Instruction at the dinner table: students treated to four-course meal learn formal dining etiquette

Students at Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center got a little taste of formality complete with a four-course meal on Monday, Feb. 26 and Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at EOC Tech’s first ever “Fine Dining” event.

Students from the Digital Media, Computer Networking and Repair, Web and 3D Design, Electrical Trades, Health Careers and Early Care and Education programs attended the event. The morning students participated in the 10:00 a.m. session and the afternoon students attended the 1:30 p.m. session with Leadership, Employability, Academics and Problem Solving (LEAP) Instructor Kristy Johnson, guiding the students through fine dining etiquette. The meal consisted of bread, and salad as the appetizers, grilled chicken and green beans as the main course, as well as a dessert that was served by students who volunteered to be the wait staff.

The Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center Foundation funded the main course. Members of the EOC Tech Faculty and Staff donated the dessert, salad and bread. Mrs. Karen Manwell, EOC Tech Early Care and Education Director, donated all of the flatware,   dishes, drinking glasses, tablecloths, napkins and centerpieces.

Mrs. Johnson said the idea of teaching students fine dining etiquette originated from former Computer Networking and Repair Instructor, Tom Buntin and Karen Manwell a few years ago.

“At the end of every school year, I always ask instructors if they have any ideas for new LEAP curriculum for the next year and Mr. Buntin brought up the idea of teaching formal dining etiquette. After brainstorming with instructors, Karen described introducing students to formal dining etiquette as a bucket list item for her as an instructor.”

Mrs. Johnson said she thought the concept was very important for students to learn and started thinking of practical approaches to instruct students.

“I didn’t want to just do a PowerPoint on etiquette or hand them a guideline on a piece of paper,” she said. “Over the next year or so of trying to plan it, certain things fell into place where we could actually make this a formal event instead of just a training session in a classroom.”

Outside of school, Mrs. Johnson is involved with Studio 222, an after-school mentorship program in OKC at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Through the program, she was introduced to a hands-on, real life approach to formal dining etiquette and was then able to formulate a plan for EOC Tech students to have a similar experience.

“The role of EOC Tech is to prepare students for employment,” she said. “With that comes the social aspect and chances are, our students will attend a formal event of some kind throughout their career — whether it be a job interview at a restaurant, an awards dinner or a formal banquet — and they will need to know what to do.”

In addition to teaching students how to conduct themselves in a formal setting, Mrs. Johnson realized that it was even beneficial for students to learn basic table etiquette.

“Even if the students only remember a few things from the session, I’m okay with that,” she said. “Out of the 70 students who participated, I only had one student who said he has to ask to be excused from the table when eating dinner with family and I imagine that it’s because in our society today, not very many families eat dinner together every evening.”

The Fine Dining event stemmed from EOC Tech’s “Dress for Success” event that’s also funded p by the EOC Tech Foundation and organized by Mrs. Johnson every other school year.

“I really love Dress for Success and I think the students benefit from it,” Mrs. Johnson said. “At EOC Tech, I think Dress for Success is modeled on a daily basis with the way faculty and staff present themselves as well as professional dress day being on Wednesdays for the students. We also hold practice interviews and training on resume writing every year so this year, I just wanted to do something different that maybe they haven’t been exposed to yet.”

Mrs. Johnson plans to follow up with instructors about what to do differently in the years to come but was overall very pleased with the event.

“I think students took it very seriously and tried to learn, especially when they saw how everything was set up,” she said. “We had the white tablecloths, cloth napkins, fancy drinking glasses and place settings — it just looked very nice and I think they really appreciated that.”

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