NEW ORLEANS (March 29, 2019) – Fine china on linen tablecloths. An array of silverware and glasses. A chef preparing a delicious meal. This was the scene for the dining etiquette workshop held recently by the Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture for 20 students.
The student participants, ranging from freshmen to seniors, were then treated to a second special meal March 13 to practice their skills at Coquette, an upscale restaurant on Magazine Street. A separate visit also is planned to Dooky Chase’s, Palmer said.
Ray Charles Director Zella Palmer said the goal was to have students use dining as a networking tool as they expand their horizons and venture into new opportunities.
Palmer invited four speakers to the workshop with experience in dining etiquette: Beverage consultant/sommelier Ashtin Berry; social worker Court Madame; John Rhodes, a Dillard alumnus who is planning to open a restaurant featuring plant-based food; and Chef Ashai, a Los Angeles native working in the food industry for a decade.
A four-course meal was prepared by Chef Byron Bratley of Southern Accent: Coco Bread and Butter, Moroccan Chickpea Stew, Tarragon Citrus Scallop, and Poblano Sweet Potato Puree.
As the students arrived, they were asked to introduce themselves and to state any previous dining etiquette experience. Some, such as Dionne McLean, spoke of learning the basics of dining such as never eating with your left hand, putting your phone away when eating and removing elbows off the dinner table and keeping them off and maintaining great posture. Others reported having no experience.
Then the tutorials began inbetween each course, with open discussion and the opportunity for questions. Among the topics were the layout of the table, ways to properly tell your waiter/waitress you dislike your meal, deciding on who’s paying the bill and tipping the waiter always.
Palmer said her grandmother introduced her to dining etiquette: to never slouch, keep elbows off the table and to eat with the right hand. Madame discussed cleaning hands before eating and placing the fork down between bites instead of holding the fork in hand while chewing.
Women who carry accessories such as handbags should place their handbags behind them in the chair and never on the floor. When you are out with a gentleman, it is his job to pull your chair out for you and then push it under the table once you are seated. After you are seated, wait until your host begins to eat before you do.
(Lanece Webb contributed to this report.)