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How To Fold A Napkin

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Jennifer M. Purcell, Associate Dean of Restaurant Education and Operations, demonstrates three classic napkin folds sure to beautify any table.

Napkin Folding

She begins with a standing fan fold, noting that cotton works best, since a poly blend won't stand as tall. She begins by folding the napkin into 1.5-inch accordion pleats, then flips the napkin over and tucks the remaining end of the material into a nice tight fold in the center. For the presentation, just open the fan.

For her second fold, she creates a simple, loose triangle that works well with a poly blend. She folds the napkin in half, then folds it in half again, being careful not to line up the ends. When she folds in half again, a triangle is formed. This fold is excellent for placing on top of a plate. (Make sure your seams are on the inside.)

Her last fold is an artichoke fold. Again, cotton works best for this, because it retains folds better. This fold is particularly nice under a soup bowl. She brings all four corners inward to the center of the napkin, then flips it over, and brings the four corners into the center again. To finish, she pulls out the corners of the "artichoke" and places a bowl in the middle.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Jen Purcell from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: napkin folding.

The first fold I'd like to show you is a standing fan fold. Cotton works the best for this fold; a polyester blend doesn't want to stand as tall as this one might. To start, we're going to accordion-fold the napkin, trying to get the pleats equal widths of one to one and a half inches, stopping at the end with about three to four inches of the napkin left. Flip it over and fold it in half, and then we're going to tuck the remaining end of the material into a nice tight fold into the center. This can be done in advance and stored in clusters of maybe three or four, with a rubber band around them; that actually helps them to be creased and stay more firm for your presentation. Then at the time of your event, just open the fan.

The second fold I'd like to show you is very simplistic, very clean. This works much better for a polyester blend type of napkin. We'll start with the full open napkin. Fold it in half once horizontally. Now as I fold it again, I don't want it to line up exactly with the ends. Repeat with one more fold, again not lining up the corners. This is very simple, very clean; make sure your creases or seams are on the inside of the napkin. This is a very nice fold for a plated dinner.

The third napkin I'd like to show you is called an artichoke fold. Again, you're going to start with a preferably cotton napkin; it folds much nicer for this. It's a really great underliner on a plate for a bowl. Seams, again, on the inside; you always want to make sure on a napkin fold that your seams are inward. I'm going to start with it open; bring two corners inward to the center, then the other two corners inward - all four corners meeting at the center. Some napkins may be irregular; that's okay. I'm going to flip it over, trying to keep it in this exact shape. Now I'm going to bring those four corners in again. And now at this point I can pull out the corners of the artichoke - I'm pulling the four original corners out from underneath. At this size, it's best for an underliner, so your bowl doesn't slide around the plate, and you don't have to do a doily. It really adds a nice presentation.