The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Special Event Recap: Fall 2014 Etiquette Dinner

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On October 8th, the Rockefeller Center hosted its termly etiquette dinner. This event was recapped by a student participant.

I was particularly excited to attend the Etiquette Dinner with Robert Shutt on Thursday, October 8th, a termly event sponsored by the Rockefeller Center. As I had hoped, the evening turned out to be very helpful and fun, and I was glad for this opportunity to go.

Before I arrived, I expected that I would learn how to “eat professionally.” Shutt not only explained how to be professional while eating, but also how to “shine while you dine,” his goal for us for the evening. His first, main point was the distinction between business and social etiquette. The Etiquette Dinner focused on business etiquette, rules having to do with eating in formal situations for work rather than with friends or acquaintances.

The place setting at a typical Rockefeller Center Etiquette Dinner.

As the participants started eating the dinner, which was catered by the Hanover Inn, we learned some key facts. These included the difference between salad and entrée forks, how it is best to finish most of your entree, and other aspects of dining etiquette. As my peers and I ate and conversed, an inevitable question arose. What should I do if I am chewing and someone asks me a question? Shutt explained that it is ok not to answer immediately, and putting one finger briefly in front of your mouth is a commonly understood and polite signal that you need some more time before answering. Shutt also advised taking smaller bites and recommending that the person who asked the question be understanding and tactful by asking the question to another person while waiting for you to finish eating.

Overall, Shutt taught us a wide variety of tips for propery dining etiquette, even touching on an often ignored topic among etiquette specialists, gas. It is inevitable that people will experience it during formal meals at times. Shutt did not recommend blaming the release of gas on someone else in the room or blatantly ignoring it. He recommended acknowledging it when necessary and responding with a simple “excuse me.” Having touched on a variety of dining etiquette issues thoughtfully and seriously, Shutt closed the dinner by talking about the polite passing of desserts and sugar for coffee. Participants then stood up to say goodbye and thanked each other for a great dinner.

-Written by Yi He '17, Etiquette Dinner Participant

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