What is fine dining? Perhaps it is easier to say what it is not rather than what it is. It is not casual eateries, cafés, family-style restaurants, or fast food establishments. But of course, it is more than that.
Rusty Weatherly, the director of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program at Grayson College, says at the college, it is called tablecloth dining.
“It’s a seated meal with multiple courses in a more sophisticated or formal atmosphere,” he explained.
“An important part of the experience is the level service,” Weatherly continued. “Servers should be trained in the art of fine dining service; they should understand when to place dishes and when to remove them, and the non-verbal communication that they get from diners.”
As an example, Weatherly pointed out that when diners finish with a course and place their knife and fork, with tines up, at the four o’clock position on the plate, it signals to the server that they are finished and he can remove the plate. The idea is to signal the waiter non-verbally so that the service does not disrupt the conversation.
Simply as it sounds at first, the filling of a water glass offers a clue as to the level of service.
“At our restaurant, servers are taught to take the glass from the table and fill it on a beverage tray instead of just filling it on the table,” Weatherly said.
At the college’s restaurant, Six Ninety-One, the silver, glassware, and plates are polished to a high gleam, the linens are crisp, and the music is subdued and in the background so as not to intrude on conversation.
Fine dining deserves dressing for the part. While formal dress codes are less common than they once were, men and women are expected to wear what is now termed business casual.
Weatherly said most of his patrons understand that and dress appropriately.
Place your napkin on your lap first, if your waiter has not done so.
Start from the outside in with the table cutlery.
Place your pointer finger above the knife and fork.
Pass food to the right (or in one direction).
Tear your bread roll into bite-size pieces then add butter.
Place utensils in an inverted V if taking a break from eating, and lined them up together in the center when finished.
Eat with your mouth closed.
If you are not an expert, ask for assistance when selecting a wine.
Say thank you, please and excuse me.
Place your phone on the table. It should be turned off and kept in your pocket.
Reach across guests at the table (ask to be passed items on the table instead).
Start before the host.
Place knife blades outwards – it’s a sign of hostility.
Season your food without tasting it first.
Hold wine glasses from the bowl unless it is red.
Fine dining is as much about the experience as the food. Relax and enjoy the meal, the conversation, and the companionship.
To try some fine dining, visit Best of Texoma winners The Library, Fulbelli’s, and Six Ninety One at Grayson College.
For more information on Best of Texoma, visit Facebook page Best of Texoma.