French Table Manners – a Crash Course before Plan Your Next Visit to a French Restaurant

Let’s just say you are going to thank your stars for this crash course on French table manners, whether you are invited to a corporate party at a French restaurant or are going for a holiday to France this summer. The French take great pride in their cuisine and food is an integral part of their culture. They almost find it rude when proper etiquettes are not followed.

Don’t Offend Your Hosts

You can pick up some simple tips here so as to save yourself from embarrassment and stop unconsciously offending your gracious French hosts. They are known to honour food with very sophisticated table manners (that can even put the fussy English to shame) and a luncheon is almost a celebration by itself.

Understanding Various Courses

Before we get into the table manners, let’s look at what exactly to expect in terms of the 6 courses in any of the French restaurants. Each meal may or may not consist of all the courses, and it’s crucial that you understand that ‘entrée’ in English menus is actually the main course and their ‘entrée’ refers to the appetizers.

General Table Manners

The manners are given great importance in France. Even within a family, dinners are real formal. Here are a few tips to good table manners:

  1. Like in England, eat with the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left hand.
  2. It is important that you rest your hands on the table.
  3. Wait till the host or the head says – “bon appetite” before you begin eating. Till then, you will need to patiently wait otherwise it’d be considered rude.
  4. It is important that you toast before you drink. Make sure you raise your glass, just to the right height and say, “a votre santé”. If there is a head host over the dinner table, then he/she will be the first to toast and wish “bon appetite” to the guests.
  5. Bread is served at every meal, if there is a side plate missing for putting your bread on, it’s perfectly alright to place it on the table cloth next to your plate.

Table Manners to be Followed in a French Restaurant – Au Resto…

  1. It is considered rude to not greet your server with a pleasant ‘bonjour’ (or ‘bonsoir’ if after sunset) before you start ordering. Your relationship with your server will start off on a positive note if you can do this.
  2. The servers do not wait on you and check up on you throughout, unlike in other countries so do not be offended. They do watch out for cues though.
  3. When you have decided on what to order, put down your menu, closed.
  4. If you need to attend a call and leave your plate momentarily and you haven’t finished your food yet, make sure you leave the knife and fork with their handles pointing out towards the hand so the waiters don’t clear your table.
  5. If you need your server’s attention, a subtle wave or an eye catch would be ideal. If he/she doesn’t seem to notice, say, “s’il vous plait” and DO NOT snap fingers; that’s considered rude. Restaurants like Le Bouchon have servers who are especially well-natured and provide the top service in the industry.

5 Most Popular Types of French Cuisines

Right from a very young age, children in France are taught how to appreciate good food and are surely proud of the culinary reputation that the country holds throughout the world. French food has a culinary tradition that dates back to several centuries ago. The modern French food is an outcome of many centuries of evolution, perfection and a lot of research. It forms an integral part of their beautiful culture. The chefs from France are also known to be one of the most creative chefs in the world; they are known for their ability to satisfy some of the most discriminating types of tastes with some of the most authentic French dishes.

Inevitable Italian Influence

Most of the success and popularity of French food is owed to Catherine de Medicis. She was a Queen who came to power in the year 1533, when she travelled to France from Italy; she brought her own entourage of chefs from Florence. At that period of time, Italian chefs were known to be more experienced than French chefs. They brought in their own techniques and methods that were modified to go well with the food products of France. This kind of cooking was quickly picked up by the people of France and ever since, the country’s influence on French food and practically never ceased.

The Vast region-based variety

The kind of food eaten varies in a big way based on the geographical regions. It can be as varied as very light on the tummy food from the Mediterranean regions of Provence to heavy game-based cuisine of Normandy. The French don’t seem to be too fond of snacks between meals. They have 3 satisfying meals a day. The breakfasts are usually light with just coffee and bread and is followed by a huge lunch and an ever larger dinner (four course or more). Here’s a gist of the different kinds of cuisines of France.

  • Normandy: This region is popular for its great apples and dairy products. This is where the famous Camembert cheese originates. It was first made in the village of Camembert and is an exclusive product of this region. Apples here are not just used in dessert but also in alcohols and cocktails. Calvados is an extra strong brandy made from apples. The most popular beverage that this region is known for is Pommeau de Normandie.  
  1. Provence: The sunny and warm weather of Provence helps with the production of good vegetables and best quality fruits that have a wonderful aroma. Typical ingredients of the cuisine from Provence will have herbes de province, garlic and olive oil. Tatatoulle is a popular vegetable stew which is made of olive oil, onions, zucchinis, tomatoes and pepper. Salade Nicoise is another popular dish which contains tomatoes, tuna, lettuce, black olives, anchovies, eggs and green beans.
  2. Southwest France: The cuisine from this part of the country is made of produits du terroir. Truffles are found all over this portion and the most popular of the varieties are the black truffles which are underground mushrooms. These are rare and are a delicacy. They are cooked with different spices and sauces that can be very aromatic and tasty.
  3. Lyon: This place is the uncrowned gastronomic capital of the country. The city has produces many renowned chefs like Léon de Lyon, Pierre Orsi, Paul Bocuse, etc. It is also home to some of the finest cooking institutes in the world.

There are many more minor varieties that are much adored by the French people. A visit to a good French restaurant like Le Bouchon restaurant, Sherbrooke is a must for a serious learner.