A Gentleman at the Table: A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners

A Gentleman at the Table: A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners

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Gain the knowledge you need to maneuver any dining situation - from a casual meal of fried chicken at mom's house to a seven-course dinner at the finest restaurant in the world.

A Gentleman at the Table will give any man the knowledge he needs to maneuver any dining situation - from a casual meal of fried chicken at his mom's house to a seven-course dinner at the finest restaurant in the world. It includes. . .

  • How to set a table
  • How to pronounce more than 100 unusual food names
  • How to use obscure eating utensils
  • How to perform the Heimlich maneuver
  • How to eat more than 25 foods that are challenging to eat gracefully such as lobster, snails, fried chicken, and pasta.

In a society where more and more people eat with plastic forks and spoons at fast food restaurants, it is still important that a man know proper dining etiquette. There are still situations where not knowing what a finger bowl is or not knowing how to pronounce an item on a menu can have an effect on what others think of you. Showing he has little working knowledge of table manners at a lunch meeting or on a job interview over dinner may have an important impact on a man's life.

Like all the books in the GentleManners series, A Gentleman at the Table is easy to use, non-threatening, and an entertaining read.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781418530372
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/18/2004
Series: The GentleManners Series
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 608 KB

About the Author

John Bridges, author of How to Be a Gentleman, is also the coauthor, with Bryan Curtis, of seven other volumes in the best-selling GentleManners series. He is a frequent guest on television and radio news programs, always championing gentlemanly behavior in modern society. Bridges has appeared on the Today Show, the Discovery Channel, and CBS Sunday Morning, and has been profiled in People magazine and the New York Times.

Bryan Curtis is an author and the president of Dance Floor Books. He is the author/coauthor and editor of more than 25 books, including My SouthMy Southern FoodClassic Wisdom for the Good LifeClassic Wisdom for the Professional Life, and the popular GentleManners series.


Read an Excerpt

A Gentleman at the Table

A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners
By John Bridges Bryan Curtis

Rutledge Hill Press

Copyright © 2007 John Bridges and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-40160-176-8

Chapter One

From Course to Course

Knives and Forks, and How To Use Them

When he sits down at the table, a gentleman surveys the equipment set before him, just as a mechanic checks over the tools needed to repair an automobile or a doctor makes sure he is equipped with all the instruments to be used in surgery. Of course, using the wrong fork for the salad or reaching for the incorrect water glass is not as disastrous as selecting the wrong scalpel. But a gentleman realizes that not knowing his way around a dinner table can throw off the dynamics of a meal, leaving him on pins and needles and in constant fear of embarrassing himself. The good news is that with a little practice, a gentleman can maneuver his way around any table-be it at a Sunday luncheon at his grandmother's or a formal dinner at the White House.

If a gentleman discovers that his napkin has slipped from his lap to the floor, he retrieves it, if he can do so gracefully.

* * *

If the retrieval of his napkin threatens to disrupt the dinner table, a gentleman simply turns to his host or hostess and says, "I'm afraid I've dropped my napkin. May I have another?"

* * *

If a gentleman is served meat in a private home and is not offered a steak knife, he does not ask for one, lest he embarrass his host or hostess (who may not own steak knives or who may assume he has found the entrée too tough to cut with a dinner knife).

* * *

Once a gentleman has finished stirring his cup of coffee, his cup of tea, or his glass of iced tea, he places his spoon on his saucer. A gentleman never places a damp or soiled utensil directly on the table or the tablecloth.

* * *

If a server offers freshly ground pepper for a gentleman's soup, salad, or entrée, the gentleman may accept the offer or decline it, no matter what his dinner companions choose to do.

* * *

A gentleman does not chop up his salad with his knife and fork before proceeding to eat it. If the salad is not served in easily eaten pieces, he cuts it into one bite-sized piece at a time, as he eats it.

* * *

At some elegant dinner parties, a scoop of sorbet (usually citrus flavored) will be served immediately after the first course or after the entrée. A gentleman does not assume that his dessert has already arrived. He recognizes this touch of cold tartness as a "palate cleanser," intended to give his taste buds a rest either before or after a heavy entrée.

* * *

Unless he is confident in his knowledge of china, porcelain, and other ceramics, a gentleman refers to the plates set in from of him as "dishes." He knows it is always wiser to err on the side of simplicity than on pretentiousness.

* * *

Two Forks in the Road

When a gentleman sits down to a meal-breakfast, luncheon, or dinner-he usually finds that the necessary flatware has been provided. (A truly thoughtful host or hostess never puts out more than three forks or knives at the beginning of a dinner, as a greater number of utensils might be intimidating and confusing, and unnecessarily clutter the table.)

A gentleman will find the knives and spoons arranged on the right side of his plate and the forks on the left side. On all occasions, a gentleman assumes that he begins by using the utensils farthest from his plate. This means that, when he is presented with the first course, he uses the fork and knife farthest from his plate. Once that course has been completed, he leaves that course's utensils (fork, spoon, or knife and fork) on his plate. As each new course arrives, he simply uses the utensils that are closer and closer to his plate.

Only one general exception to this rule exists. When a gentleman sits down at the table, he may find a small fork placed on the right side of his plate, outside the knives and spoons. This tiny fork is called a shrimp fork or a cocktail fork, and is intended for use with a first course or an appetizer consisting of shrimp or other shellfish. Shrimp forks are seldom encountered these days. They remain, however, the only forks ever placed on the right side of the plate.

For the most part, when a gentleman sits down at a formal dinner, he may look at the table and clearly anticipate what lies ahead. If he sees two forks on the left side of his plate, he assumes that he will be offered at least two courses during his dinner. Any time his plate is changed or a new course is presented, a gentleman assumes that he is to move along to another fork, knife, or spoon.

Should a gentleman discover that he has run out of knives or forks before the last course has been served, he feels perfectly comfortable in quietly telling the server, "I could use another knife [or another fork]." He does not apologize.

If the utensils have been provided out of order and a gentleman uses them in the order in which they have been provided, the server is at fault, not the gentleman. A gentleman never corrects his host or hostess, nor does he correct a server employed by another person. Instead, especially at a private home, he follows the lead of his host or hostess. His role in the dinner, after all, is to be a gracious participant. He refrains from any behavior or comment that might make his dinner companions uncomfortable.

When Salad Is Served as a First Course

A. Dinner Plate B. Salad Plate C. Salad Fork D. Dinner Fork E. Dinner Knife F. Teaspoon G. Dessertspoon H. Water Glass I. Wine Goblet J. Napkin

When Salad Is Served Along with the Entrée

A. Dinner Plate B. Salad Plate C. Salad Fork D. Dinner Fork E. Dinner Knife F. Teaspoon G. Dessertspoon H. Water Glass I. Wine Goblet J. Napkin

The Napkin

When a gentleman takes his seat at a formal dinner, or at a table in a restaurant, however informal, he immediately unfolds his napkin (even if it is made of paper), and places it in his lap. In this one case, he does not wait for his host or hostess to lead the way. If a gentleman must use his napkin during the dinner to blot his lips or wipe his cheek, he does so, always returning the napkin to his lap.

If a gentleman must leave the table for any reason during a dinner, he simply leaves his unfolded napkin on the seat of his chair. (A gentleman never leaves a used napkin on the dinner table until the final course has been served and he has finished his meal.) In some upscale restaurants, after he has correctly left his napkin on his chair, he will return to the table only to find that a server has refolded his soiled napkin and returned it to the table.

In such cases, no matter how fine the restaurant, the server-or the policy of the restaurant-is wrong. A gentleman never puts his used napkin on the table until he has finished his meal. Before he places his used napkin on the table, he waits, in fact, until the dinner party is obviously coming to a close, placing his unfolded napkin on the table as a declaration that he understands that the dessert has been served, no more coffee will be offered, and no more wine will be poured.

If a gentleman is the host of a dinner party, he places his used napkin on the table to signal the official end of the party. Guests may linger at the table as long as they like, but they may not expect any further food or drink to be served. The host may suggest, however, "Why don't we move along to the living room [or to the den] for coffee [or for an after-dinner drink]?" In such cases, the guests simply leave their napkins on the table and proceed to the other room.

A gentleman does not fret if he soils his napkin over the course of a dinner party. He understands that napkins were created to be used-not to be kept clean.

The Fork and Knife

At any breakfast, luncheon, or dinner a gentleman will be presented with two primary utensils: a fork and a knife. Depending upon the formality of the occasion and the number of courses being served, he may be offered more than one fork and more than one knife. He may also be presented with one or more spoons. But the business of dealing with the basic utensils does not vary-from course to course, from meal to meal, or from table to table.

A gentleman will always find his knife at the Right side of his plate. If the knife is placed correctly, its blade will be facing toward the plate-a tradition based upon the assumption, for good or ill, that most gentlemen are right-handed. If a right-handed gentleman picks up his knife, with the blade turned toward the table, he may plunge right into his dinner. A left-handed gentleman will no doubt have developed his own means of coping with the challenges of almost any occasion, culinary and otherwise.

In no case does a gentleman make a scene by examining the cleanliness of his utensils. If he discovers that one of his utensils is less than spotless, he simply asks for a replacement. He never attempts to polish it with his dinner napkin.

Dinner Knife

The dinner knife is the standard knife with which a gentleman will be greeted when he sits down at any table. Occasionally, he may also be faced with a fish knife (see facing page), which suggests that he will be served fish as a first course. If two dinner knives are set before him, and if a first course is served, a gentleman uses the first knife, farthest to his right, for his first course. If a gentleman has been served a course and he has run out of knives, he simply says to the server, "May I have another knife, please?"

Fish Knife

A gentleman recognizes a fish knife because of its wide, scallop-shaped blade, which is useful for cutting tender, flakey fish. If a gentleman sees a fish knife set beside his plate, he assumes he will be served fish as an appetizer or a main course.

Steak Knife

Steak knives are generally available in restaurants, and a gentleman may ask for one there. In a private home, however, a gentleman never asks for a steak knife. He fears that his host or hostess may not have steak knives readily at hand, and he also does not wish to offend his host or hostess by implying that the chop set before him is too tough to cut with a dinner knife.

Butter Knife

A gentleman finds his butter knife, also known as a "butter spreader," set on his butter plate, just above his forks, at the upper left-hand side of his plate. He uses this knife to spread butter or jam or jelly on his bread. It has no other function.

Dinner Fork

The dinner fork is the standard fork with which a gentleman will be presented when he sits down to dinner at any restaurant or any private dinner. If he is offered more than one dinner fork, he uses each of them as each new course is presented. However, if he sees a salad fork or a shrimp fork (see pages 27 and 28), he uses them in the manner described.

Salad Fork

Somewhat shorter than a dinner fork, the salad fork has wider tines, which make it easier for the fork to pick up slightly greasy, perfectly dressed greens. Although salads are sometimes served as a first course, a gentleman may also find them served after the entrée. A gentleman leaves the salad fork alone until the salad is served.

Shrimp Fork

Also known as a "seafood fork" or a "cocktail fork," a shrimp fork is only provided when a gentleman is served an appetizer of cold fish, shellfish, or mollusks. Unlike any other fork, the shrimp fork is set down at the right of the gentleman's plate.


A gentleman will find the all-purpose soupspoon at the right side of his plate. It informs him that he will be having soup as one of his courses.

This spoon may also be called a "dessertspoon." If it is intended to be used for dessert, the spoon sits above the gentleman's plate. He will recognize it because it will sit horizontally above his plate.


If a gentleman sits down and finds a teaspoon set before him, close to his dinner plate, he does nothing with it, unless he is offered tea or coffee later in the evening. If he is offered tea or coffee, he uses the teaspoon to stir it gently. (He does not use his spoon to dip from the sugar bowl; he uses, instead, the spoon provided with the sugar.) In most cases, however, his coffee will be accompanied by its own small spoon, as will his tea.

Iced Tea Spoon

A gentleman uses the long-handled iced tea spoon to stir sugar and other sweeteners, lemon, and lime into iced tea, iced coffee, and other iced drinks. This spoon comes in handy because such drinks are usually served in tall glasses.

The Multitasking Gentleman

A gentleman may use his fork and knife in either the American or the Continental style. In the strictly American style (see page 34), he uses his knife and fork to slice a bite of meat or vegetables; he then places his knife on his plate and switches his fork to his right hand. In this style, a gentleman uses only his right hand to feed himself, making sure to keep the tines of his fork turned upward. (The process, albeit illogical because of the utensil switching involved, is not as elaborate as it sounds, and is the process most American men have been taught as children to use.)

The Continental style (see page 35) is much more convenient-and is the style many gentlemen find themselves using, no matter how they have been trained by their mothers. In the Continental style, a gentleman uses his fork with his left hand at all times, just as he found it on the left side of his plate. After using his knife and fork to slice a bit of meat or vegetables, he places his knife on his plate. He transfers his food from plate to mouth using his left hand, and with the tines of his fork turned downward.


Excerpted from A Gentleman at the Table by John Bridges Bryan Curtis Copyright © 2007 by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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