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Butcher’s block - Sept. 11, 2013

I saw a fantastic movie this weekend sure to garner much Oscar buzz, and that was Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” I was a history major in college, who wound up in the restaurant business, go figure; so I love movies with any historical context. And this movie blended both passions, history and food service. Also, this week I was in a managers meeting this week when my boss began talking about some of the points of fine dining service that seem to have gone by the wayside. It’s rare to see the level of skill or service that was exemplified in the movie; it seems that as times have progressed, the level of service has digressed. So this week we will have a history lesson of proper service and maybe bring back some of these lost techniques.

1) When setting a proper place setting the knife blade should always be turned toward the plate, not the guest sitting next to you. This placement shows that you do not wish your neighbor harm.

2) Place silverware in order of its use, first course to the last course. Each utensil should be cleared after that course.

3) Napkins were intended to be used to dab the mouth, never to wipe the mouth. Tucking your napkin in your shirt or dress was considered vulgar and placing food into a napkin was obscene.

4) Wine service is meant to compliment a meal, not to encourage drunkenness. It was considered impolite to become drunk in front of other guests.

5) Never salt a meal before tasting it, this is an insult to the hostess.

So plan a meal like it’s 1800, and bring back some of these old school techniques and some refinement back in life, even if just for a little while.