Once upon time, there was a land where people ate with refinement. Something we sometimes lack in today’s dining experiences. Especially when we’re trying to get ahead in our careers.
Every year around March, the Alumni Association at the University of Ottawa host an Etiquette Dinner open to the public to assist in proper networking dining.
This year some friends and I attended to see what it was all about. I assumed I would learn how to eat with specific cutlery and how to fold my napkin in my lap, which we did, however it was so much more than that.
Here are some of the tips from Monday night.
Something to keep in mind is that when setting a table, in Europe, they eat their salad last, in North America, they eat it close to the beginning, which means the salad fork would be between the fish fork and the main meal fork.
Approach your chair on the right side, using your left side to sit. You should only sit on the first half of your chair which will allow distance between you and the back of the chair. You should be sitting about a hand width from the table.
Wait for the host(ess) to lift their napkin before lifting yours and properly folding to place on your lap. Napkin should be folded with one third folded up towards you creating a pocket. This will allow you to slip your soiled fingers in leaving it crisp and clean on the outside.
If you need to be excused from the table but plan on returning, place your napkin on the back of the chair. Putting it on your seat may soil your seat and in turn soil your pants or skirt. Placing it on the left side of your plate will indicate to the wait staff what you are finished with your meal and that you will not be returning.
An evening purse like a clutch or wristlet should rest on your lap with your napkin on top. If you have a purse or other bags, they should go below your chair.
Wrists should be placed on the tables. Elbows are allowed if there is no food on the table. You may rest your chin on the top of the back of your hands in this position.
Bread should be served when the first course is served. This will happen, usually with the soup course. It is there to accompany your meal, not to fill you up beforehand. You never want to be a few chews away from getting back in the conversation, so pieces should be small.
When someone requests you to pass the bread basket, you lift it up, offer to the left, take one yourself if you want one, and then pass the basket to the right until it gets to the person who requested.
This method should be used to pass the salt and pepper as well. In addition, if someone asks for the salt, or just the pepper, you would still pass both in the same method you would pass the bread.
To eat soup, swipe the back of your spoon against the opposite side of the bowl from yourself to make sure there are no drips, and bring the side of the spoon to your mouth to eat. Do not bring the spoon to your mouth like an arrow.
If you need to rest your spoon while eating soup, rest it on the left of the bowl, on the serving plate the bowl came on.
While eating your main meal and you need to take a rest, criss-cross your utensils with the tines down on your plate. If you are finished, place them tines down in the 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock position. This will assist when the servers go to clear your plate. Their thumb will grab the ends of the utensils to not drop.
If you are not drinking but wine or drinks are being served, let the server fill you glass and forget about it. If the glass remains empty, they will keep approaching to try and fill your glass. This will take away from the networking experience.
When you are eating and there is something uneatable in your mouth, take it out the same way it went in. For example, if you use your fingers to place an olive in your mouth, and there is a pit. Use your fingers to take it out. If you are eating steak and there is a piece of gristle that you cannot chew, bring your fork to your mouth, place it on the fork and camouflage the piece under something else on your plate and forget about it.
Cocktail reception etiquette:
Place the napkin between your left pinkie and ring finger. Hold the plate using your ring finger and middle finger and then hold the wine glass on the edge of your plate using your first finger. This will allow you to keep your right hand free for greeting new people.
If there is a cocktail reception before a meal, do not bring your cocktail or drink with you to the table. Leave it in the reception area as this will crowd the table.
If you have a runny nose or are under the weather before your event, try Vicks vapoinhaler stick. It will usually keep you dry for about 2 hours. That way you will not have to leave the table to blow your nose and possible miss an opportunity.
If you have to sneeze, sneeze into your left shoulder or elbow and hold up your napkin as a blocker.
Cell phones do not belong on the table and should be placed on silent or off as people can still hear the phone when it vibrates. If it needs to be out because you are expecting a call, let the people you are with know that you are expecting a call and that you may need to step away for a few minutes.
You do not need to thank your server every time they add or take away something from you table. Once at the end will do.