Where is my bread plate?
Students learn table etiquette
“Mix and mingle for 10 minutes.” That’s the first instruction called out to seniors participating in an etiquette class that, if the university allowed it, could earn a special notation on their diplomas. Maybe illustrated with the tines of a salad fork, it would say: “Has been trained in fine dining.”
The course — four courses really, counting soup, salad, entrée and dessert — is a popular one. Dinner is actually the final part of this lesson. First the 150 students who signed up for the dining class tackle the art of the social visit. They get to practice on alumni who’ve come to help out their alma mater and to look for prospective employees.
“Go up to someone you do not know and initiate conversation with three topics in mind,” says Laura Kestner, director of the Career Services Center. “You can talk about current events, movies, books, restaurants. Avoid asking anything about salaries, politics and religion. And please keep personal health issues to yourself.”
As the students walk and talk, they balance hors d’oeuvres plates and wine glasses filled with lemonade. There is pressure, concedes Kestner, but it’s all created to help students prepare for the inevitable job interview conducted over lunch. “Every moment of an interview someone will be watching you, evaluating you,” she says. “We’re doing this to help you shine.” Getting the job, Kestner knows, may hinge on whether the applicant knows enough not to slurp the soup.
Some students admit they don’t know the first thing about formal dining. “I need a lot of work,” says Andrew Ledger, an engineering senior, “like learning what fork to use when.” For others, the event has another attraction. Amanda Moulds, a junior, who is starting to network early, says, “I want to get my feet wet with the whole professional world.”
The Student Alumni Network and Career Services Center collaborate to host this event each April to make sure Marquette’s next round of graduates knows their way around the dining table.
Pleasant conversation conquered, they move into the dining room where Kestner gives students a tour of the table — and, to Ledger’s relief, the cutlery. “Now I’ll break down the place setting. Use your utensils from the outside in; your dessert fork is at the top of the plate. I always think the more silverware, the better the meal. We have two knives tonight — that’s a good sign.”