I spent my evening enjoying a lovely four-course meal at the Four Points Sheraton in Richmond with several Kwantlen business students and fellow PAT (President’s Ambassador Team) members.
The dinner set the scene for a business etiquette session with Cheryl Samusevich, a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant (according to her business card) from Nebraska.
Over the course of two and half hours, we learned how to properly and professionally indulge in our tomato soup, chicken and potatoes, garden salad and chocolate cake, in accordance with the continental style of dining.
I’m no stranger to eating in formal settings, and I am generally overly conscious of how I eat in public. But I found that there were so many little details that I was unaware of, and that slowed down the eating process considerably.
Now I am full and well-learned in the art of (fine) dining, a skill which is apparently an important one to have when dealing with executives and well-learned individuals.
Here are some of the lessons I learned this evening:
1. A diner sits down on the right side of their chair, and stands up from the same side.
2. Salads are served after the entrée as a palate-cleanser. They are also more enjoyable to eat when you are not starving for actual food.
3. Sherry is served with soup, white wine with chicken or fish, red with red meat and champagne with desserts. Champagne also accompanies toasts (as in speeches and not the charred bread variety).
4. Each meal has a guest of honour and a host. The guest is always served first and has their plate cleared first, but the host, served last, takes the first and last bite of each course.
5. When being toasted, you never drink to yourself.
6. When passing bread or butter or coffee cream, you pass it around the table in a counter-clockwise manner, beginning with the guest.
7. Salt and pepper are always passed as a pair.
8. To eat your dessert, you have a fork and a spoon. The spoon acts as a knife.
9. The utensils are never put down on the plate, unless you are taking a drink. You don’t switch your fork from hand to hand either: You simply shovel food onto the back of the fork and put it in your mouth upside down.
10. If the waiter gives you poor service, you may choose to tip him five or 10 per cent, but you must explain to him why you did so.
Finally, and most importantly, when the waiter drops the coffee cream all over your designer purse and a pair of your favourite designer shoes, just keep calm, and carry on.
(For the fashionistas, fashionistos and label-lovers out there, no accessories were permanently harmed over the course of the night. My giraffe heels were salvaged in all of their glory.)