The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 7
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Message from the Chairman
A trend is emerging, as reported on CNN, that you may want to be aware of, It is called “Showrooming,” and is when a consumer uses bricks and mortar shops as a showroom to investigate products, and then goes home and orders the item online for a lower price. It’s good for everyone, one’s employer’s budget included, except the shopkeepers who pay to keep the shop there, and whose sales are suffering. What has this trend to do with butlers? Maybe not much when buying luxury goods, as one is not likely to find the real thing heavily discounted online—a counterfeit perhaps. It is a question of ethics, however—long-term survival for the majority of those involved in any single decision made. In this case, for short-term gain in the form of lower prices, we can re-inforce this “showrooming trend” and expect, inevitably, for shops and malls to disappear and the only way to purchase anything being online—where one cannot see and touch before buying—or interact with a real person, with the richness that adds to living. This will materially impact your ability in the long run to buy quality goods for your employer. My vote is for supporting local shopkeepers, even if they charge more because they provide a service that requires funding: local real-life shopping, rather than convenient-but-lonely virtual shopping. How do you see this trend and what do you think we should do about it?
Letters to the Editor
Mr. Chairman, You are quite correct—it’s none of a butler’s business what the employer does: If the Lord of the Manor expects guests of whatever nature, the butler announces to the Lord who has come to visit, and then proceeds with his duties. We will probably never know the full story of what happened to these erring butlers, but everything the employer is involved in, is his business, end of story. R.B.A.
Thank you for your wonderful response, fitting the bill perfectly. R.L.
First, I’d like to thank you for your marvelous newsletter for professionals—it’s a wealth of quality information—and really speaks volumes of your organization. I started as a housekeeper, some 30 years ago, during which I have worked in about five homes, most for five years or more. Many people tell me I should write a book, but I took a class on Ethics many years ago and then took it again: It would be a great disservice to the families and to myself to sell my memories of work in their homes. No matter how entertaining it may be for others, it’s certainly wrong. I’m currently unemployed because my client passed away. With a job looming in the near future, I know I would like to do two things: Get the butler’s certicate and do a course. I am not sure if I should do the housekeeper or the Butler’s course. I getting some new books from Amazon; you are the author of one or more of them. Sincerely, D.L.
Ed: Thank you for being such a stalwart in the private service world—wish there were more like you. As to your question, I would imagine you have housekeeping down well enough after three decades not to derive as much benefit from further study of it, compared with the amount of forward progress you could make by studying about the butler profession. Our butler correspondence course actually includes in-depth training on the skills of the housekeeper, as often as not, the butler has to have housekeeper skills in order to provide them from time to time.
Well done for the latest newsletter! I completely agree with you that we need a stronger presence on the media and to re-assert our position in the public eye. This is why I am thinking, together with other colleagues, to form an international body to become the “union,” so to speak, of butlers, because, since the Paul Burrell story onward, we need to protect the profession with respect to our various stakeholders such as employers, agencies, press, etc. or the profession will decline dramatically. What we can do together, if you agree, is to set up a “federated” body that will gather together the existing organisations and the “big names” in the industry. Precisely because everyone is jealous about his own association/guild/institute etc, we could create a “federation” that all existing bodies (as well as individuals) can join. G.L.
Ed: Excellent point. The challenge is bringing together butler organizations that are “mutually exclusive.” Yet they all have a common enemy—poor public perception of the profession—which can be the catalyst that can overcome differences toward a common goal.
I was a student of the Institute at Tintswalo Atlantic in 2008 when you trained us about modern butlers, if you remember. I have a big favour to ask: I lost my certificate when my house burnt down last year so I was wondering if it’s possible to receive another copy to show that I did the training—that certificate was the best thing I ever achieved in my life . N.N.
The material I am learning in your course continues to be valuable. I have been asked to provide some information on conflict management and resolution for one of the associate deans in the Monday meeting. Although I shall not disclose the precise formula you gave in the course, it inspired much of my plan for the presentation. The associate dean has been asked to prepare her own presentation on the topic for a conference this next week and asked me for suggestions. Thank you for your remarkable patience and expert guidance. I enjoy the time I spend with your course and communicating with you as much as any of my other activities. Truly, the attitude and skills of a butler can enrich and benefit the rest of life, especially in the service of others, and even in improving one’s own quality of life. When I first began the course, I told you that one of the primary reasons I enrolled was to learn how to become a better gentleman myself. The lessons are already paying dividends in my relations with others and in improving the quality of life in our own home. Thank you again. R.R.
Ed: it is a truism that one derives as much from something as one puts into it—the real kudos goes to the student himself, our courses are just the vehicle for them to shine.
I salute you for the fine work you do at the Institute to further our noble profession. I write requesting some help: I’m going in service soon and need help compiling a pantry book. Do you have any examples or templates I can use? GB
Ed: Thank you, and good luck with the new position. Appendix 5B of the book, Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals, provides a list of the kind of items that comprise a Butler’s Pantry book.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has an interesting video of their conservator cleaning the hand of Odesseus, a 5th Century BC carving in marble. Worth a watch for those with statuary to care for. Another informative web site operated by Procter & Gamble, provides authoritative online videos addressing various cleaning techniques, “urban traditions,” and problem solutions. PH
Butlers in the Media
Anyone fed up with the papal butler updates? Hard on its heels comes another negative Hollywood take on butlers, this time a movie called Monster Butler. Groan. Nothing about an alien invasion, but the true story of Roy Fontaine, aka Archibald Hall, who was a bisexual jewel thief, con man, and serial killer. Well, the media will salivate over various subjects, of which this one apparently has five of the seven requirements for publication or release: sex, money, violence, crime, and big names. Too bad the butler profession counts as a big name that sells. So much for keeping the high ground and being the sole of discretion. Maybe the last word is that 2% of butlers are not worthy of the title, but the media feels it necessary to keep them up front and center to titillate the senses of reviewers who write about this upcoming movie: “Um, is it just us or does that sound REALLY good?” We hope it is just you.
Thankfully, there are more movies about good butlers than rogue butlers, and The Butler promises to be one such, in addition to the next series of Downton Abbey. And for more on the positive side, the news media did carry some positive mentions of butlers in the resort and cruise line industries.
And then there was this UPI article in response to the papal butler scandal: Six Fictional Butlers You Can Trust. Can’t say I agree with the author’s picks, but hey, we’ll take any reaffirmations that butlers can be trusted in the movies, as it adds to the perception they can be trusted in real life—and as 98% of them can be, it is worth keeping that reality front and center for our clients and members.
The latest use of the word “Butler” is a convenient accessory for items hung on the wall by the door. If the inventors had chosen the word “Dumb Butler,” in the same way that a “Dumb Valet” describes a convenience for hanging one’s clothes for the following morning, it would have been more accurate—but maybe it would not have sold so well (although as a pretty dumb idea to begin with, it would have been most appropriate).
Lastly, one of our members had a short article published in 4hoteliers.com, again putting the profession in a good light. Well done, a proactive approach to the perception issue.
Estate couple (typical duties) needed by single employer in California—gender mix immaterial, but must be able to work in the US and with at least five years of experience. Up to 150K
Butler needed in Long Island, Chinese speaking, live-in, children in family. Salary DOE.
Cigars, Part V
There is a widely held belief that machine-made cigars are invariably inferior to handmade cigars. One should bear in mind that just as handmade cigars come in a wide range of varying quality, the same is true of machine-made cigars. That a cigar was made by hand does not say that it was well made, or that properly matured, well-blended tobacco was used in its construction. The converse is also true: a machine-made cigar can be constructed from fine tobacco, without using any flavouring or Homogenized Tobacco Leaf.
Why consider machine-made cigars at all? To understand why the better machine-made cigars are worth considering and why they exist, we need to know how they are made.
In the days before the invention of the cigarette-rolling machine, hand-rolled cigarettes were a luxury. Pipes and cigars were far more common until mechanized cigarette production reversed the situation completely. We all know that cigarettes are filled with shredded tobacco while handmade cigars contain whole leaf-halves called long-filler. However, the torcedor is constantly trimming tobacco away and this tobacco, while still of very high quality, cannot be used in a handmade cigar; the pieces are just too small. However, they can be used in a machine made cigar – a short-filler cigar. That is one reason for better quality, machine-made cigars. Another predictably relates to the cost of labour.
Depending on the style of cigar being made, a single torcedor may roll between 75 and 150 cigars per day. If the torcedors are working in teams, the numbers can rise to between 200 and 400 cigars per day, per torcedor. Even the earliest cigar-making machine required only 4 people to operate, but could produce 3500 cigars in a single day.
A better way to understand the difference may be to make comparisons within a single brand. Tobacco quality and tobacco flavour tend to be fairly consistent within a brand. While it is true that the best leaves will go to the hand-made cigars, especially for the wrappers, those off-cuts are still good tobacco. If the leaves destined for the machine-made cigars were of a much lower quality, the image of the brand would suffer.
So how do machine-made cigars differ? Firstly, they will all be straight-sided cigars; only a master torcedor can roll a figurado. We have already mentioned the other important difference; the filler. Bunching long-filler leaves is very difficult. If the torcedor gets it wrong, the tobacco can form a dense knot that will prevent the cigar from drawing properly. In fact, one of the main advantages of a short-filler cigar is the easy and regular nature of its draw. Handmade cigars, like almost any truly handmade product you may care to mention, will be slightly inconsistent. For some people, this is an attraction as each box of cigars from their favourite brand may be slightly different. This element of surprise creates a sense of expectation and provides an added dimension to the appreciation of the cigar. For other smokers, this may be unacceptable: If they are spending good money on a cigar they want to know exactly what they are receiving. This is the buyer who will prefer the predictable consistency of a machine made cigar – different strokes for different folks.
There are many indicators that a machine-made cigar may not be high quality, but chief among these will be brand name and price (assuming it is not counterfeit.) There are other signs of course: a binder or a wrapper made from reconstituted tobacco leaf slurry (HTL) or even worse, cardboard, is another dead giveaway. I do not know of any cigars aficionados who take flavoured cigars too seriously.
For many novices, the predictability of a machine-made cigar offers a less intimidating way to discover the world of cigar smoking. Within a brand, machine-made cigars offer the least expensive introduction to the flavours and styles of that brand. Novices can save money by trying the machine-made cigars of various brands until they find a brand they like. They can then begin exploring that brand’s more expensive handmade offerings. Others find they enjoy the machine-made cigars so much that they never make the transition.
It goes without saying that we are not encouraging people to take up smoking, but providing information that can be used in servicing those who enjoy their cigars, which may indeed include you, the reader. In support of the anti-smoking side, it is a myth that cigar smoking is less risky than cigarette smoking in relation to throat and mouth cancer. That people smoke cigars less often, perhaps due to cost, may be one reason for fewer smoking-related health problems amongst cigar smokers, despite the average handmade cigar containing as much tobacco as a packet of twenty cigarettes. Also instrumental may be that fine cigars do not contain the many chemicals that are added to cigarettes. In the final analysis, as with alcohol, the frequency and the extent to which an individual indulges his or her passion, will determine risk exposure. But even then, Sir Winston Churchill smoked about quarter of a million Churchills—chain smoking them, essentially—and he lived to the ripe old age of 90. So, there you have the Institute’s version of the government’s mandatory health warning to smokers.
Let’s Talk about Wine, Part VII
by Amer Vargas
Today we move into Burgundy, an area that has been producing some of the finest wines worldwide for almost 2,000 years ago.
The Burgundy region stretches about 360 km (225 miles) from Auxerre in the north to Lyon in the south, in the valleys of the Saone River, in Eastern France. Over that extension, many sub-regions are famous for growing mainly Pinot Noir grapes for red wines and Chardonnay grapes for white wines. Other important varietals in the area are Gamay (for reds) and Aligoté and Sauvignon Blanc (for whites).
Many aspects make of this region a peculiar area for wine growing. It is precisely divided into 365 small parcels (which they called ‘climats’) worked with great care by different winemakers. The geography is very craggy and the soils differ from one area to the next due to micro-climates that date back to the Jurassic Era. Thus, the same grape may produce a different wine if cultivated in one ‘climat’ compared with one cultivated in another 200 meters further away.
The climate in Burgundy is continental, involving hot summers and very cold winters. Weather can be quite harsh and there is always a possibility of rain, hail and/or frost around harvest time, mid-September.
When producing the wine, Burgundies are famous for being a one-varietal brew, which makes the quality of the wine vary from year to year according to how clement the weather was.
The bottles where the wine is kept and commercialized are also singular: they are slightly wider in diameter compared with others, and have sloping shoulders and a little punt (dimple at the bottom).
Also the stem glass with which one drinks burgundy is important to enhance the wine experience: The finest Burgundy glass for red wines has a very broad bowl so as to accumulate aromas and very often presents a widening in the rim so as to direct the wine directly to the back of the tongue and increase the pleasure of its drinking.
The genaral Burgundy denomination includes around a hundred famous Appellation d’Origine Controllée that may correspond to the sub-region (of high quality, but the lowest in the whole area, e.g. Mâconnais-meaning from Mâcon); village (better than the sub-region AOCed wine,e.g. Mersault); 1er Cru (First Growth, meaning it’s of second-highest quality after Grand Cru, but better than a village AOC, e.g. Volnay 1er Cru ); and Grand Cru (Great Growth, meaning it comes from one of the best plots in the region, e.g. Montrachet Grand Cru).
Red Burgundies, produced as we said mainly from Pinot Noir grapes, are described as classy and intense, with vivid crimson colors and hints of spices and wood, to make the drinker enjoy a powerful and velvety body that matches to perfection with grilled meats, game and dishes cooked in wine. As for White Burgundies, within which Chablis is the most reputable, produced exclusively with Chardonnay grapes, they are elegant and exceptionally well balanced, and they marry very well with fish and poultry in cream sauce.
Enjoy the taste of your Burgundy! Next in the series, we shall visit the West coast of France: Bordeaux.
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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.
About the Author (Author Profile)Steven Ferry is chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the author of bestsellers "Butlers & Household Managers 21st Century Professionals" and "Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators." He also trains and consults for the profession around the world.
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