Basic Dining Etiquette – The Main Course

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 71,751
    Nancy Mitchell of The Etiquette Advocate demonstrates how to eat the main course properly with utensils.

    Nancy Mitchell

    Nancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).

    Nancy Mitchell: Hello, I am Nancy Mitchell with the Etiquette Advocate and we are talking about dining etiquette. Well talk now about the main course and what to do when that arrives. In most cases you will receive your entree as a pre-plated course. Whatever you have ordered, if its in the restaurant or whatever your host or hostess has planned for you will come pre-plated and the waiter will set down a plate in front of you. By the way wait staff will serve you from the left, they clear from the right.

    Glassware is always filled and removed from the right side, you need to be aware of where waiter is in the service of a meal, because there are times when you might have to lean to the left or to the right or to accommodate a waiter in some fashion. So, if your entree arrives in this manner, you again have that option of eating American fashion or European fashion. If I have chosen to eat American fashion and we are having today mashed potatoes, chicken and green beans. I will make one cut of meat at a time, I do not cut the entire chicken breast, I cut one piece at a time and I eat one piece at a time.

    American fashion, I am going to make that one cut, I am going to place my knife on the upper edge of my plate, I am going to switch the fork to my right hand and I am going to eat the bite that I have just cut and I will go through that many, many times as I eat the entree. If I have chosen to eat European fashion, I am going to make that cut, move the fork to my mouth without changing it from hand to hand have my elbows very close to my body, my wrists can rest on the table and I can make as my cuts in this fashion as I want without putting my knife and fork back on to my plate. When its time for me to take a sip of water, a sip of wine, I will follow again that Silence Service Code, where for European fashion, my fork and knife are crisscrossed a X pattern on my plate, take a drink of water, leave the table for a short period of time or if I am eating American fashion again they will be crisscrossed, but the tines of my fork will be pointed up. Some space between the utensils, its telling the wait staff, I am not finished, dont remove this course, I am coming back. When I am completely finished those are going to be parallel, closer together, European fashion the tines will be turned down and again these will be close together and parallel on this portion of the plate. The beauty of eating continental fashion is you can make that one cut, but then you can push some potatoes on to this bite, you can push a few green beans, you can build a little package of food, if you will on the end of the fork, pivot your wrist bring that to your mouth, its perfectly alright to use the knife as a pusher, it pushes bits of the potato, bits of the green bean, whatever you want to make this bite. You can push that on to the end of the fork and bite it at one time very efficient. The rule of thumb and this is served is taste your food before you immediately add salt and pepper, its shows that you are jumping to conclusions, you are a rash sort of person, you are often offending your host or hostess if you reach for the salt and pepper and you immediately salt and pepper your food, before you have even tasted it. So, go easy on the salt and pepper taste it, enjoy it, then decide if it needs something else. You can now look for condiments on the table, but if you are in someones home, dont ask for special sauces that you dont see that are on the table and meant to be served with the dishes that are planned for you. Next we are going to be talking about French services with a main course. Now that we have showing you how to eat a main course that is pre-plated. I would like to share some information with you about French service. On very formal occasions, your host or hostess may determine that the entree or any other course may be served French service which means, that the course will arrive on a large tray and the wait staff will offer the food to each diner. This tray will contain the food for the entire table. So, the diner needs to watch to see what is happening. When the waiter comes to the left of the diner, the diner may need to stop talking, look at the waiter and indicate which of the dishes or food items on the tray they wish to have. You could turn to a waiter and you might say in this case, I would like some of the chicken breast and the green beans please, but I dont care for the potatoes. You will have to communicate with the waiter to let him or her know, what you want from the tray then the waiter will literally serve you what you have just asked for in a proportion on your plate and if you want a little bit more, you might say May I have a little bit more of the green bean or little bit more the sauce or something. So, you need to communicate with the waiter.

    Modified French Service will be the food for the entire table is arranged on this tray, but the serving utensils will be pointed toward the diner. The waiter will ask you to help yourself, you in that case pickup the fork in the spoon and you lift the pieces of the food that you want from the common tray on to your plate, then the waiter will move around the table in such manner. Next we are going to be talking about how to use a finger bowl.