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How to set a Formal Dinner Table – Newton Cross

By Butler Academy



Formal table setting:

 

More than just an exercise in creating a fancy display or a tedious ritual, setting a formal table can be a sojourn into the past — to a time when a dining experience might be viewed as the height of refinement.

 

And like many traditions with detailed rules, it’s often easy to focus only on the how-tos at the expense of exploring the interesting.

 

The formal setting — seen in five-star restaurants, the dining rooms of upscale hotels, and your best friend’s wedding — was first developed in Europe as early as the 1700s, but it really took hold in the Victorian era.

 

Back then, the setting was actually a middle-class affectation of aristocratic medieval cultures and traditions, said Daniel Post Senning, co-author of the 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette” and the great-great-grandson of Emily Post, the doyenne of modern American etiquette.

 

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER BEFORE THE DINNER!

 

1.    CLEAN DINING ROOM

 

2.    AIR THE ROOM

 

3.    VACUUM AND CHECK CURTAINS

 

4.    POLISH TABLE

 

5.    CHECK CHAIRS:  EXTRAS AND STURDINESS

 

6.    REMOVE PETS

7.    CHECK LIGHTING AND BULBS

 

8.    PREPARE SERVICE STATION

 

9.    LINEN:  TABLE CLOTH AND NAPKINS:  IRON AND FOLD

 

10.  CHECK CUTLERY:  POLISH SILVER

 

11.  CHECK AND STEAM/POLISH GLASSES

 

12.  CHECK AND CLEAN CROCKERY:  WHITE VINEGAR CLOTH

 

13.  CRUETS:  FILL AND CLEAN

 

14.  CO-ORDINATE WITH CHEF/CATERERS RE MENU

 

15.  PREPARE TABLE DECORATIONS

 

16.  LAY THE TABLE

 

17.  REMOVE CANDLES FROM FRIDGE AND TEST LIGHT

 

FORMAL SETTINGS

 

When you want to pull out all the stops and serve a number of courses, laying a traditional table is simple:

 

  • The rule is that the diner starts at the outside of the row of cutlery (Flatware) and works inwards.

 

Working inwards from the right:       –  Soup Spoon  / Fish Knife or Knife for First Course /  Meat Knife

 

Working inwards from the left:    –  Fish Fork or Fork for First Course / Fork for Main Course

 

This is the most formal method of laying place settings.  The cutlery being suited to each course in turn.  Knifes and forks for fruit or a savoury offering at the end of the meal may be brought in when the course is served.  If the dessert is eaten with a spoon only, it is usual to lay this on the table for formal settings.

 

  • The spoon and fork for dessert may be laid across the top of the plate, spoon with handle to the right, fork handle to the left.  This is still acceptable as a formal setting, but not quite up to traditional state dinner standards.

 

  • The glasses are set out above the cutlery to the right of the place setting.  They should be arranged in the order in which they are used, but the conventions relating to placing glasses are not as rigid as for cutlery – make sure however, that all glass settings are identical.

 

FINGER BOWLS

 

These are provided one to each guest when the food has to be eaten with the fingers.  For example, when peeling prawns (shrimps), cracking and cleaning lobster, eating globe artichokes and serving whole fruit at the end of the meal.

 

The bowls should be fairly small and wide-topped; glass is ideal.  The bowls are placed on small plates, saucers or delicate cotton mats.  The water should be warm and a slice of lemon, rose petals, or other suitable decorative ingredient, may be added.

 

SERVING SPOONS

 

Serving spoons and forks may be laid at intervals on the table and there may be heatproof mats ready for hot dishes.  At formal meals where food is served to the diners by the butler, serving spoons are unnecessary.  Any special serving implements for the host or hostess should be laid near his or her place or brought in with the food.

 

CRUETS AND CONDIMENTS

 

Traditionally, salt and pepper sets are placed on the table and several are laid for large gatherings.  If the cook has carefully prepared and tasted the food for seasoning, however, then he or she may not provide salt.

 

Pepper can be another matter as there are times when freshly ground pepper enhances an ingredient.  A pepper mill for table use should be presentable.

 

Condiments such as mustard are laid to one side and several containers should be placed on a large table.

 

PREPARING FOR TABLE SERVICE

1.    CLEAN DINING ROOM

 

2.    AIR THE ROOM

 

3.    VACUUM AND CHECK CURTAINS

 

4.    POLISH TABLE

 

5.    CHECK CHAIRS:  EXTRAS AND STURDINESS

 

6.    REMOVE PETS

 

7.    CHECK LIGHTING AND BULBS

 

8.    PREPARE SERVICE STATION

 

9.    LINEN:  TABLE CLOTH AND NAPKINS:  IRON AND FOLD

 

10.  CHECK CUTLERY:  POLISH SILVER

 

11.  CHECK AND STEAM/POLISH GLASSES

 

12.  CHECK AND CLEAN CROCKERY:  WHITE VINEGAR CLOTH

 

13.  CRUETS:  FILL AND CLEAN

 

14.  CO-ORDINATE WITH CHEF/CATERERS RE MENU

 

15.  PREPARE TABLE DECORATIONS

 

16.  LAY THE TABLE

 

17.  REMOVE CANDLES FROM FRIDGE AND TEST LIGHT

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AVERAGE AND A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL EVENT IS THE SERVICE OF A BUTLER!

Become a Butler here at the Leading Butler Academy of the World! We appriciate excellent service!


2 Responses

  1. Angela Makunda says:

    Today I learnt how to set a formal table it was absolutely amazing and excllent at the same time.
    and I have learnt how to do the “ballet of service” it was excellnt and also how to “roast chicken” it was amazing thank you Mr.Cross we learn alot!

  2. El-marie says:

    Thanks Mr. Cross for the cooking lesson yesterday. Looking forward to today’s caviar and cigars.

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