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Service Under a Bell: The Reason A Plate Is Served With A Cloche

service under a bell

An antique cloche bell that was used for elegant French restaurant service. The plate was presented to the diner and the cloche was lifted off to the delight of the gourmet!

This year on BrightonYourHealth I will explore different themes on health, taste, food cultures, foodie fun and cooking methods, all with a Frenchy-European touch. This article is a mix of a few themes, I hope you enjoy a bit of food history on why plates are served under a dome, or in French you would use the word cloche, which means bell.

Let me wish all of you again a Happy New Year and a healthy and happy 2016.

Service Under A Bell: A Bit of Food History for the Real Reason Food is Served Under A Cloche

Have you had the chance to eat a restaurant where all the plates are presented to the table, laid down in front of each diner, and then simultaneously, with the help of the wait staff (you would need at least 4 servers for a table of 8!), the cloche is lifted up to the pleasure of the diners’ eyes and nose? This is called Service Under A Bell, an exciting way to have food presented at the table.


I have had the luck to enjoy this type of service, something that might seem luxurious, but by French standards is just another way to serve food in a beautiful way. For example, at the Lycée Hotelier at Morlaas, the high school near the town where I live, the young servers learn the different methods to serve and present food. At this high school regular people like me can enjoy a high value meal in the high school’s practice restaurant. The students are practicing in order to find a job after their diploma at a high class restaurant. Service under the bell is taught at this high school, but it is also at other fine French restaurants. Having experienced it, I think it is a fun way to enjoy food and the eyes and nose are always pleasantly surprised to see what is under this silver dome!

I thought that food was served under a bell for the main reason to keep the plate hot from the kitchen to the table. Then after I took my gastronomy course I thought about it again, perhaps the plate is covered until the last minute to keep the aromas inside so that the diner can enjoy the aroma as the bell is lifted off?

Both reasons have merits, and with the French emphasis on food quality and taste, high service standards and tradition, I think the service under bell continues for these reasons, but the real reason that cloche is part of a table service is more based on long term tradition and superstition. And this original reason, is kinda food history ‘cool’. I share it from the blog (in French) called “La Belle Ecole.”

Turns out that in 1750, when the cloche service began, le poison était une arme de destruction massive (poison was a dangerous killer). And to prevent any poison being planted into an individual plate, the cloche or bell was placed on the plate in the kitchen, thus covering the food and then brought to the table for each diner. Then when the cloche was lifted and the plate was revealed, the Maitre D’hôtel would taste the food before the person would eat it, to be sure it was devoid of poison.

Voila. This was how the cloche tableware started. Service under a bell! Service under a dome. Or in French: l’assiette clochée, service clochée.

Bon Appétit!

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Thanks for your support!

Warmly, Mary

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5 Responses to Service Under a Bell: The Reason A Plate Is Served With A Cloche

  1. Dana June 23, 2017 at 00:54 #

    Susan arrived here the same as me wondering about a cloche, I saw the same commercial
    they serve a fast food meal ” open to cloche “

  2. Harland Camley June 18, 2017 at 00:23 #

    This was a good story about The Cloche. ,but I noticed a mistake. The term “ODOR “was implied to the aroma of the food meaning the French Cuisine. ODOR refers to TERRIBLE SMELL.

    • mbrighton June 19, 2017 at 14:57 #

      Dear Harland, Thank you very much! I will look into it now. Warmly, Mary

  3. Susan June 13, 2017 at 09:58 #

    A commercial from a fast food chain brought me here.

    • mbrighton June 13, 2017 at 13:39 #

      Dear Susan, Thanks for letting me know ! I need to check this out, I don’t want my posts connected to fast food commercials. Warmly, Mary

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