Since childhood, Sunita Padda knew she wanted to be a teacher. She was often found teaching neighborhood kids, playing “school” or having formal tea parties. When Sunita turned twenty-three, she completed her undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University and later on to the University of Western Ontario to complete a Masters of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction. As her career continued to grow, she quickly realized there was an opportunity to marry her skillset with her passion for teaching manners.
After noticing a void in the market of manners, she launched her company, TableSmarts, in 2015, at the prestigious Terminal City Club. While teaching at Vancouver’s most prestigious private schools, Crofton House School and Mulgrave School in West Vancouver, she noticed that many children were not being taught formal manners, specifically during meal times. Having come from a British family where table manners were at the forefront of every meal, she found this to be both surprising and unfortunate. This discovery became an opportunity to use her in-depth skills to create something bigger. She jumped at the opportunity to introduce Vancouver to the concept of table manners for both kids and adults.
She traveled to London, England, to receive private one-on-one training in The Art of the Table at the world-renowned Minding Manners School. Her instructor, Tamiko Zablith, is often consulted in etiquette matters for the British Royal family.
Coupling her elite teaching experience and high education, Sunita created her curriculum incorporating an interactive experience for students. Dining Etiquette for Kids and Dining Etiquette for Teens are courses that teach students how to conduct themselves in formal and informal dining situations.
Sunita’s Kids and Teens classes are limited to eight students to ensure personalized instruction, involving group discussion, role-playing, and interactive, hands-on practice during a three-course lunch spanned over 2.5 hours. Students learn the ABC’s of dining etiquette, as well as social skills involved with dining events such as greetings, shaking hands, eye contact, and making appropriate conversations at the table. Students leave the class with a comprehensive illustrated workbook to reinforce major concepts learned in the class as well as a Certificate of Participation.
Soon after launching Dining Etiquette for Kids, she responded to the massive demand for adult classes. With her successful completion of a Wine and Spirit Education Trust Course, she created Dining + Wine Etiquette.
“Individuals are far more likely to absorb the material being taught if they play a role in their learning experience. Instead of being taught a set of rules, we take individuals through a three-course meal and explain the origin of the rules and why they exist,” she said.
While enjoying a gourmet meal, individuals have an opportunity to practice and ask questions in a supportive environment—ideal for adults looking to develop, or polish, their etiquette and gain confidence during formal dining events. The course teaches adults how to navigate the table during a formal 3-course meal and also shows how to appropriately and confidently pair and order wines with meals. With the successful completion of an end-of-class assessment, individuals are awarded an official Certificate of Proficiency in Dining Etiquette. This certificate can be listed on resumés and social platforms such as LinkedIn to display proficiency in soft skills.
Sunita has big dreams for TableSmarts, “My hope is that all kids have the opportunity to learn and utilize their etiquette skills. A person who has well-developed soft skills has a notably higher level of confidence—an essential element to raising self-assured kids who are both self-aware and respectful.”
With the advancements in technology, society is changing faster than ever, and TableSmarts aims to make the landscape easier to navigate.
“’Social’ is constantly evolving. The mediums, the language, the acceptance—everything! We need a solid base to work with, knowing the formal etiquette and choosing when to be informal in your approach because the situation demands it, is bright. Whereas, only understanding informal situations and failing to see where a more formal approach could reap you a larger reward, is poor planning,” she concluded.
TableSmarts offers classes in Dining + Social Etiquette for Kids, Dining + Social Etiquette for Teens and Dining + Wine Etiquette for Adults each month at the Terminal City Club. For more information on TableSmarts and to book a class, visit www.tablesmarts.ca.