Julie-Lamberg-Burnet reveals how to behave at a dinner party and mistakes people make

Julie Lamberg-Burnet (pictured) explains the common mistake people make when dining with others 

Every day, there are a host of dining etiquette rules broken at homes, business lunches and formal events across the country. 

And while many are aware of the basics, there are many more sophisticated rules that people often forget.   

According to Australian expert, Julie Lamberg-Burnet, an understanding of etiquette can put you in good stead no matter the occasion. 

‘Etiquette is not to be confused with outdated behaviour – it is about being respectful, kind and aware,’ Ms Lamberg-Burnet told FEMAIL.

The Founder and CEO of the Sydney School of Protocol lists the common mistakes people make that include slicing bread at the table and adding seasoning to food without having tasted it first.

 1. Starting to eat before your host 

Although it can be tempting to pick up your fork as soon as you’ve been served, you should always avoid doing so.

Ms Lamberg-Burnet said it’s better to be the second person to start eating than the first, and it’s more respectful to your host to wait until they’ve begun.

‘Looking too eager to either attack the bakery or start your meal before others shows a lack of awareness,’ she said.

Don’t ever tuck your napkin into your shirt collar as this is considered the height of rudeness

2. Placing your napkin incorrectly – on yourself and the table

It’s often said manners are concerned with the smaller details, a principle which applies to how you place your napkin.

The expert advised only picking up a serviette from the table when your host does, and always placing this discretely on your lap, with the fold closest to your waist.

She said under no circumstances should a napkin ever be tucked into the top of a shirt collar or be used as a handkerchief.

At the end of the meal, this item doesn’t need to be refolded, however, it does need to be placed to the left of your place setting.

‘Pick up the napkin in the centre and loosely place either on the left-hand side of your place setting or in the middle of the place setting when the plate has been cleared.’

What are the biggest dining etiquette mistakes people make? 

1.  Looking too eager to eat bakery goods or starting your meal before others or your host

2. Using the napkin as a handkerchief or tucking it into the top of your shirt collar

3. Holding your knife as you would a pencil or “talking” with your cutlery

4.  Cutting or slicing a bread roll when this should be broken into two or three pieces

5. Adding seasoning to your food without making sure you’ve tasted it first

6. Holding wine and Champagne glasses by the bowl rather than the stem (this is permitted when drinking red wine)

7. Having a cellphone on the table or dominating the conversation

8.  Scraping and stacking plates at the end of a meal while seated at the table

3. Holding your knife and fork the wrong way

When it comes to holding cutlery, there is a right and wrong way.

Ms Lamberg-Burnet explained the correct way to hold cutlery is by placing the fork in your left hand and the knife in the right.

She said even if you are left-handed, you should to practice and become proficient using the fork in the left and knife in the right.

Additionally, the expert urges against holding your knife as if it was a pencil, explaining it, as well as the fork, should ‘rest’ between the forefinger and thumb.

If you need to take a break during the course of a meal, always place your cutlery into the “resting” position (cutlery is placed across the plate).

When you have finished eating, place cutlery in the “finished” position (cutlery is placed side-by-side).

Ms Lamberg-Burnet added desserts should be eaten using the dessert spoon and fork.

If you are offered bread with your meal, this needs to be broken into two or three smaller pieces rather than sliced into 

4. Slicing into a bread roll rather than breaking it with your hands

If you are offered bread with your meal, you should never cut into this, said the expert.

Instead, etiquette dictates you break bread into two or three bite-sized pieces and butter using the spread you’ve taken from a dish and placed onto the side of your plate.

‘Do not take the butter directly from “public” butter plate or oil dish directly onto your bread.’

 While you might be tempted to add salt and pepper before you’ve tasted it, it’s good manners to refrain from doing so

5. Serving yourself first and seasoning food without tasting it

If food is being passed around the table, allow others to serve themselves before you, and hold serving dishes for them.

And no matter how hungry you might be, don’t ever ‘devour’ food. Instead, display a modicum of restraint by taking small mouthfuls before embarking on the next.

Ms Lamberg-Burnet also said under no circumstances should you season food with salt and pepper before you’ve tasted it.

‘When passing the condiments to another guest offer both the salt and pepper together.’

6. Holding glassware incorrectly

If networking, it’s important to hold glasses correctly – in particular Champagne glasses.

‘When drinking from stemmed glassware, as for Champagne and wine hold the glassware by the stem rather than around the bowl of the glass,’ said the expert.

When drinking red wine, it is acceptable to place your hands around the bowl of the glass as using your hands to ‘warm’ the wine may enhance the taste. 

 When drinking from stemmed glassware, as for Champagne and wine hold the glassware by the stem rather than around the bowl of the glass

7. Dominating the conversation and having a cell phone on the table

No matter how tethered you are to your phone, there is no place for it at a dining table, said Ms Lamberg-Burnet.

She added this rule applies to other items including sunglasses, keys, wallets and any other personal items.

The expert also touched on rules of conversation at the dining table, noting it was important to speak to those on your left and right, and no matter how good a raconteur you consider yourself, avoid the temptation to hold the floor.

8. Jumping up to clear the table when the meal is finished

When a meal has ended, although you may think it correct to offer to help do the dishes, your host may not appreciate you leaving the table.

According to Ms Lamberg-Burnet, this not only disrupts the flow of conversation it can disturb a carefully created ambience.

She adds it is also better to avoid scraping and stacking plates at the table. 

‘Remember dining is less about the food and more about the conversation.’ 

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