|Dr. Catherine Pratt speaking on etiquette. 4/17/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
ROSSFORD - It's nearly May and that means graduation time for a slew of high school and college seniors, most of whom will be hitting the streets in search of a job.
In an attempt to give its students a possible leg up in the business world, Owens Community College hosted an "Etiquette Luncheon" Friday in the college's Terrace View Cafe.
Students were treated to a multi-course banquet in an elegant setting, but there was a purpose behind the pleasure.
"I think we do an excellent job here at Owens, as do most schools, of giving students the content they need to succeed. But there are things we don't teach in the curriculum, and etiquette is one of them," noted Dr. Catherine Pratt, a faculty member in the communications and humanities department.
"So this is a way to give students that extra tool. Etiquette can be one way to stand out from the field" of job applicants or low-level employees.
She offered a rapid-fire review of business dining etiquette throughout the meal. The menu, including saucy, slippery pasta; bouncy craisins and tomatoes in the salad; and a nice slurpy soup, deliberately offered plenty of possibilities for disaster.
Gretchen Fayerweather is the chef instructor who created the menu executed for the Etiquette Luncheon at Owens. Among the dishes she chose to serve were a Martha's Vineyard salad with vinaigrette dressing, grilled chicken fettuccine Alfredo, and ratatouille. Recipes for the first two are offered in today's Cook's Corner.
All through the meal, students had plenty of questions for Pratt, who used to conduct similar etiquette luncheons at Bowling Green State University, where she formerly taught.
"The single most often-asked question I get is, 'Can I switch desserts?'" Pratt said with a laugh.
At many awards dinners or similar banquets people are seated at round tables with two or three desserts alternating at each place setting.
The students were hoping that if they were the first to arrive at the table it was acceptable to quietly switch their cheesecake for that yummy looking chocolate mousse cake at the next place setting over.
Pratt nixed that notion, but discussed possibilities for dessert-switches after everyone is in their seats.
"If the person seated next to you is higher status than you, keep your mouth shut!" she warned. But if one's neighbor is an acquaintance, it is perfectly fine to ask if that person happens to prefer the dessert not currently in front of them, with the goal being a win-win situation.
When the salad course was served, students were asking, "I don't like the tomato. Can I leave it?"
Pratt advised, "You should learn to like tomatoes." But if that's too difficult, she suggests leaving a bit of lettuce in the bowl along with the tomato, "so it looks like you were just full" rather than childishly unwilling to eat a particular vegetable.
Other tangled vines in the etiquette jungle:
¥ Elbows on the table? That's a no-no, "but forearms on the table are permitted."
¥ How do I know what to order at a business lunch in a restaurant?
The worst-case scenario is that you order a steak when everyone else is opting for sandwiches and salads.
It's best to take one's cue from one's boss or whoever is paying. If the server gets to you before your boss or host, however, "The standard line is, 'Oh, everything on this menu looks so good I just need another moment to look it over. Why don't you folks go ahead and order first?' Then follow their lead" in terms of prices.
Pratt also advised foods to shun just because they are so difficult to handle.
"Avoid marinara sauce with long noodles! You'll wear it before you get home.
"Avoid anything you have to use your hands to eat - unless everybody else at the table is ordering it too."
¥ Don't drink at lunch if you are the new person in the group.
¥ Unless a health issue is involved, don't complain about service, or request extra attention.
"If you order a fish sandwich with cheese and there is no cheese on it, just keep your mouth shut and eat it! Every time you complain about something, it makes everybody at the table a little uncomfortable."
Pratt said 15 to 20 percent is an appropriate tip.
Also, she warned, if someone is ever in a situation where the service was terrible and they are tempted to silently make a statement via the tip, resist the urge.
"You should never leave a penny. That says more about you than about the service."
Martha's Vineyard salad
Yield: 10 servings
Lettuce, green leaf 1 head (Boston Bibb lettuce can be substituted also)
Lettuce, red leaf, 1 head
Lettuce, spring mix, ¼ box or 1 small bag
Pine nuts, 4 oz
Craisins, 4 oz
Blue cheese, 5 oz
Onions, red, 1
Vinaigrette, 1 pint (see recipe below)
¥ Thinly slice and marinate onions in red wine vinegar for at least 1 hour, drain
¥ Toast pine nuts
¥ Crumble blue cheese
¥ Cut and wash greens, dry and mix all greens together
¥ To plate: Greens, sprinkle pine nuts, Craisins, blue cheese, and top with nest of red onions then drizzle with vinaigrette.
Yield: 1 pint, 10 servings
8 oz red wine vinegar
¼ cup raspberries, frozen
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp dried tarragon leaves
Salt to taste
¥ Combine everything except oil and Dijon mustard.
¥ Slowly add half of the oil in stream while using hand mixer or blender.
¥ Add half the mustard, and continue with oil, finish with Dijon.
¥ Add additional mustard or oil if needed to thicken if not totally emulsified.
Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
Yields: 10 servings
Grill chicken breasts, 10 6-oz. skinless, deboned
Chicken stock, 1 pint
Fettuccine pasta, 1 lb.
Parmesan cheese, 4 oz.
* Banquet Alfredo sauce (see below)
Method of preparation:
¥ Grill chicken just until marked on both sides
¥ Place in oven safe pan with chicken stock, place in oven at 350F until they reach 165F
¥ Cook pasta until al dente
¥ Toss pasta in sauce
¥ Slice chicken on bias into strips
¥ For service gently place chicken (holding shape of breast) sprinkle with freshly grated parm. cheese
Banquet Alfredo Sauce
Yield: 10 servings
2.5 quarts heavy cream
3 cup white wine
30 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Method of preparation:
¥ Saute garlic in 1 T. extra virgin olive oil in a hot saute pan until translucent.
¥ Add the cream and black pepper and bring to a simmer over high heat.
¥ Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
¥ Add parmesan cheese at very end, if desired.
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