So you were invited to this ultra-formal dinner by your boss or by a former college classmate and the idea of hundreds of forks and knives is so intimidating that it makes you want to cancel. Before you do the most distasteful thing and become a no-show, breathe and relax. While others go to finishing school just to learn the rules of fine dining, there’s always a crash course for it.
Knives and Forks
At a very formal dinner, there will be a series of forks and knives on either side of the plate. The rule for this is very simple. All you have to do is work your way from the outermost flatware to the innermost. If you’re still unsure of this, you can always follow the lead of your host or hostess. Lay down your fork and knife on the plate in between mouthfuls and place them vertically on the center of your plate once you’re done. Finally, always use both your fork and knife; do not cut up all your food and then only use your fork.
Always keep your soup bowl on the table, when you use your soup spoon make sure to start at the center of the bowl and push your way up. Bring your spoon to your mouth and sip from the edge of the spoon without any slurping.
You can only use your napkin to dab your mouth, never to wipe it completely. Place your napkin on your lap, never tucked into your shirt or top like a bib. If you must leave but will return shortly, place your napkin on your seat. When you’re done with the meal, place the napkin on the side of your plate.
While you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different types of glasses, the rules are the same regardless of which one you use. When someone offers a toast, keep seated. Never clink your glass with other guests, nor should you tap it with a utensil; raising your glass to the other guests’ direction as well as clearing your throat will suffice.
It’s very rude to salt your food before you’ve even tasted it. Bread should be tore up using your fingers and never with a knife. And lastly, if there is anything stuck on your mouth, remove it in privacy.
Todd Harris is an author of numerous works on food and American chef who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. Visit some of his suggested Culinary Schools to become a professional chef like him.