Which Fork’n Knife?

Picture of chef with knife and forkA lot has changed in the world of food and cooking since I first became a chef.

For one thing, dining out has become a lot more casual.

In fact, the traditional formal dining experience has become quite a rarity.

As a result, much of the classic dining etiquette associated with cutlery, crockery and formal dinner protocol is becoming a lost skill.

Therefore some people may struggle to understand how the layout of a formal dinner setting is used. This can be a little awkward if they find themselves in a fine dinning environment with a wide selection of cutlery laid out before them.

However, for those who need some clarity regarding the correct use and understanding of various cutleries, here are some basic principles: 

  • In the restaurant industry, all eating implements used on a table setting are referred to as ‘Flatware’ and in many western countries, the words ‘cutlery’ and ‘silverware’ are interchangeable.
  • There is a myriad of specialised cutlery, such as steak knives, fish knives, parfait spoons, oyster forks, crab crackers and lobster picks. But don’t fear because the next rule will help you identify when to use them.
  • The most critical piece of knowledge I can share is that the cutlery is carefully laid out with the intension it will be used in a very specific sequence. The basic rule is that the cutlery placed at the furthest point from the meal on both left and right-hand sides are to be used first, then you follow with the next pieces of cutlery in line, moving inward.
  • The forks are always located on the left, and the knives and spoons (such as soup) on the right.
  • If you find a knife resting on top of a side plate, this is for buttering your bread.
  • Dessert cutlery is often positioned above the plate, where you will normally find a fork and dessert spoon perpendicular to all other cutlery, this will be used last.
  • When you are finished eating place your dirty cutlery on the plate – parallel to each other – with the pointy ends facing inward. This will alert the waiter to clear your plate ready for the next course.

There is much, much more to the conventions of dining, such as the correct placement of glasses and appropriate table manners, formal customs and decorum.

But hopefully the brief tips above may shine some light on how to chose which fork’n knife to use.

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