Rafael "Rafi" Hasid, owner of the Park Slope, Brooklyn's Miriam Restaurant & Wine Bar, has begun to host etiquette classes for local schoolchildren.
Hasid is especially interested in working with kids in kindergarten through second grade for whom eating out is a rare occasion. "It’s not just to learn how to eat with a fork and a knife, but to learn about other people and other cultures, about other foods that they don’t normally eat," he said over the phone.
The idea for the classes came from a conversation Hasid had with an assistant principle of Public School 221 in Crown Heights, Barbara Strum-Downes, who was dining at Miriam. Many of the children who attend P.S. 221 come from families that "don’t have time to go out for dinner or to teach their children about sitting with napkins on their laps," she told the New York Daily News.
Strum-Downes started a program called "Fork, Knife, and Spoon" that teaches the basics of dinner manners. "Fork, Knife, and Spoon" concludes with a visit to Miriam, at which point Hasid steps in to talk to the children and teach them about the Israeli-Mediterranean cuisine he cooks and about how to serve and eat meat and falafel.
Following their meal with Hasid, the children write thank-you notes to Hasid and the restaurant as a last display of the politesse they’ve learned.
"We think it’s a blessing," Hasid said over the phone about the program and its effects on the children it reaches. "When you give to young children — when you open their minds to more different things, you’re making them better in the end. And that’s why we’re doing it."