A Dash of Formal English Dinner Table Setup #EMBA27

Ikenna Ngonebu Written by Ikenna Ngonebu · 2 min read >

My MBA Thoughts

When I decided to have an MBA, I thought I was sure what I would mostly learn. I had worked with colleagues and interacted with individuals and co-workers globally over the years in various businesses and companies, so I believed I had a fairly good idea of what to expect. I was anxious to look at the impact in the ways I approached problems, the way I managed teams and took decisions, improvement in the way I comprehended organizations’ setup, human resources, and what makes great corporations function appropriately. However, nothing prepared me for the class on Social skills, specifically- eating etiquettes by Ngozi Princewill Utchay.


I prided myself that I had a decent secondary school education back in the days and was very eloquent with my utensils- essentially the fork and the knife. We had done a lot of eating and dinner etiquettes then and I carried them through the years. I even helped train my children and a few other kids on some basic etiquette like not to speak when one has something in the mouth, or not to stuff one’s mouth with food even though one may be hungry, and how to hold the fork and knife (to what extent they listened to me was another issue though!). However, nothing prepared me for what our lecturer- Ngozi Princewill Utchay exposed us to on that day which made it clear to me that one is never too old neither should one feel too big to learn new things, even some basics. An old dog can always learn new tricks.

The Interesting Dining Table Setup

The lecture day was very interesting for me when we started, and the lecturer mentioned the areas she was meant to handle. She had quite a very good diction and mastery of the English language and punctuated her sentences using words that clearly showed her expertise with the vocabulary.  We started with how to set the formal dining table. I never knew that there were different types of table forks till that day- the dinner fork, the salad fork, and the dessert fork. For me ordinarily, they were all the same forks. I guess I was not that grounded after all. Then we went to the spoons. There was the soup spoon, the teaspoon (at least I knew that one), and the dessert spoon. I kept wondering- why so many spoons for a single meal? She explained that they were for different types of food during dinner and it was not proper to eat one kind of meal with the wrong spoon. Next came the glass or the drinking glass. There was the water cup, the white wine glass, and the red wine glass. On top of all these, there was still the cup and saucer for the tea after the meal.

Those Knives.

When she came to the knife- I thought I had figured it out now. Surely these would be similar to the soup and fork- there should be the dinner, salad, and dessert fork. That should be it I thought. However, she proved me wrong by replacing the dessert fork with the bread fork. On top of everything, they had to be properly arranged at specific sides of the serving plate facing specific directions in front of the guest.

Ready for an English Formal Dinner.

I learned a lot that day just around a basic thing like setting a table for food. It looked simple, but the thought that I had been in several formal dinners in my career and must have been eating all wrong made me shudder as I used to mix up all the utensils and cups. Though I still think with awe at the learnings for that session, I believe I am now more prepared to sit down some time again and enjoy a proper English dinner without embarrassing myself or my guests.

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