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The expert’s guide to bread etiquette

Everything you have to know about eating and using bread the proper way

· French Etiquette

Bread is to the French what rice is to the Chinese : an inevitable food that will always be there on the table to accompany dishes. From the iconic long-shaped baguette to the round loaf of countryside bread, it is deeply rooted into the French food culture.

At the « boulangerie » (French for« bakery »), breads are classified in shapes and different types of heat

And as you might expect from us, there are several rules to bear in mind to consume it in the proper manner. Let us explain these to you in this guide to bread etiquette !

This gentleman clearly has not read our guide before…

Bread plate vs. Bread basket

The bread plate is always placed on the left side

A bread plate is a small plate placed on the top left side of your main plate, which is accompanied by a butter knife. This is seen in high-class restaurants and formal occasions.

A waiter bringing a selection of home-made breads in a Michelin-starred restaurant

When bread plates are set up on the table, expect the waiter or the host to bring you a selection of bread for you to choose at the beginning of the meal. Chose wisely, up to 2 to 3 different types of bread, which will be served into your bread plate.

When using a bread basket (« corbeille à pain » in French), the bread is sliced before being brought to the table

A bread basket is used on daily occasions, at home and in less formal restaurants. Bread baskets are filled with bread slices, usually of baguette or countryside bread. A good host will pass around the basket and offer bread to the guests.

When someone asks you for more bread, pass the whole basket to that person, instead of picking up a piece of bread with your own hands to hand it over.

Bread and butter

Home-made butter at Alain Ducasse’ 3-star restaurant George V in Monaco

Traditionally, bread is served together with butter. In fine restaurants, the bread and the butter would be home-made, and the two together are delicious.

As it is served before the starter, it’s very tempting to eat it all. Be careful as bread and butter can kill your appetite pretty quickly. Take your time !

Regular butter and truffle butter are served in individual portions at Michelin-starred restaurant Lafaury-Peyraguey in Bommes

The butter can either be served in individual portions to each guest, or can be served in a small butter dish in the middle of the table, for the guests to share it.

If only one butter dish is served on the table, use your butter knife to take some butter and to put it into your bread plate first, instead of spreading it onto your piece of bread directly.

Place butter in your bread plate first, then put it on your bread after

Last but not least, during lunch and dinner, butter is not meant to be spread all over your bread as if you were spreading butter on a toast at breakfast.

This would be only done at breakfast

Instead, tear a piece off your bread first, then add butter on it, and finally enjoy it.

Always use your hand

This is one of the very few times you can use your fingers, so enjoy it !

When it comes to bread, forget about using cutlery. Bread is consumed using hands. You would always eat it piece by piece, using your hands to break it (« rompre le pain » in French).

Biting into the whole piece of bread : a definite no-go !

During the meal, feel free to eat a piece of bread anytime you want. Never bring the whole piece of bread to your mouth to bite into it. Always, again, use your hands to tear a smaller piece off it.

Using bread as a tool is very special to French etiquette and will guarantee to impress your French friends !

Finally, for food which doesn’t require any cutting (vegetables, rice, pasta…), instead of using your knife to assist food onto your fork, use a small piece of bread.

Bread and sauce

Sauce-based dishes are very common in French cuisine. Here, the famous « blanquette de veau »

Let us finish with a controversial topic : bread and sauce. Is it polite to swipe the sauce (« saucer son plat » in French) in your plate with a piece of bread when you are finished with your dish ?

Our answer is yes, but only in informal occasions. You would do it discretely, using a fork instead of using your hands.

his is only to be done in informal situations, and will for sure make the cook happy !

A definitive no-go would be to completely clean your dish with a piece of bread. Dishes will be hand-washed after the meal, so you don’t have to worry about this.

Did we forget to mention you shall not bring the bread basket back home ?

That’s official, you are now an expert in bread etiquette. We are looking forward to seeing you apply these rules during your next meal !

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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