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How to Use the Charger Plate in a Tablescape

At Lisa Lou’s we believe no table is complete without a decorative charger! These underplates, along with napkin rings, are the go-to accessory every tablescape needs. They can dress up, or dress down, the simplest of dinner plates. Just as we can change the look of a black dress by the accessories we choose, we can do the same to basic pottery with the chargers and napkin rings we use.

As much as I love the beautiful accessories artisans create for tables, I need to understand how they work when I am entertaining. A breath-taking centerpiece is not good if it is too tall for my guests to easily converse with the person across the table. Along that same line, a place setting stacked high with a dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl, all sitting on a charger, is cumbersome for guests. How do we serve a meal with a table set this way? All of this takes the focus away from genuine and simple hospitality and puts the attention on the extravagance of the table. Always remember, hospitality is our goal.

So, what is the protocol for these 13” plates that create the base for our settings? Let’s look at several points.

  • After you decide if you will use a tablecloth, begin setting your table by placing a charger in front of each seat. It is up to you if you put a placemat under the charger. It is not necessary and would only be used if you want a very layered look.

  • The charger should be 1” from the bottom of the table.

  • If possible, there should be 24” between the center of one plate to the center of the next plate. This gives the elbow room needed for guests to be comfortable.

  • If your meal is plated in the kitchen, as opposed to family style service, have your guests sit down with just the charger in front of them. As the host, you then bring out the pre-plated salad to serve each guest. Place the salad on the charger.

  • When the salad course has been completed remove the salad plate but leave the charger.

  • Bring the pre-plated entrée to the table and serve each guest, placing the dinner plate on the charger.

  • Once the entre has been completed remove the dinner plate AND the charger. It is at this point the charger is no longer used.

  • Bring the pre-plated dessert to the table and place in front of guests (no charger).

Some hostesses prefer guests be seated at a table with a charger and dinner plate present. They then place the pre-plated salad on top of the dinner plate. When entertaining at home, I say, do what you want! The reason this is not official protocol, though, is we are never to serve fresh food onto a dirty plate. The point of a charger is to catch food that spills from the current course being consumed (it also helps retain heat for the entre). Example, if you have a salad plate on top of a charger, the odds are a little dressing will spill onto the charger. That is all right, as this is why the charger is used. But, if you have a salad plate sitting on top of a dinner plate, which is on top of a charger plate, the dinner plate has now taken on the role of a charger. The dinner plate must catch any spills, which means the dinner plate must now be cleaned before it can be used for the main entre. When we serve on top of the dinner plate, we have now changed the purpose of that plate.

In the end, do what you want, but remember our goal is to make our guests comfortable. It is not to wow them with a beautiful table that is awkward to navigate. Let’s keep hospitality at the forefront of what we do, as this is the real reason we entertain.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou

1 Comment

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Oct 27, 2022

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