EC students learn the art of fine dining

Patricia Cook, a professional business consultant, explains the etiquette behind proper napkin use to students during an interactive din- ner on Wednesday, Oct. 5. (Photo by Annie Williams)

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, around 45 professionally dressed students filled the Prospect room in Founders for “Which Fork Do I Use?” an annual event where students learn dining etiquette all while enjoying a complimentary meal.

The event hosted by the Center for professional Excellence (CPE) is designed to teach students how to avoid social blunders while dining in a business setting. To do this, the CPE brought in professional business consultant Patricia Cook.

Cook believes that in today’s competitive job market you need to be the best, look the best and do the best, and this starts with making a good first impression. She said that you only have about seven seconds to make a strong first impression. She further expressed her dismay with gum chewers, teeth pickers, and over-sharers and she strongly believes in a firm handshake.

“I got six bad handshakes earlier this evening,” she said. “Keep your thumbs up. A weak handshake makes you look like you have no self-confidence.”

As the evening progressed, students learned many other important tips to use when dining out. Cook encouraged students not to be overwhelmed by a confusing place setting, but to work from the outside in and to watch those around them.

As the students enjoyed their dinner — which consisted of soup, salad, Chicken Marsala, and a cannoli for dessert — Cook continued to give them pointers to help avoid embarrassment in the future such as keeping your napkin in your lap instead of using it as a bib and setting it down on your chair if you have to leave the table.

Even chewing matters when it comes to dining etiquette. Take smaller bites than you normally would, for as Cook pointed out, “the whole cow doesn’t need to fit in all at once,” meaning that no one looks professional when they have a mouth full of food.

Although the event did cover many traditional etiquette practices, such as passing food to the right around the table, Cook shared some more modern etiquette practices regarding gender etiquette.

A firm believer that today’s society is gender neutral, Cook explained that as a man you do not have to pull out a woman’s chair and that it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to hold the door for a man.

Rafiya Dadar, a senior who attended the event found it both enjoyable and enlightening.

“The dinner retaught many aspects [of dining etiquette] that are often forgotten, and these skills will definitely place me ahead of the game in any setting.”