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Huge Mistakes Everyone Makes At Fancy Restaurants

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Jun 29, 2019

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Huge Mistakes Everyone Makes At Fancy Restaurants
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  • A fancy restaurant is probably in your near future if you've got big dinner plans for
  • an anniversary coming up or you just want to have a night out somewhere without paper
  • napkins.
  • But even if you think you know what you're doing, there are mistakes you're probably
  • making at these upscale establishments.
  • "Wrong glass, sir."
  • If you want to go to your favorite diner, order a pork chop, and bathe it in ketchup,
  • that's your prerogative.
  • For that matter, it's your prerogative to eat the food you want any way you want to.
  • But let's be clear: If you go to an upscale restaurant, order a gourmet dish, and then
  • ask for a run-of-the-mill condiment, you're going to earn the ire of the chef.
  • In 2017, The Independent picked the brains of top chefs to determine some of their biggest
  • diner-related pet peeves.
  • Not surprisingly, taking liberties with condiments or other seasonings turned out to be a repeat
  • offender.
  • According to Helena Puolakka, the executive chef at London's Nordic-French restaurant
  • Aster, diners should never ask for Tabasco in a fine dining restaurant.
  • Puolakka insists it's, quote, "blasphemy."
  • "[Speaking French] and also some [more French], and [even more French]."
  • "Mm."
  • Richard Bainbridge, chef and proprietor of British restaurant Benedicts, also had a proverbial
  • bone to pick with patrons not trusting chefs to properly season and sauce their food, saying,
  • "The worst thing a diner can do is put salt and pepper on their food before they have
  • even tried it.
  • Seasoning is individual to palate but they could at least give it a go first."
  • Bottom line?
  • If a dish's seasoning just isn't hitting the spot for some reason, let the chef know so
  • they can meet your expectations and their own.
  • Figuring out what to do with the fancy linen napkin at a fine dining restaurant can be
  • surprisingly perplexing.
  • Napkin etiquette is totally a thing, and you're probably defying at least one or two tenets
  • of it.
  • "You're eating a hand towel."
  • Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore explained the basics to Forbes in 2013,
  • "The basic rule: put it in your lap and don't leave it on the table.
  • A large napkin is folded in half with the fold facing the waistline, while a smaller
  • napkin is opened completely.
  • In upscale restaurants, a server may drape the napkin on your lap."
  • If you need to excuse yourself for any reason during the meal, Whitmore says there's another
  • napkin rule you must follow.
  • "If you leave the table during a meal, place your napkin, loosely folded, on the seat of
  • your chair."
  • Just about everyone has probably accidentally slipped their elbows onto the dinner table
  • at some point.
  • Still, just because we all do it doesn't mean it's considered entirely acceptable.
  • Maralee McKee "America's modern manners and etiquette expert" says on her Manners Mentor
  • blog that putting your elbows on the table is, as your mother likely taught you, frowned
  • upon in a fine dining environment.
  • She added,
  • "Plus, when your elbows are off the table, you're sitting up straighter.
  • Research has shown again and again that the taller you sit (or stand), the more people
  • pay attention to you and place additional authority and value into what you're saying."
  • There are other practical reasons to keep those elbows by your side, too.
  • If you're leaning so far into a conversation that your elbows are on the table, it'll make
  • it that much more likely that you'll knock something over, another serious no-no in a
  • fine dining setting.
  • When you're hungry and a server sets down heaven in a bowl in front of you, it's totally
  • understandable if you get a little overzealous in eating it.
  • But one thing you should definitely avoid?
  • Slurping.
  • The Etiquette Scholar blog explains proper soup-eating technique, advising,
  • "Hold the soup spoon by resting the end of the handle on your middle finger, with your
  • thumb on top.
  • Dip the spoon sideways into the soup at the near edge of the bowl, then skim from the
  • front of the bowl to the back.
  • Sip from the side of the spoon, avoid improper table manners and do not slurp."
  • Proper soup-eating etiquette doesn't end when the soup does.
  • When the last drop is gone which you finished using your spoon, not by lifting the bowl
  • to your mouth, make sure you don't set your spoon down on the table.
  • It should instead be placed inside of your now-empty bowl.
  • Oh, those pesky rules of silverware!
  • Are they really that important?
  • Well, they are when you're at a fine dining establishment.
  • Fancy restaurants do go through all the trouble of setting out the whole array of utensils,
  • after all.
  • If you've never really been confident in your ability to navigate a formal place setting,
  • have no fear all you need to do is remember a few key components.
  • The easiest rule to remember, according to What's Cooking America, is this:
  • "Use the silverware farthest from your plate first.
  • Starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way
  • in, using one utensil for each course."
  • Basically, that means your salad fork will be the one on your outermost left, with the
  • dinner fork next to it.
  • On the outermost right is your soup spoon, preceded by your teaspoon and then, closest
  • to the plate, your dinner knife.
  • It might not seem like a huge deal to cancel reservations.
  • Sometimes life happens and skipping out is unavoidable.
  • Still, you should always give the restaurant a heads up in the event something prevents
  • you from keeping your allotted dining time.
  • Scott Jampol, OpenTable's Senior Vice President of Marketing, had this to say in 2017 as part
  • of a PSA urging diners to book responsibly.
  • "Many people simply don't realize the impact that no-shows and late cancellations have
  • on the restaurant industry."
  • Michael Voltaggio, a celebrity chef and restaurateur, partnered with OpenTable on the initiative,
  • explaining why being a no-show is such a no-no:
  • "It might seem harmless to bail on a reservation but if you can't make it, letting us know
  • ahead of time makes a world of difference.
  • If we're constantly working to address no-shows on a daily basis, our business suffers.
  • That's why we're asking diners to book responsibly."
  • What diners take for granted is all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare
  • for patrons at a restaurant, not to mention the financial impact that comes from restaurants
  • being left unable to fill an empty table at the last minute.
  • Stuff comes up, and chefs get it.
  • As Michael Davis from Sprout LA told OpenTable, diners should, quote, "not be afraid to cancel
  • [their] reservation[s] we appreciate a cancellation more than a no-show."
  • If you make the small effort to call ahead and cancel, the restaurant will know that
  • they can then let other diners use that table.
  • It's just good manners.
  • Although there is some flexibility here depending on the restaurant you're dining at, if a restaurant
  • states the dress code is formal, it's disrespectful for guests not to follow it.
  • John Winterman, managing partner at New York City's Batârd, told Town & Country,
  • "I break it down into self-respect and respect for others...If someone comes in making an
  • effort and looking fabulous and glamorous and they know they're in for a premium experience
  • at a premium price, you give them a fabulous table in the middle of the room.
  • And people react to that, when they see a crowd that's well-dressed and beautiful and
  • sparkling."
  • "I thought this was a high-end restaurant.
  • Why am I the only one wearing a tux?"
  • "Oh, sorry, I should have told you.
  • Rich people are done with fancy clothes."
  • And while there are certainly fine dining restaurants that have evolved to accommodate
  • a more business casual crowd, Winterman in a separate interview with Forbes pointed out
  • that that doesn't mean that dress codes are going away entirely.
  • "There are examples in almost every major city of establishments that adhere to at least
  • some dress code tradition requiring [dress] pants, for example, or banning baseball caps...New
  • Orleans, Dallas, Savannah all have venerable institutions that demand proper attire.
  • Tradition often carries respect."
  • If you're at a boisterous family-style buffet where you can't communicate without hollering
  • out, go for it.
  • But if you're at a fancy restaurant, there's a more suitable way to summon your server.
  • Hint: It definitely does not involve yelling across the room.
  • Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York, told
  • BestLife in 2018,
  • "You should use eye contact or put up your index finger of your right hand, ever so slightly...The
  • person hosting the meal is the one responsible for getting the attention of the waiter so
  • that they can order.
  • If his clients or anyone he's entertaining isn't happy with their food, he's responsible
  • for getting the wait to come over and change it."
  • In general, you should strive to keep the volume of your voice at a lower decibel level
  • when in a fine dining situation.
  • Or, as lifestyle expert Maura Sweeney told BestLife,
  • "Don't rattle the carefully created, understated atmosphere of quiet cultivated by the proprietors."
  • Who doesn't love it when fresh bread is brought to the table before a meal?
  • This feels especially true at upscale restaurants, where the bread is often artisanal; think
  • a thick, slightly chewy crust covering a light, airy, warm center.
  • It's no surprise that most people cut off a big chunk of bread, generously butter it,
  • and then store the piece on their bread plates between bites.
  • "You're naughty!
  • And then I take my naughty pet, and I go…"
  • Per etiquette expert Molly Watson though, that's not proper bread etiquette.
  • She told Serious Eats in 2014 the admittedly "fussy" way you should do it.
  • "Tear off a bite-size piece of bread.
  • Hold the piece with your fingers (not in the palm of your hand and not on the plate), use
  • your knife to butter it, and eat it.
  • Repeat with the remaining bread as you like."
  • Some diners go out of their way to be helpful or polite to servers, but sometimes, it backfires.
  • An example?
  • Pre-bussing your own table.
  • According to Suzanne Perry, co-owner of Datz Restaurant Group in Tampa, Florida, you'd
  • do better to leave your table as it is.
  • Perry told Food & Wine,
  • "Handing a server a stack of plates, layered with food and silverware that isn't balanced
  • and plopping a wad of napkins on top is a little insulting and messier than it really
  • needs to be."
  • Besides, you may not realize it, but servers have a system that enables them to be more
  • efficient in keeping tables clear.
  • As one one Redditor explained,
  • "I might want to stack three entrée plates on my arm and then put other small plates
  • and silverware on top of that.
  • If everyone stacks things, I can only bus two people's plates.
  • If I stack, I can get many more."
  • Paying the bill at a fancy restaurant should be a non-event.
  • One way to do this is to give your card to the maître d' at the start of the meal and
  • inform them you'll sign the check on the way out.
  • There are other ways to handle the bill discreetly.
  • Jonathan Cook, a Quora commenter with over a decade of experience as a fine dining server,
  • suggests one alternative.
  • "Rather than the 'pretend to go to the bathroom and hand your card to the waiter approach,'
  • I recommend calling ahead of time and putting your credit card on file with the restaurant."
  • It's a classy move that keeps the focus on the food, wine, and fun and keeps awkward
  • money talk to a minimum.
  • Bon appetit!
  • Check out one of our newest videos right here!
  • Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite food topics are coming soon.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell so you don't miss a single one.

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Description

A fancy restaurant is probably in your near future if you've got big dinner plans for an anniversary coming up or you just want to have a night out somewhere without paper napkins. But even if you think you know what you're doing, there are mistakes you're probably making at these upscale establishments.

If you want to go to your favorite diner, order a pork chop, and bathe it in ketchup, that's your prerogative. For that matter, it's your prerogative to eat the food you want any way you want to. But let's be clear: If you go to an upscale restaurant, order a gourmet dish, and then ask for a run-of-the-mill condiment, you're going to earn the ire of the chef.

In 2017, The Independent picked the brains of top chefs to determine some of their biggest diner-related pet peeves. Not surprisingly, taking liberties with condiments or other seasonings turned out to be a repeat offender. According to Helena Puolakka, the executive chef at London's Nordic-French restaurant Aster, diners should never ask for Tabasco in a fine dining restaurant. Puolakka insists it's, quote, "blasphemy."

Richard Bainbridge, chef and proprietor of British restaurant Benedicts, also had a proverbial bone to pick with patrons not trusting chefs to properly season and sauce their food, saying,

"The worst thing a diner can do is put salt and pepper on their food before they have even tried it. Seasoning is individual to palate but they could at least give it a go first."

Bottom line? If a dish's seasoning just isn't hitting the spot for some reason, let the chef know so they can meet your expectations and their own.

Watch the video for more about huge mistakes everyone makes at fancy restaurants!

Condiment crudity | #
Napkin no-nos | #
Say no to the 'bows | #
The soup minefield | #
That mysterious silverware | #
Reservation rudeness | #
Ignoring the dress code | #
Calling out to your server | #
Noshing bread the wrong way | #
Pre-bussing your own table | #
Fussing over the bill | #

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