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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Whether you’re hosting a party for colleagues or simply entertaining friends, fine dining is the way to go these days. Purva Indulkar helps you get started with an important part — the etiquette to follow while hosting or attending such events

We sympathised with Jack Dawson (in Titanic, of course!) when he attempted to dine in the first class compartments of the ill-fated ship but had trouble using all that intimidating cutlery. But, while his charm and stunning good looks masked his hopeless table manners, if we’re ever in the same situation, we probably won’t be able to escape with an impressive speech or by batting our eyelids. Fine dining, elegant dinner parties and gourmet meals are all the rage these days, so there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself at a glamorous gala or five-star restaurant the next time you’re invited to an event. And, while we often forgo dining etiquette when we’re with friends or family, it’s important to place your napkin properly and pick the right glass at a formal event, especially if you’re looking to make a good impression on the host (or the guests at your table). We got in touch with Suneeta Kanga, an expert in corporate grooming, international etiquette, fine dining and wine appreciation, who has trained senior executives from some of the most high-profile companies in the country, to learn a little about the etiquette to be followed.

Napkin nightmares
Once you settle down at the table, your napkin should be picked up, unfolded and placed on your lap. “Do not tuck it into your pants or in your shirt collar; bibs are for 3-year-olds,” Suneeta warns. However, this doesn’t apply if you’re going to a seafood (lobsters!) or teppanyaki restaurant; it helps avoid staining your outfit with the splatter. If there’s a napkin ring, take it off and place it on the left of the table, this is reserved for solids, while the right is reserved for liquids. If the napkin is too large, fold it into a triangle and place the pointed part near your waist. “No blowing your nose or wiping your sweat with it! Gently blot or dab your mouth with the napkin during the meal,” Suneeta advises. If you have to leave your seat during the meal, place it loosely on the chair. Place it neatly by the side of your plate only when you’ve finished eating.

A scary spread
All the spoons and forks at the table can leave first-time diners confused. Here, we tell you what each one is for and where it is placed so you know exactly what to pick up during every course.

  •  Forks are placed on the left of your dinner plate.
  •  Knives and spoons are placed on your right.
  •  A butter knife is usually placed on the bread plate.
  •  The dessert spoon or fork is placed at the top of your table setting.
  •  If there is more than one of any of these items, work your way inwards through the courses.

Cutlery concerns
Suneeta explains, “Each course has its own cutlery, which will be set in the order in which you will be using them.” Always use the outermost utensils when you’re served a course. While handling your knife and fork, hold the handles with your palm so that the sharp side of the knife points inwards and the prongs of the fork are facing downwards. If you’re taking a break between your meal, place your cutlery in an inverted ‘V’ position, with your fork on the left and knife on the right. Once you’re done, place the knife and fork in a 6 o’clock position. This is a signal that helps you communicate with your waiter without interrupting the flow of the conversation at the event.

Dress to kill
It’s a good idea to follow the dress code at such occasions. If there’s no dress code, it’s tacit to show up in smart casuals. “Please don’t show up in scruffy clothes, shorts, slippers or be unkempt in any way. It shows a lack of respect for your host and the occasion,” says Suneeta.

Mind your manners
Here are a few things to remember, apart from putting your cell phone on silent, of course!

  •  Only begin eating after everyone at the table has been served.
  •  Allow your host to pick up their cutlery first.
  •  This is the perfect occasion to use the terms ‘bon appétit’ and ‘please’.
  •  Pass food from left to right and do not stretch across the table to reach things.
  •  Do not blow on your food to cool it.
  •  Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish too much before or after others.
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