Basic Dining Etiquette – Using Utensils

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 105,140
    Nancy Mitchell of The Etiquette Advocate demonstrates how to properly use your 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 dinning etiquette. We are going to talk now about the placement and the use of utensils. Utensils are set in the order that they will be used according to the courses that are on the menu. Going from the outside in towards your main service plate, spoons and knives are on the right, forks are on the left. This place setting would tell me that my first course is going to be soup and this is the grip that I would use on spoon. A spoon is held like a pencil. We will talk in a minute about eating a soup course. There are two grips to remember about using a knife. A knife can be used as a cutting implement, where your index finger is placed on the joint between the handle of the knife and the blade of the knife and it is used to cut something like meat, the entree vegetable. A fish fork is the only exception to that rule, if there is a fish knife in your place setting, that knife is held like a pencil. That grip is to ensure that you will be able to remove bones, skin whatever is part of your fish course. There are two styles of dining. There is the American style of dining and the European style of dining. The United States is probably the only culture in the world where we switch our fork and knife after we have made a cut and we are trying to eat the food that we have cut. To demonstrate in the United States, we will hold our knife and fork in this fashion, pivot our wrists, make the cut, place our knife to the top of our plate, switch the fork to our right hand, if you are right handed and take the bite that we have just cut and we do this switching back and forth many, many times through out a meal. European dining means that you are using the same grip for the utensils. You have made the one cut, one cut at a time, but you leave the knife in your right hand, you pivot your left hand the food comes to your mouth, your wrist are resting on the edge of the table. You do not need to put your knife and fork down between bites. The only time you do put them down is when you are going to take a drink of a beverage or you are going to have a bite of your bread. Lets talk for a minute about something called the Silence Service Code. If you are dining American fashion or European fashion there are messages that you can sent to the wait staff that let them know where you are in the progress of your meal. If I am dining American fashion, I am going to be cutting one bite at a time, when I need to take a break to take a beverage or to leave the table for some reason I am going to place my knife and fork in such a way that there is a space between them, they are on the right side of my plate. I am sending a message to the wait staff that I am not finished with this course, please dont clear it away. If I am dining American fashion and I am completely finished. I am going to line my knife and my fork up on my plate, in what is called the 10-20 position. If you envision your plate as the face of a clock, the tines of the fork and the point of the knife are going to be pointing to 10 oclock on the face of the clock, the handles are pointing to 20 past the hour on the clock. They are parallel, they are close together, they are sending this message to the wait staff, I am completely finished with this course you may clear it. Now, lets talk briefly about the European style of dining. Again the grip on the silverware is the same, but the difference is, I am not going to be putting my knife down and switching my fork back to my right hand between each and every bite. I am going to be making that cut, I am going to be pivoting, my left hand to bring that bite to my mouth, I have my elbows very close to my body, I have my wrists resting on the edge of the table and I continue in this fashion until I need to take a sip of a beverage or I leave the table for some reason. At that point I am dining European style, I am going to crisscross, my knife and my fork to send again this silence service code to the wait staff that I am not finished with this course, please dont clear it away. When I am completely finished after having dined in the European fashion, again I will use this 10-20 position on the clock if you will and I will lay my knife and my fork parallel in that position with the tines of the fork down. This indicates that I have been dining in the continental fashion. We will next talk about glassware.