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BEHIND THE SCENES

Manners of Fact

February 01, 1996

Know any children who slurp? Tear into a gift without even a "thank you"? Consuelo del Chozas does. She's a protocol consultant who offers etiquette classes for children at Rothschild's in Corona del Mar.

The eight young girls at Tuesday's session learned how to set a formal table, write a thank-you note, generate polite table conversation and make a toast without clinking glasses.

Chozas, who also conducts seminars on international corporate protocol for adults, says, "The idea is to plant in the heart of someone the seed of appreciation of a ceremony. This is a course in awareness and how to honor the rituals of ceremonies."

Chozas uses role-playing to get her ritualized message across. The children introduce each other, knowing that the more important or respected person is introduced first. They also take turns pretending to be a waitress to learn to serve from the left and pick up from the right. "When they go to a restaurant, they will understand everyone's movement," says Chozas.

When visiting someone's home, the students are told to bring a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates or a small gift for the hostess. And then there's the scoop on receiving gifts. Graciousness is good.

"People are sometimes awful about receiving," says Chozas, who lives in Newport Beach. "They lay a gift down somewhere without opening it or don't say a word of thanks."

To familiarize the students with really formal shindigs, Chozas has them arrange a table to match that of a dinner at the White House. A four-course meal is served to address the problems posed by soup (rest the spoon on the saucer, not in the bowl), salad (how to poke the croutons and bits of vegetables), main course (cut without having food fly off the plate) and dessert (use a spatula to serve a slice of cake).

She also introduces them to the Continental way of eating, in which you cut with the knife in your right hand and eat with the fork still in your left hand versus the American style, in which you set down the knife and move the fork into your right hand to eat.

"I let them know that either way is fine, so if they see a person doing it differently, it's still OK," adds Chozas, obviously in a magnanimous mood.

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