bottles, but cooking with them gives you a level of precision that a giant jug of olive oil can't. Tiny squeeze bottles (such as this set of 12 on Amazon for $14.75) are also great for condiments and hot sauces that you need just a small amount of.

    13. The space next to your stove is for wooden spoons, spatulas, and anything else you need for actual cooking.

    Instagram: @padd__oneil, Via Instagram: @organizewithamanda

    The idea behind this is that you want to limit your movements as much as possible. If everything you need is only an arm's reach away, cooking will be easier and faster. Keep anything you might need while actually cooking (such as tongs, spoons, and spatulas) next to the stove and everything else away.

    14. Don't put heavy shit on the top shelf.

    Instagram: @upcycledmill

    This might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how much easier cooking will become if your heavy food processor is stored under the sink instead of above the stove. The same idea applies to pots and pans ― keep the large ones low and the small ones up top.

    15. Hang a dry-erase board on your fridge to keep inventory of everything you need.

    Luismmolina / Getty Images

    I once worked in a restaurant where line cooks would be in charge of their own ordering by writing down what they needed on a whiteboard. I use this same technique at home and write down anything that I use the last of (such as oil or flour) so I don't forget to buy it during my weekly shopping trip.

    16. Last but not least, MISE. EN. PLACE.

    Instagram: @blackass_aaron, Via Instagram: @arwencobaya3

    Mise en place is a term that means "everything in its place," and it's the motto for EVERY restaurant kitchen EVER. If everything is in its proper place, cooking will be faster, easier, and more enjoyable.

    Let's get organized!