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I was about 21 years old when I first set foot in a fine dinning restaurant in mid Europe with The Hungarian Count, his mother and his mother’s mother. He held my hand. He stood tall and protective over me, his very own Vietnamese Eliza Doolittle, being slightly worried that I may slip up. He had already primed me like in Pretty Woman, which fork to use… and I pretended that I had also grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth and replicated my hosts’ dinning behaviour year after year until it was perfectly natural for me to be in a fine dinning dinning room.
I discovered that it didn’t have to be as stiff as it is portrayed to be. Certainly, no one should be roaring with pints of beers in salutation but one can equally have a good time, just a different sort of time. People did put their elbows on tables and cause a bit of noise and laughter. It was all ok, even if you dropped something or the snail flies from your plate, like “slippery little suckers”.
I love going to a good restaurant, the idea of being in a Michelin starred restaurant gives me a big sense of excitement and happiness where butterflies and stars explode in my stomach. As a blogger, I am lucky to be invited to a few but it remains a treat that I don’t want to take for granted. I love dinning Michelin cuisine with a good friend and/or someone you love because the experience of being treated (usually) so well and to eat delicious food one would not normally be capable of creating is something to be savoured.
I had the opportunity to go on a press event and have a masterclass on The Art Of Fine Dinning that is held at Alain Ducasse At The Dorchester, who holds three Michelin stars. There, I got a prescient insight to how the restaurant is run on a daily basis from Nicolas Defremont, the Restaurant Director whose been with Ducasse for years – (he went to Ramsay but came back). He shared the key principles and exclusive trade secrets behind developing the perfect contemporary fine dining experience.
When you have to pay top dollar to dine at Alain Du Casse, you would expect to have perfect service and setting. They iron their table clothes three times! The table settings are meticulously placed and checked. Each piece of crockery and cutlery is thoroughly polished by hand. They even have a station in the kitchen dedicated to this. Then there is the “one finger rule” of placing your wares on the table, everything being one finger away from another so that every setting can easily be replicated the same way and placed symmetrically. The little details makes a big difference says, Nicholas, especially when one table’s ware, the Table Lumiere, costs £200,000.
The secret to ironing (which I am terrible at) is to iron the table cloth on an ironing board then spray the cloth with water and iron on the actual table the second time. Finish off any creases on the third time before setting table.
Having a warm water spray with half vinegar aids polishing glass and tableware including cutlery when the dishwasher leaves residue and wear gloves so to not leave your own finger prints on polished wares.
Here are the rest of the tips – 12 Service Commandments from the masterclass.
Setting the table to the perfect standard of fine dinning was harder than expected, even when I thought it was perfect, Nicolas came and re-adjusted everything! haha!
The best thing about the class was the wine tasting! Of course! We met Head Sommelier Vincent Pastorello who demonstrated some top Sommelier’s tips like which glass to pour which wine into. I had no idea it made such a difference how a glass can change the taste of a wine when we compared it.
Big glasses do not mean better tasting wine because it looses too much oxygen and of course, at which temperature it should be served at. Serving a chilled bottle of wine straight from the fridge doesn’t necessary do the wine justice either and some should be taken out an hour before serving to get the best taste.