I wanted to ask a question about how to present a steak at a dinner we are hosting tonight for another couple. (This fancy dinner thing is new to me and we're trying out the new settings we got from our wedding :) In particular:

Where do steak knives go in a table setting? Do they replace the knife in the setting? or are do they arrive with the main course?

But I couldn't decide based on the faq as to whether or not that on- or off-topic. (Is a table setting the foods' presentation "equipment"? ) And the question is not directly about the food prep and more about presentation (and maybe a little etiquette :). I appreciate your thoughts!

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BTW, how did this question get over 70 views in under 30 minutes? Did someone link it somewhere? There's never that much traffic on meta. –  hobodave Oct 2 '10 at 19:43
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Just to answer your question, in restaurants, I've seen three variations: 1. the steak knife replaces the regular knife in the place setting; 2. there are two knives in the place setting; 3. the steak knife arrives with the main course. –  Marti Oct 7 '10 at 19:00
    
@Martha: Thanks! We used #1. –  yhw42 Oct 12 '10 at 16:40
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

They are not on topic.

This was covered briefly in this question:

http://meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/190/are-we-about-serving-or-just-cooking-food-preparation/194

Quoting myself:

Presentation

This can become a gray area. However in the context of food presentation I think this is very much on-topic. Again, I'll return to the expert chef example. An expert chef is expected to have food presentation skills. Presentation is essential to a great meal experience. Assuming we do attract experts chefs, they will have this knowledge, and it will provide a benefit to the community. As an example, but not a reason (there's a difference), look at any televised cooking competition or even the penultimate Bocuse d'Or, presentation is very much a part of the judgement of dishes.

However, I'd say we would draw the line at food presentation. I wouldn't consider floral arrangements, tablecloths, or other environmental accessories as appropriate for this site.

Dinnerware, table-setting, etc.

Eh. I don't feel as strongly about this as I have the previous two. This can sort of blend with presentation. I'd say that table-setting is too far out there. However, choice of plate can be tied into presentation. An example is one of my favorite Chicago restaurants Bonsoiree, some of their dishes use unconventional dishes for presentation that really accent and add to the enjoyment of the meal.

I'll clarify some of my opnions regarding the specific topics of food presentation and table setting here.

Food Presentation

Proper plating of a dish is expert knowledge that a chef would know, and would find on the curriculum of a culinary school. This is also (almost?) always a major category of judgement in cooking competitions. This should definitely be on topic.

Table setting & Etiquette

I feel more strongly now than my previous answer that this is not an appropriate topic for this site. It falls into the realm of etiquette and just feels too Home & Gardeny -- not our target audience.

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Thanks for the quick response! That agrees with what my instinct was, but I haven't been here long. –  yhw42 Oct 2 '10 at 19:30
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I especially agree when you think of some of the plating techniques that will involve a) the psychology of approaching a plate as a consumer, b) the chemistry of creating those neat edible constructs on some dishes, and c) the focus needs to be of the plate itself needs to be as a tabula rasa not a raison d'etre. –  mfg Oct 8 '10 at 13:42
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As originally mentioned here..

Personally, I like the idea of "food experience" and the question seems okay by me. I could see having a policy where you carefully weed out all but extremely non-duplicate questions, and only as part of a larger scene of culinary couture. Random questions about how you should do placesettings at home would be silly. But, in the professional context, I liked the tone of this question.

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What you're proposing is essentially a massive scope change. This isn't a site about the "food experience", it's a site about cooking and culinary issues. In other words, it's a site for the people who make food, not eat it. The latter group includes just about everyone (except maybe the guy who plans to start voluntarily consuming prison loaf for every meal) which is really the opposite of what we're trying to do; we want to: attract experts and collect reliable information on a single topic in the form of Q&A. –  Aaronut Dec 14 '10 at 4:05
    
I didn't intend a massive paradigm shift. Just that the "preparation" of a meal can, imo, include cultural information about which utensils may be set out before consumption is initiated. –  zanlok Dec 14 '10 at 6:53
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