Etiquette expert Anthony Cawdron, events coordinator for the president at Purdue University, led two dinner workshops for students and a shortened staff and faculty lunch session.
Cawdron said the purpose of the dinner is "for people to feel comfortable in all sorts of dining situations -- especially for those students who have job interviews coming up this spring."
The Etiquette Dinner began with an hour covering table manners, invitation and preparation courtesies, as well as basic manners such as handshakes and polite conversation.
A useful tip Cawdron shared was to only unfold napkins halfway. This way the outside of the napkin stays clean and one can use the inside for wiping the mouth.
The next hour featured a three-course meal catered by Bon Appétit where students practiced their new dining skills. Cawdron continued commentary and took questions during the meal.
Cawdron's interjections such as, "This isn't eat-by-numbers -- the food is meant to be mixed!" and "I've already spotted four flying croutons" provided for a rousing meal. Students also learned common tests used by business executives during an interview meal, such as how the server is treated, if food is tasted before seasoned, and how a mistake in the order is handled.
Dinner attendee Sarah Ring '11 said, "It was interesting to be made aware of all the social traps that can be laid by business executives during a dining experience. It's the little things that will make you stand out to them."
Cawdron pointed out that etiquette is back in fashion. With many students preparing to act as ambassadors or hosts in the future, knowledge of basic etiquette is increasingly important.
"We wanted to prepare students for business or social situations in their future. It's important to identify yourself as a competent and educated individual and to be comfortable in a dining situation where something could go wrong," SAA co-chair Sara Weathers '09 said.
Cawdron's workshop was informative, but marked with light-hearted humor and stories. He expressed one of his worst etiquette experiences as when a guest blew his nose on a table cloth, but notes that he has "seen it all -- from gum under the dinner plate, a stack of used Kleenexes under the chair, and cleaning ears or teeth with dining utensils."
Abby Benson '11 attended the etiquette dinner as what some might call a haphazard food consumer. However, she left very enlightened in the ways of fine dining.
"Ever since I was little I've had terrible table manners," Benson said. "My mom would always tell me, 'Abby, we didn't raise you in a barn!' So to impress her and make her happy, I came to these etiquette lessons and learned a lot."
Weathers also gained a new perspective on polite dining.
"I realized that you shouldn't always think about yourself [while dining]," Weathers said. "A lot of it is being aware of your surroundings and interactions with the other people at the table."
Cawdron advises students interested in improving their table manners to ask friends how polite you look when eating or eat in front of a mirror and see for yourself.