(Photo courtesy of

by Jac Bergenson


Scoop your soup from front to back.  Build bridges, not ramps.

Above are just two lessons learned on Wednesday, April 9, when the Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) Career Center hosted its annual “Dining Etiquette Dinner.”

Held a short drive from the main campus, at Costagliola’s Little Italy on Washington Terrace, the event promised to teach students what to expect when dining for business or for an interview. The lesson was given by Culinary Institute of America Associate Professor Heather Kolakowski.

Students were served a full three-course meal at no cost. For the first course, students received a house salad. The second course, a tour-de-force of Italian Cuisine, consisted of three options: Chicken Francaise, Broiled Tilapia, or a “Parmesan Trio,” served with eggplant, ravioli, and chicken. For dessert, a chocolate cake topped with chocolate drizzle and whipped cream.

Opeyemi Ifafore, a senior political science/public relations major, came into the dinner expecting “all the essentials of a very formal meal.”

But Ifafore and other students were won over by Kolakowski. She “did a great job in answering questions realistically and she had a great sense of humor,” said Ifafore.

Kolakowski gave a lightness to the intimidating setting of a formal dinner with her humor. Throughout the night, she shared humorous stories from her own experiences—things not typically thought about while dining.

She shared, for example, that it is best to scoop soup from the front to the back of the bowl, to avoid splashing it all over a fancy blouse.  Another lesson, “build bridges, not ramps,” explains how to place one’s silverware to correctly signal to the server that he or she is done with a meal.

MSMC Director of Career Development Ellen Bourhis Nolan said her favorite part of the event was “seeing the students’ reactions to some of the tips,” as well as “the humorous stories the speaker told.”

The lessons students learned at the dinner are useful, said Bourhis Nolan, “whether for a job interview, a business meeting with a boss or client, or simply meeting someone you would like to impress on a personal basis.”

Ifafore said she would recommend the dinner to MSMC students in the future. “We all come from different backgrounds but there really is only one standard in the American culture,” she said.

On business dining, Ifafore said, “Learning just the basics will take you a long way.”