Dear Food Network Celebrity Chefs, Etiquette

I’ll begin by saying, “Thank you!” You have provided my family and me hours of entertainment watching you appraise an assembly line of bread puddings, fish tacos, plates of “hash”, bowls of under-cooked risotto, and cupcakes…who can forget the cupcakes?

Now to the crux of my letter, I’d like to comment on your table manners. You’re aware that there are millions of people watching you eat, right? To be blunt, your table manners are rather off-putting. In fact, I liken them to Casu Marzu omelets made with emu eggs.

You might ask, “What difference do my table manners make?” Table manners are as important and as basic, judges, as using salt when you cook; you don’t notice when it’s there, but fail to use it and the meal is unappetizing. Table manners allow people to eat together without being grossed out by the actual biological process of chewing and swallowing. Much like cooking elevates the humble potato, table manners elevate eating from a life-sustaining necessity to an enjoyable social occasion.

An Open Letter to the Celebrity Chefs on Food Network

In the spirit of happy dining, I would like to provide a few etiquette training tips to keep you from inadvertently offending your viewers and help keep the focus on the cuisine.

  1. Choose a style of dining and stick to it. There are two styles of dining, American and Continental. The American style of dining uses a zig-zag pattern of cutting in which we swap our fork and knife back and forth from dominant hand to non-dominant hand. The knife is never used as a pusher and is balanced on the top of the plate when not cutting. The tines of the fork always remain up. This is a simple style that my five year old has already mastered. The Continental style utilizes both utensils and they do not zig-zag, the knife can be used to push food onto the back of the fork. Please do not use a weird hybrid of the two styles, it is distracting. Both styles are correct-be sure to perfect whichever style you choose before eating in front of us.
  2. The fork and knife, once used, should never be balanced both on the plate and on the table. In other words, don’t make a gang plank with your silverware. Dirty utensils should NEVER touch the table, they should be balanced on the edge of the plate when not in use.
  3. Chew with your mouths closed. Yes, you are rushing to get through the tasting and provide feedback but we don’t want to witness the masticating of your cherry clafoutis. Take small, manageable bites.
  4. Don’t attempt to speak with food in your mouths. Chew, swallow and then speak.
  5. Keep your fingers out of your dish unless you are dining on finger foods. Large bones are never picked up, use your fork and knife to cut off the meat. Don’t use one hand to lift the bone and the other to saw the meat off. Small, dainty bones, like those of a roasted grouse can be nibbled using one hand once the majority of meat has been cut off of the bone using your fork and knife. The hand not in use should be placed in your lap.
  6. Don’t lick your fingers! Please, use your napkin. Watching someone lick frosting off of her fingers on a 60” high definition television screen is akin to watching an animal devour a wildebeest in the Serengeti.
  7. I don’t care how grossed out you are by the “whatever it is” you have found in your elk meat loaf, don’t spit it out and then show us. We believe you when you say it. Chewed gristle, bits of bone, curly hairs, are especially stomach turning. And don’t spit anything into your napkin.
  8. Eliminate weird sounds and grimaces. We are happy that your recipe worked, but we gag when we hear you moan in ecstasy while you gorge. It is no secret that your network insists you taste the food in front of us, please just dial it back a bit to eliminate our discomfort. Sure, Pasta Alla Formiana is tasty, but is it THAT tasty? We are viewers not voyeurs.

Again, I thank you for helping the time pass when I’m folding laundry, peeling potatoes or simply putting my feet up after a long day. I hope that you accept my gift of etiquette training tips in the spirit for which they are intended.

Bon Appetit!