Charger Plates: For Adding Extra Style and Class
Just when you thought you knew everything about table settings, the charger plate is taking center stage at upscale restaurants, elegant weddings, formal parties, and other noteworthy events where a refined touch makes all the difference. A charger plate is a large dish that serves as a base for the appetizer plates, dinner plates and bowls that are changed for each course. The charger plate, like a perfectly arranged bouquet of flowers, or expertly polished sterling silver cutlery, – creates a swanky ambience, just by being there.
Consider the Charger
Charger plates, also known as chop plates, service plates or under plates, are a decorative addition to the dinner table. They serve as a handsome base for dinner plates, appetizer/salad dishes, soup bowls, etc., and they remain in place while each course is being served as each course is placed on top of them. Charger plates stay on the table for the duration of the meal – until the dessert is served. They are larger than the other plates and are usually decorative in style, to enhance the atmosphere on the tabletop. Because they are used to display all the other dishes, they are sometimes referred to as service plates. Practically speaking, charger plates help protect your tabletop and tablecloth from spills, heat, and stains, while, aesthetically, they serve to complete the look and décor of any upscale, special-occasion meal.
History of Charger Plates
Charger plates have been used since the 1800s, though the word appears in 13th-century Middle English texts where it is spelled as, “chargeour,” which means a large platter or plate that bears a load. Back in the day, the original chargeours were more like oversized platters and were big enough to serve large roasts at official gatherings and royal feasts. Today’s charger plate also bears a load, so to speak: of the array of dinnerware plates meant for all the other courses. Because diners do not eat directly from charger plates, they can be made from materials that are not food-safe. They come in many shapes, such as round, square, and octagon; and in many colors ranging from silver, gold and bronze to purple, blue, green and orange, just to name a few. They can also be found in an array of materials, such as glass, metal, wood, china, porcelain, melamine, acrylic, mirrored glass and rattan.
Choosing the Right Charger Plate
Due to the large variety of charger plates on the market; restauranteurs, caterers, and party planners can choose from many styles and shapes to fit their event’s unique style and ambience, thus providing the finishing touch to any fine-dining experience. To select the right charger plate, take into account the décor and color that has been chosen, and then consider the other dinnerware that will be placed on top of the charger plate. Choose a charger plate that will help complement the style of the room, the tabletop, the linen as well as the dinnerware. Charger plates can be placed directly on the tablecloth, or for a layered look, on top of a placemat.
Charger plates vary in size, but the average charger is about 13 or 14 inches in diameter. They take up more room than the standard dinner plate, so take that into consideration when figuring out the number of place settings and guests that can be seated at any table. Ideally, there should be about 24 inches between charger plates to give guests ample room.
How to Correctly Use a Charger Plate
Charger plates are set on the placement or tablecloth, with the glassware at the top side of the charger plate prior to the meal. Once the charger plate is set, you can align the napkins, flatware, and place cards accordingly. If wait staff members will be doing the serving, remind them that the charger plate remains on the table, while the salad plates, soup bowls, and entrée plates are placed, removed, and then replaced on top of the charger. In addition, because charger plates are used to catch spills and crumbs, wait staff should give the chargers a quick wipe down between courses, if needed, to keep everything tidy and clean.
In the same way that charger plates should be ready and in place when guests arrive, they should always be removed from the table – with the dinner plate on top – after your guests have finished eating their main course. In this way, the table is ready for dessert, as chargers are never used for the final course.
Charger Plates: Add Sophistication to Any Meal
With just a little effort and a small financial outlay, charger plates can add to the ambience and attractiveness of any event, big or small. Even a casual dinner party can be enhanced with a colorful eye-catching charger plate. Use a charger plate with a placemat, or set the charger directly on the tablecloth, to create the desired look. To use them properly, remember to place the charger plates on the table before guests arrive and ensure that they don’t come directly in contact with the food. The soup bowls, fish/salad plate, and entrée dishes are placed on top of the charger as the courses change, and the charger itself is removed before dessert is served. Use the charger plate to set a mood, create an elegant atmosphere, and add unforgettable glamour and sophistication to any event.