Dining in Style

I love to eat, and always get really excited about interview pre-nights and similar events that involve a free meal.  It’s great to get the chance to talk to your potential employer over food while letting them pick up the bill!  One thing that always made me uncomfortable though was the etiquette…I mean who really knows what fork to use when they give you three?  Is there a correct way to be holding my silverware?  Who’s bread plate is that!?


Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending an Etiquette Dinner at the Blackwell.  Not only did I get a wonderful meal, but I had all of my questions above (and many more) answered!  I’ll share some of the tips below, but I don’t want to give away everything so you’ll go next year when you’re a student here!

I had to be sneaky...its bad etiquette to take pictures at dinner!

We began with placement and rolls.  Yes, there actually is a specific way to unfold your napkin and place it on your lap.  And which roll plate is yours – left or right?  It’s the one on your left.  What about glass of water??  On the right.  Here’s a helpful trick we learned to remember this…  take your hands and hold them out in front of you.  Now touch the tip of your thumb with the tip of your pointer finger, making little “o’s”, and let your other fingers extend straight out.  Your left hand looks like a “b” doesn’t it?  That’s for bread roll!  And your right hand…seems to resemble a “d”, huh?  Yeah – that’s for drink!

We moved on to soup (tomato basil, and it was excellent).  Did you know it’s not okay to stir or blow on your soup to cool it down (at least while dining professionally)?  I had no idea!!  And yes, there is a specific way to get the soup on your spoon (tilt it towards you after filing to let the excess drip).

Next up was the salad.  A few highlights here: when there are large pieces of lettuce, don’t try to fold them over onto the fork.  Use your salad knife to cut them into manageable pieces.  We also talked about how to handle olive pits and other inedible foods that may be in a salad…it is equally appropriate to discreetly spit them into your napkin or to spit them back onto the fork.  Needless to say, I think spitting back on the fork is incredibly difficult, and I failed miserably when I tried…

On to the main course – grilled chicken with peas and fettuccine.  First of all, yum.  But I know, I know…we’re talking about etiquette here…  There are two distinct and equally appropriate ways to hold your silverware:  Continental (European) and American.  I was inclined to the American style, where you cut with the right hand then transfer your fork to your right hand to eat.  In the Continental style, you hold your fork in your left hand and knife in the right the entire time, but must transfer the food to your mouth with the fork tines down!  We also discussed the best way to twirl noodles on to your fork without getting those pesky danglers.

The dessert was a chocolate mousse parfait.  Needless to say, it was also incredible.  This was probably the easiest course from an etiquette perspective.  Bite-sized pieces was the key takeaway, but we also learned that in between bites you should leave the spoon in the cup, not on the table or plate!

These were just the highlights of course.  We learned much much more (how to place your silverware to signal you are done, how to engage in conversation, etc) and I think everyone had a great tine!  (And yes, that pun was intended.)