Your Guide to Cutlery Etiquette
Fine dining is one of our favorite parts of the holiday season. There’s something about white tablecloths and delicate china that just elevates a dining experience. Conversation flows easily around the gentle clink of cutlery, flavors are bold and unexpected, and a skilled waitstaff keeps things smooth by anticipating your every need.
But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes at a formal dinner, and believe it or not, some of it happens right at your table. Dining etiquette does far more than show your good table manners – it actually sends non-verbal cues to your staff to help them guide your dining experience without needing to interrupt your meal. One example of this is the way you use your cutlery.
You may be surprised to learn that your cutlery does more than convey food from your plate to your mouth. In a fine dining environment, it actually speaks to your waitstaff about your progress and experience throughout the meal. The way you use your cutlery signifies everything from whether you’re ready for the next course to how you liked the dish and even that you’re just taking a brief pause. If you aren’t careful, you may accidentally tell your waiter that you hated that fantastic foie gras!
If you aren’t familiar with cutlery etiquette, don’t panic – it’s easy to master. Here’s a basic guide to help you be sure you’re sending the right messages to your waitstaff and fellow diners at your next formal meal.
“I’m ready to start”
Place your fork and knife to either side of your plate to signal you are ready to begin the meal.
“That was excellent”
If you want to compliment the chef on an excellent dish, place your cutlery horizontally across your plate with the blade and tines facing to the right.
“I did not like that”
You can express dissatisfaction with a dish by crossing your cutlery into a “V”. Remember to place the knife blade through the fork’s tines.
“I am finished”
Place your cutlery parallel in the center of your plate to signal you are finished with your meal. Pointing to 12 o’clock is standard, but you can place them in any position across your plate as long as they are parallel.
“I am taking a break”
If you are taking a break from eating but want to keep your plate, place your cutlery in an upside-down “V” with the utensil tips facing each other.
“I am ready for the next dish”
If you are enjoying a multi-course meal, you can signify you are ready for the next dish by placing your cutlery into a cross in the center of your plate (be sure the fork is vertical, and the knife is horizontal).