News & Opinion > Ask the Chef >

Etiquette Tips

Ask the Chef

We are frequently asked about etiquette and table manners, so we compiled this simple list based on the most common questions.

⋅ Your napkin goes in your lap, folded in half, as soon as you sit down. Many people wait until the food arrives, but the proper form is to be prepared.

⋅ If you leave the table, place the napkin to the left of your plate, loosely draped.

⋅ A napkin is never for blowing your noise or wiping your mouth. Use it to dab at the corners of your mouth or your fingertips. If you need to cleanse further, leave the table and use the appropriate products in the restroom.

⋅ In formal dining, a charger will be under the place setting. It remains there during the starter course and is removed at the main course.

⋅ Your eating utensils go in the order of use, starting from the outside (furthest from the plate) and working their way in. Forks go on the left; knives and spoons on the right, as you face the plate. Dessert utensils are placed at the top of the plate, sideways.

⋅ The bread and butter plate goes to the left, above the forks.

⋅ The water glass goes above the knives (behind the wine goblet, if there is one).

⋅ Food should be passed counter-clockwise.

⋅ It is considered impolite to start eating before everyone is seated and served, including your host.

⋅ Only the meal settings and food belong on the table. Do not place your elbows, eyeglasses, notebook, pen or other objects on the table.

⋅ Cut no more than two bites of any item at a time. When it comes to bread, tear off one bite at a time and butter it, rather than buttering a whole roll.

⋅ Do not season your food until you have tasted it.

⋅ It is permissible to use a piece of bread to wipe up excess gravy, as long as you use your fork and not your fingers.

⋅ If you need to leave the table, place your utensils on the edge of your plate so that the tips point to the plate’s center, in a V-shape. To signal when you are finished, lay your utensils side by side diagonally on the plate.

—inspiration from Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition (Thumb Indexed)

See previous questions in our Ask the Chef series.

Have a question for our Ask the Chef series? Send it to Editor.