The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 9
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Message from the Chairman
Just finishing training in Taipei, where service is the watchword and real caring is second nature—very encouraging and heartwarming to behold in a world that wobbles on despite all. I hope to see you, perhaps, at DEMA’s convention in Los Angeles later this month, and wish you continued success meanwhile.
Letters to the Editor
“You have text on your web site that mentions: A Richey report gave a certain resort’s butlers a 3% rating (we’d prefer not to name them for this reason!). The Richey report that followed the Institute’s subsequent training showed an improvement of 89%. Not ideal, but closer to it. This means the new rating is 5.67%. What I hoped you meant was, training resulted in improving the rating to 89%. The difference being the incorrect use of the word ‘of’ instead of ‘to.’ RJ.
Ed: Quite right, thanks for spotting that—the power of a small word!
Butlers in the Media
It’s been a pretty busy month for the media on the subject of butling, from the nefarious (the erstwhile and unqualified Bass butler is handed a stiff sentence after being found guilty of extortion at injection point; while in Italy, the Pope butler saga staggers on with a mea culpa from the vigilante butler, who “saw himself as an infiltrator acting on behalf of the Holy Spirit); to the fanciful (the re-release of Disney’s cartoon, Aristocats, in which the butler, dressed in tails and suitably daunting, tries to dispose of some cats so he can inherit the employer’s fortune instead of them); to the ridiculous (from the New York Times of all sources, about the butler who wears flip flops); to the frankly negative from those who find their glasses half empty (a list of peeves that includes bath butler service made to seem ridiculous; however, it escapes the author that creatively conceived and multi-dimensional bath experiences can be tremendously enjoyable); to positive news, such as the ongoing shooting for “The Butler” movie in New Orleans, promising to show butlers in a proper light.
Of greatest interest, however, were the several articles showing serious discussions and portrayals of the profession:
An obituary for an old-school butler who enjoyed a successful and long career—farewell Colin MacPherson.
The Downsizing of the American Butler accurately notes that the employment situation for butlers favors the employer, with more applicants than job openings, butlers taking a 5-20% pay cut over the last five years, all while being expected to wear a variety of hats. This is thought to be a recent trend based on newly wealthy employers not understanding the role of the butler, but we have been writing about this for the last two decades: the modern butler is a jack of all trades, according to what services the employer needs him or her to perform. Obviously, if the employer wants his butler to do the work of three people, then the quality of service suffers; but where the work load is reasonable, then butlers are not ivory-tower personages: they should know how to roll up their sleeves and cook and drive, and, and, and – quite in addition to their traditional role.
“Butlers, much in demand, are thin on the ground” claims an otherwise interesting article in the Financial Times on the subject of the 63,000 citizens of earth with assets of 100 million or more, who find good staff hard to find, apparently.
You decide whether we are thin or thick on the ground.
The Art of Being a Personal Assistant
Qualities that make a Personal Assistant:
We all have a working knowledge of what a PA’s basic pragmatic responsibilities are. However, in my experience a stellar PA is someone who has an organic understanding and rhythm with the principal that is distinctly different from any other employee relationships.
Above all, being discreet and altruistic.
Never any slight nuance of something you do shall await a ‘thank you’ or the notion that it will be ‘on my list of why I deserve a bonus.’
You are an intimate confidant, that is, quiet but strong in persona. Your presence, regardless of your physical size, takes up very little air and space when in the room with the principal.
You never need to express your opinion unless asked.
You never have to be right.
Being vigilant and acutely aware of everything that is going on.
You are always on both the offensive and defensive to resolve all before anything untoward happens.
You are proactive and decisive, knowing what they want prior to them asking or even thinking about it.
Executing quietly as though it was already done or in place.
Accountable for one’s mistakes.
You may be the only person speaking directly to the principals. Your leadership skills and ability to know how to do every person’s job in the residence is important. You might have to fill in and or assist in some way in addition to your duties.
Spending time with your colleagues, learning who they are on a personal level, is crucial to your success. This is not about being best friends or even sharing on a daily basis, but creating a rapport, respect, and empathy for who they are in order to be able to delegate, teach, oversee and be constructively critical when critiquing their work.
They also must feel comfortable and respected when coming to you if they are confused, failed, or did something wrong.
Of interest, the Queen of England is looking for an under butler, based at St James’s Palace, who can remain “calm under pressure” and be able to “maintain confidentiality and exercise tact at all times.” 40-hour weeks and salary up to the individual to name—a departure from normal, in which Palace butlers are generally offered low wages. “General duties include welcoming guests, laying up and waiting tables at dinners and events, cleaning and tidying all areas required and assisting with the cleaning and maintenance programme in the house and offices… The role requires aspects of manual handling including lifting and carrying of objects, climbing ladders and working at heights…. The successful applicant must have relevant experience of working within a private house, hospitality or catering environment.”
Cigars, Part VII
The next subject we need to look at is the various cigar shapes and sizes. This is an important aspect of cigar making and knowing what you are looking at is a fundamental requirement of making an informed purchase. If you are working in an establishment that sells cigars, it is imperative that you have a sound understanding of the various shape names.
A cigar, being a cylinder, is measured in two dimensions: its length and its girth (or diameter.) The length will always be given in inches, while the girth is measured in ring gauge. Strictly speaking, ring gauge is also a measurement based on the inch, but as no cigar is ever an inch thick, it is invariably expressed as a fraction of an inch. That fraction is always /64. So a cigar with a ring gauge of 32/64 is ½ an inch in diameter. Since the denominator is always 64, we no longer write it down and simply express the girth as 32”. Therefore, a cigar size given on the cigar menu as 7”x32” is not 32 inches long and 7 inches wide! That would be impossible to smoke. Such a cigar is actually 7 inches long and ½ an inch wide. Novices may find this method of notation frustrating and confusing—your job as a butler is to guide your guest with aplomb, taking care not to dent their ego in the process. Ring gauges commonly range between 28” and 54”.
The various sizes and shapes all have their own names. This means that when referring to a cigar by name, you are essentially talking about its shape and its size. It is certainly convenient, but can be a little intimidating at first. My approach has been to familiarize myself with one shape at a time. If one goes about this with a fair degree of diligence, you will soon have an understanding of the various shapes and be able to speak with some confidence on the subject.
An important point to understand is that while there is an established consensus on what each shape looks like, there is some latitude allowed on the exact dimensions. For this reason, cigar handbooks usually give a narrow range of dimensions when referring to a cigar name to allow for differences in interpretation. Within each brand however, great care is taken to achieve consistency of shape and size. In practice, the differences between brands are so small that they are often practically insignificant.
For a wonderfully detailed list of the various cigar names and their sizes, please visit the Cigar Aficionado site:
Most cigars are straight-sided and are known as Parejos. They are open at the head (the end you light) and are sealed with a cap at the foot. We will cover cutting and lighting in a later article.
Well known Parejos include the Churchill, Corona, Lonsdale, Panatela and Robusto. The names are often accompanied by an adjective that indicates a reduction or increase in size. Petit, Slim, Finos, or Demi will indicate a reduction in size, while Gorda, Gran, Grande, Larga, Extra or Double would indicate an increase.
While Parejos may be handmade or machine-made, the shaped cigars known as Figurados are always handmade. If making a cigar by hand is a skill, then making a Figurado is an art. If one bears in mind that batches of Figurados have to be absolutely consistent, then one can appreciate how hard it is to get it right. Only the most experienced torcedors roll Figurados and they take longer to make. Both of these factors are to be taken into account when considering the cost of purchasing such a cigar. Well-known Figurados are the Belicoso, Diadema, Perfecto, Pyramid and Torpedo. Some sources list Culebra, but this shape remains unusual. Davidoff re-introduced the fascinating but obsolete Culebra to the market after Zino Davidoff saw one in a cigar museum. Partagas has also introduced a Culebra and articles on the shape have created a demand that makes the shape hard to come by. It will be interesting to see how long this unusual shape remains in vogue.
Novelty cigars come in all sorts of shapes mimicking everyday articles such as baseball bats or footballs. These shapes are impractical and remain more of interest to collectors than to cigar aficionados.
Next month we will look at the safe transport and proper storage of cigars.
The 2012 DEMA Convention will be held in Los Angeles from September 28-30. In addition to the speakers and topics listed in the last MBJ, the Chairman of the Institute will be in attendance, speaking on Sunday morning on the subject of aplomb—not a fruit, but an essential butler trait that is the doorway, a rite of passage, from the uncertainties of the tyro to the relaxed competence of the pro. These simple tools will put you on the fast track to aplombing with a rapier-like grace that would impress even Jeeves, with everyone from the boss, the guests, staff, vendors, officials, your significant other and mother-in-law all seeing and doing it your way. Yes, you are The Butler/Majordome/Majordomo/Household/Estate Manager—the one who knows all and without whom the estate would fall apart.”
Register at www.demaconvention.com
Let’s Talk about Wine, Part IX
by Amer Vargas
Today we move into Italy to discover a bit about its wonderful libations.
Wine has been made in Italy since at least the 11th century BC, when the Enotrians (a Greek tribe, meaning people from the land of wines) inhabited the south of the peninsula. The growth of the Roman Empire lead to very important changes in wine production in two sectors: large-scale production and significant improvements in storage methods, ranging from the appearance and improvement of wood barrels to the creation of the first bottles that kept the wine in better conditions than the old amphorae (jars).
Italian wines have achieved excellence thanks to several important factors: vine-growing conditions are extremely favorable thanks to the abundance of Mediterranean sunshine, mild temperatures and cool, mountain air currents and sea breezes; the quality of the soils, and rainfall that is present in autumn, winter and spring, while summers are dry.
It is not easy to define the general characteristics of Italian wines, as they are produced all over the country. Italy’s twenty wine regions match the twenty administrative regions and, depending on the quality of the wine and the importance of the wine area, the brew is categorized under one of the four following denominations, as stated in the label of the bottle:
-Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG, meaning Controlled and Guaranteed Place Name, brings together the small group that is considered the best of the best wines. There are only 36 DOCGs, mostly concentrated in the Piedmont and Tuscany regions. Within the most important DOCGs, we find the world famous Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino.
-Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC, meaning Controlled Place Name, categorizes wines whose name, origin, grape varieties, production, and storage methods are regulated by law. There are currently more than 300 DOCs; to name just a few, we find Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo, Copertino, Etna and Bardolino.
-Indicazione Geografica Tipica or IGT, meaning Typical Geographic Indication, indicates that the wine has been produced in a particular wine area. The name of an IGT cannot be the same as a DOCG or a DOC, to avoid misunderstandings. Here we find Palizzi, Falanghina and Lambrusco.
-Vini da Tavola, sometimes expressed on the label as “Italy,” refers to all other wines that do not fall under the previous categories.
There are more than 2,000 native grape varietals, the most important red vines being Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Montelpuciano, Dolcetto or Malvasia Nera; the most important white grapes being Catarrato, Trebbiano, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and Malvasia Bianca.
Altogether, Italy produces many fine wines. Raise your glass of refreshing Bianco (white wine) before we fly to Portugal in the next issue of our next Modern Butlers’ Journal!
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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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