I took a course in food etiquette inspired by “Downton Abbey”. Here are 5 things that surprised me the most.


Insider’s Tufayel Ahmed attended an etiquette class inspired by “Downton Abbey”.Tufayel Ahmed/Initiate/Carnival Films

  • I took an etiquette class inspired by “Downton Abbey” to learn good table manners.

  • The class was supervised by Philip Sykes, founder of the British School of Excellence.

  • I learned the right way to sit and stand, salt your food, and even eat soup.

I recently learned to eat like a 1920s British aristocrat in a “Downton”-inspired etiquette class.

Photo of Tufayel Ahmed at the Downton event and screenshot of Downton Abbey

The author is about to dine like the aristocrats of “Downton Abbey”.Tufayel Ahmed/Initiate/Carnival Films

The dining room scenes in ‘Downton Abbey’ are among the most lavish in the hit TV series and its spin-off films, as well as often being the backdrop for some of the Crawley family’s most explosive moments. .

I recently tried to pretend to be 1920s British aristocracy by taking a “Downton”-inspired etiquette class to mark the home entertainment release of “Downton Abbey: A New Era.” (A note that Universal Pictures provided the insider trip and accommodation for the trip.)

The etiquette class was led by Philip Sykes, the headmaster of the British School of Excellence, who imparted his wisdom on how to behave when seated for a formal dinner – or, a supper, as the Crawleys might call him.

Here are some of the most surprising things I learned.

You should sit on the left and stand on the right.

The first thing we were taught was how to get into our chairs.

When you sit down, enter the chair from the left side to avoid bumping into your table mate when you sit down.

When you’re done eating, exit on the right side, again to avoid any stray elbows or stepping on someone’s foot.

According to Sykes, when you’re seated, you should only be about three-quarters full of your seat and sit with an upright posture. Your back should not touch the back of the chair. (It’s easier said than done!)

Think “BMW” – bread, flour and water.

Set up during etiquette.

An introduction to the label class.James Gifford-Mead

The number of plates, knives, forks and glasses that make up a place setting can be overwhelming and you may end up drinking from the wrong glass.

Sykes taught us a simple way to remember which dishes to use: BMW. No, not the car manufacturer, but bread, mealand the water.

Your bread plate is to your left, your plate should be in the center, and your water and wine glasses should be to the right of your plate. So now you can avoid accidentally sipping someone else’s wine!

When you eat soup, keep the spoon away from you.

"Downton Abbey"  character eating soup.

Eat your soup like the Dowager Countess.carnival movies

If you’re sitting down to a fancy meal, chances are you’re dressed in your finest tuxedo, dress, or other formal attire. So the last thing you want to do is douse yourself with soup.

Sykes taught us that when taking a spoonful of soup from your bowl, always point the spoon away from you rather than towards you to avoid the soup splattering. Once you’ve poured your soup, carefully bring your spoon to your mouth and gently sip the soup, instead of placing the entire spoon in your mouth.

Another etiquette rule we learned is to never blow on your food to cool it. This is considered a major misstep and could be considered rude.

Do not cut your bread, but break it.


Break small pieces of bread — do not cut it.Daniel Day/Getty Images

It may seem less than refined in a formal setting, but breaking bread is good and cutting bread is bad.

Sykes explained that cutting bread can distract your other guests — think about clinking cutlery and crumbs all over the place, and can even damage the fine china used to serve your meal.

If you eat bread with your soup, for example, break off delicate pieces and eat them with your soup. Don’t try to shovel the whole roll into your mouth at once.

Do not season your food without tasting and use salt discreetly.

salt cellar fine dining table

Instead of a salt or pepper shaker, you’re more likely to see a salt shaker (pictured above). Taste your food before using it discreetly.Merethe Svarstad Eeg/EyeEm via Getty Images

Seasoning your food without tasting it first can be considered rude, according to Sykes. Always try your meal before adding a pinch of salt, pepper, or if you’re like me, chili flakes.

If you must add salt, do it discreetly, Sykes explained.

In gastronomic experiments, you will probably be served salt from a salt shaker rather than a grinder. However, don’t just spread salt all over your meal. Use the salt scoop provided to place a small pile of salt on the side of your plate, then take a pinch of salt between your fingers and gently sprinkle it over your food.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” is available now on digital and Peacock, and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 5.

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