By Susie Wilson


  • Serve soup or consommé in a plate placed on the table beforehand. Don't offer soups, salads, cheeses or fruit a second time. Other dishes may pass twice.

  • Don't choose the helping that appeals to you most. Take the portion in front of you without commenting on its size.

  • Use two pieces of service cutlery to serve yourself and leave them on the plate, the fork with the tines turned down and the spoon rounded side up.

  • If your host or a person seated next to you offers you wine, raise your glass slightly, but do not move it if the wine is offered by a waiter.

  • At the end of the meal, place your table napkin beside your plate on the table without refolding it.

Holding Cutlery

  • Hold the fork firmly in the palm of your hand without placing the index finger on the tines.

  • The knife ought not to be held in a closed fist, like a dagger. The index finger ought not to reach beyond the circle which separates the blade from the handle. Never put it in the mouth.

  • Not to be used for eggs, salad, pasta and cakes. Offer a knife to someone handle forward.

  • Cutlery farthest from the plate should be used for the first course.

  • While chewing, place cutlery at an angle without crossing them in the centre of the plate.

  • When finished, place cutlery beside one another facing on the plate.

  • Use the dessert knife for cheese, the fork for cake, the spoon for cream and entremets (floating islands, charlotte, caramel custard).

How to Enjoy...

  • Brochettes of meat, fish or fruit – Taking care to avoid splatters, hold the skewer in one hand and with the other use a fork to slide the pieces onto the plate.

  • Escargots – Savour snails in the shell, or preferably on snail plates. Grasping the shell with snail pincers in one hand, using a special fork in the other, remove the flesh of the snail. But don't draw butter out of the shell and don't dip bread in the butter dish . . . Alas!

  • Foie gras – Don't spread it, and don't use a knife. This exquisite (and pricey) dish ought to be consumed in small bites using a fork.

  • Omelette – Cut with the side of the fork, not the knife.

  • Papillote – Open carefully with your knife and fork. Using fingers can cause burns and be messy.

  • Poultry – Don't use fingers. Remove flesh from the bone with a knife and fork.

  • Soft boiled egg – Don't cut the top off with a knife. Break the shell using gentle taps of a spoon, shell the top of the egg and eat it with a small spoon. When finished, break the shell in the plate so that it does not roll and fall on the floor when the plates are being removed.

  • Soup – Don't blow on soup to cool it. Don't tip the plate to spoon up the last drops. The front of the spoon approaches the mouth among French diners, while the side of the spoon is brought to the mouth among their English counterparts.

Fish, Seafood and Shellfish

  • Fish – Using a fish knife, make an incision along the length of the fish and turn back the filets on their sides. A bone taken in inadvertently may be spat out discreetly in the hand and placed on the rim of the plate.

  • Mussels – Holding the shell, the flesh is removed with a fish fork.

  • Oysters – Hold the shell in the left hand. Remove the flesh with an oyster fork. Drink the seawater discreetly, quietly and without sucking, and swallow the oyster.

  • Shrimp and scampi – Use a knife and fork to separate the head from the body. Then, remove the legs and detach the shell


  • Use the side of a fork, never a knife, to cut macaroni, ravioli, or cannelloni. Do not cut spaghetti. Roll only a small amount around a fork. And try to eat it without making a sucking sound.

  • Spaghetti and flat spaghetti present a nightmare for anyone who is clumsy. They may even offer a brief word of apology for their poor upbringing, then cut their pasta intentionally before eating it very tidily. Etiquette ought not to become constrained to the point of depriving anyone the pleasure of a dish that they love


  • Artichokes – Use fingers to remove leaves and dip each leaf once in the sauce. Use the round part of the fork to remove the cone and eat the artichoke bottom with a knife and fork.

  • Asparagus – Cut asparagus with a fork, dampen in sauce and enjoy … whole, remembering a good cook always cleans asparagus thoroughly and leaves no hard parts!

  • Avocado – Presented cut in two, pitted, often stuffed, remove the flesh with a small spoon.

  • Chips – Decidedly finger food.

  • Fries – Reach for your fork.

  • Potatoes and other vegetables – Unless already mashed or pureed, don't crush them on your plate. Do cut them with the side of the fork.

  • Salad – Separated and torn to small pieces, it is mixed just as it's to be served. Don't cut it. If leaves are too broad, use a fork and a small piece of bread to fold them, then raise them to the mouth.


  • Apples and pears – Quarter using dessert cutlery. Hold each quarter with the fork and peel it with the knife.

  • Banana – No monkey business. Using a dessert knife, cut the skin lengthwise and remove the fruit, cutting it into rounds before eating.

  • Cherries – Pits should be expelled discreetly into the palm of your closed hand and placed on the rim of the plate. Deal with olive pits in a similar fashion.

  • Figs – Quarter without detaching sections and use a fork to remove the pulp.

  • Grapefruit – Served cut in two, placed on a plate in a stable manner, the pulp already cut away from the skin, it is eaten with a small spoon.

  • Grapes – Serve in bunches with scissors. Never spit out skin or seeds.

  • Kiwi fruit– Use dessert cutlery to peel and cut into rounds before eating.

  • Mandarins and oranges – Cut the skin, remove the fruit, and eat quarters with a fork.

  • Melon – A small spoon is used if it is served whole or halved...because port or pineau may have been added. Both knife and fork are used if it is served in slices, with prosciutto, for example.

  • Peaches – Like all fruit with a large pit, do not a quarter, peel with dessert cutlery.

  • Pineapple – Cut in slices or pieces.

  • Strawberries and raspberries – They are served hulled and enjoyed with a fork or spoon.