Fine dining cutlery often overwhelms people with the various utensils used for different courses. Knowing which eating utensil to use when is vital if you want to make a good impression. The easiest way to go about using the cutlery is to work your way inwards from the utensil placed furthest from your plate. There are two prominent styles to using cutlery, the European style and the American style. The setting for both styles is usually placed for right a handed person, i.e. the forks are on the left of the service plate.
A formal dinner placement will have at most three utensils on the right and left side of the plate. If there are more than three courses, the cutlery for the salad and/or dessert will be brought in as and when needed. There are fourincluding the water glass placed on the right side above the knives. A butter plate with a butter knife placed on the left above the forks, dessert spoons and forks are placed above the service plate or brought in just before dessert is served.
The napkin is either placed on the left under the forks or on the service plate. Placing the napkin neatly on your lap is the first thing you should do if the waiter hasn’t already. Keeping the napkin wrinkle-free and neat during dinner is essential and the napkin is not kept on the table till the host does which signifies the end of the meal. If at all you must get up in between the napkin is placed neatly on the handle or the seat of the chair. It is good etiquette to use the napkin to dab around the mouth often.
Holding the utensils correctly is extremely important. The trick to this is to pick up the utensil such that the palm covers at least three fourth of the handle with your index finger as a guide to hold the fork with tines facing down and knives with their sharp edges facing down. This is known as the “hidden handle” hold.
There are two kinds of soup spoons, one that is similar to a bowl and one that is shaped like an egg. In either case the spoon is used to sip the soup from the side and not put the spoon in your mouth.
European etiquette dictates that you keep the fork in your left hand at all times. On the other hand the American etiquette is more zigzag where you place your fork and knife before switching the fork to the right hand to eat after you cut a couple of bites of your food with the knife. The fork is used tines facing down in the European Style. While in the American style the fork can be used to scoop food as and when convenient.
Chopsticks should be held in the right hand. One chopstick is place between the thumb and ring finger and the other is placed between the index and middle finger with the end resting between the thumb and index finger. A soup spoon will be placed with the soup bowl.
It is acceptable to use your fingers for breaking bite sized pieces of bread. But always keep the bread placed in the bread plate.
Used utensils should never be kept on the table. After you finish your soup the spoon should be placed on the tiny plate under the bowl. When taking a break between bites your utensils should face tines in at the 4.20 position. When you are finished the utensils face downwards in the European style and upwards in the American style and placed neatly together at the 4 ‘o’ clock position.
Interesting fact, the American dining style was originally the European dining style which the Americans adopted and continue to use. The European dining style, however, evolved to make eating a faster process. The American style is slowly giving way to the European style of late because it is considered more proper in many parts of the world.
Finally, if you ever feel confused or overwhelmed about using cutlery always follow your host even if he/she is doing it wrong. That way you’re following them which shows respect, just remember to not bring attention the flaws if any.