The Formal Place Setting
There is general agreement among etiquette experts and writers
of etiquette manuals that far too many people are not sure they
can choose the proper flatware for the appropriate course of the
meal. As all published text tells you, use the outermost
flatware as necessary, one set for each course, and you will
not make a mistake unless the table has been improperly set to
For a formal place setting, you will receive exactly the
flatware you will need, arranged in the correct order. Good
etiquette requires you to assume that the host has correctly
designated each piece of flatware to its task. As each course is
finished, the corresponding flatware (used and unused) will be
removed with the dish, leaving you ready for the next course to
arrive. If the meal is to have more than three or four courses,
common sense and aesthetics tell you not to place a slew of
forks and knives at the sides of the charger/service plate, so
on these occasions the proper new flatware will be brought to
you with each course after all of the original settings have
A service plate, also known as a charger plate is never eaten
from. It will either be removed when the first course is
brought, or the different courses will be set on top of it. A
set table may contain any or all of the flatware below.
There is a small fork provided for eating oysters. It will be to
your right. They say every rule has an exception and this is the
one exception to the rule of placing forks to the left of the
The soup spoon will be located to the right of the plate.
It is usually the only spoon provided with the
initial place setting.
Salad Fork and Knife
The salad fork may have a thicker tine at the left of the fork.
For right handed people, which are the majority, this
strengthens the fork for use in cutting large greens without
having to use the salad knife.
Fish Fork and Knife
Both a special fork and a knife should be provided for fish. In
the old days, the fish knife often had a silver blade, because
fish, which is often served with lemon, reacts with the steel in
old knife blades, causing an unpleasant taste. The invention of
stainless steel in the 1920s took care of this problem. The fish
fork is usually shorter than the meat fork.
Meat Fork and Knife
In the western hemisphere, the innermost fork and knife are
provided for the meat course of the meal. In some countries
where they eat the salad after the main course, the innermost
fork and knife are for the salad and are always smaller than the
meat fork and knife.
Dessert Spoon and Fork
The dessert spoon and/or fork may be set when you arrive, or may
be brought in with the dessert. If they are part of the initial
place setting, they would be placed horizontally north of the
plate, parallel to each other, with the fork closest to the
plate and the tines of the fork pointing right. The bowl of the
spoon should point to the left.
When coffee and tea are served, a teaspoon will be provided and
it is brought in on the saucer next to the cup.
If a bread plate is provided, as in the photo to the left, a
butter knife will also be provided. Remember this is only
for the butter as bread is never cut with that or any knife, but
simply ripped apart.
In today's eclectic cuisine, your dinner may include one or
several oriental courses. If so, chopsticks may be
provided for your convenience, such as with nigiri sushi or
rolls. Chopsticks may be used for more than one course.
What is the difference between
Private Chefs and Personal Chefs?