The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 2
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Message from the Chairman
While training in the private sector here in Moscow, I took time out to lecture at a top university, mainly to the students of the Hotel Business and Tourism Institute, the first of its kind at university level in CIS. I found the faculty and students to be very focused and professional, certainly appreciating the finer points of butling that we covered, and their value to the hospitality industry, as well as the private sector. I was fortunate enough to be invited afterwards to enjoy a musical performance reminiscent of Carmina Burana and very professionally executed. This was followed by a tour of seven restaurants the students had created on site, from decor to menu to props, all themed around the concept of “avant garde.” In each, we were transported into a universe each team had created with great enthusiasm — as diverse as a members-only Venetian Masonic lodge, complete with masks and captivating performances, to a Silent Movies restaurant offering a variety of menus by staff who were also silent! What impressed me the most was that they were all having terrific fun as they created wow moments for their various guests, which included representatives from various countries as well as senior members of the Ministries of Education for both Russia and the Ukraine. Butling is almost unknown in these countries, and they are focused on implementing the service without short cuts, which is a breath of fresh air.
It was amusing to attend a wine tasting hosted by a French vintner from Bordeaux, and to chat with a gregarious Russian cigar-shop owner, dressed in black leather trousers and chomping on a Cuban that was just as black and pungent as he guided us through our choices. Moscow is quite a city, to be sure.
Letters to the Editor
Last week I received The Modern Butlers’ Journal, in which it says: The BBC, on the other hand, reported that China and Russia are both experiencing a demand by their wealthy for British butlers. This phrase caught my eye and made me wonder who a British butler really is. Could you, please, clarify what does the term British butler refer to? Is it the way a butler is trained and in which he performs his duties, or it is a combination of both professional approach and nationality?
Ed: The demand is for English/British butlers, as they are a figure head/status symbol. However, does this mean that anyone who is not British is out in the cold? Not at all: how useful is a British butler who cannot interact with the staff in their own language? For frankly, the Russian and Chinese languages are not the easiest for Brits to pick up, based as they are on Cyrillic and Chinese script/characters and their concomitant sounds. I know, as I have tried when in these countries and been found wanting. So, there is room for both English butlers and Russian/Chinese butlers trained (properly) in the style of English butlers: some employers will look for the former and some for the latter.
Butlers in the Media
Another media outlet is claiming that the demand for butlers has doubled, in part thanks to the popularity of the British TV series, Downton Abbey.
The actor who plays Mr. Carson the Butler in Downton Abbey admits in an interesting interview that he conducted no research on butling, but does receive guidance from an etiquette expert. Carson fits the image people have of Edwardian butlers, so he carries his role off well, even if he himself would never want to be a butler or have butler service, as he relates. For the real deal, Sir Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day obviously did research the role and provides a commanding performance, rather than running through the formulas required to present a stereotypical role, as can be found in the very popular and even enjoyable butler of Downton Abbey.
While on the subject of Downton Abbey, we happened to cover in an earlier Modern Butlers’ Journal that the current owners of the estate used in the TV series were looking for an under butler. This notice caught the eye of one of our readers, Mr. Alexander Mattinson, who was being interviewed for another interesting article in which he comments on the Downton Abbey series from his perspective as a valet at Buckingham Palace, where he used to work (if you followed all that, you should be good at playing chess, among other things!). We do appreciate, of course, that the reporter described the MBJ in that article as “a journal and website dedicated to the finer points of butling.”
As a discreet butler, Mr. Mattinson did not feel inclined to tell us he had been the subject of an interview—we found out on other lines—but he did send a kind letter to the editor:
“I just wanted to send Best Wishes for 2013— I thoroughly enjoy reading your newsletter each month and look forward to further installments.” Alex Mattinson
Thanks to Mr. De Groot, who brought our attention to the marketing hooplah surrounding the US Presidential Inauguration, and the posting by one Washington DC hotel of a “Social Media Butler” as part of a $47,000, four-day package. As subsequently reported, there were no takers (neither for this package nor many other extravagant offerings by a variety of hotels). Not a waste of time or effort, however — the hotel (and the Social Media Butler they engaged) received a prodigious amount of free advertizing before the inauguration.
With all due respect to the continued progress being made in surmounting the obstacles to robots moving around obstacles without packing up, and the goal to have robot butlers within a decade, one has to wonder what these researchers and manufacturers think butlers do. The old German movie, Dinner for One may show a butler having trouble navigating the room without falling down, but honestly, our profession has moved beyond this as a goal for quite some time now. We do a lot more that should give robotics programmers pause for thought—and hopefully reprogramming themselves away from the idea that our positions are open to robots, too—equal opportunity or no.
Cigars, Part XII
Bloom and Mould
Cigars are a natural product. If they are stored in a well-maintained humidor, they will release and re-absorb oils in an annual cycle. This forms minute crystals on the surface called bloom, indicating a mature, well-kept cigar. Many aficionados are known to delight in such cigars. Some hotel training manuals advise brushing the bloom off with a soft brush to satisfy those guests who assume the powder to be mould. This seems a shame and requires additional handling of the cigars; something which we said earlier is never a good idea. I prefer to educate my guests and have had wonderful discussions on the subject, although I know better than to try and convince the novice-expert. I simply brush it off as requested or sell him something else.
On the other hand, mould is never acceptable and results from a RH (relative humidity) that is too high for the prevailing temperature. It is an unmitigated disaster and mouldy cigars must be discarded quickly. If the humidor walls become infected with mould spores, you will have to disinfect the walls with alcohol, causing ugly stains. Fortunately, mould does not form overnight and will not happen if the humidity is maintained within close limits.
So how do we tell the difference between bloom and mould? Bloom is a fine, white, crystalline deposit on the surface—imagine a dusting of talc on a cigar. Mould is usually yellowish or grey-green. It consists of fine strands sitting above the surface of the cigar, quite unlike a flat dusting of bloom. If you have seen mouldy food, you will know exactly what to look for.
Tobacco beetles bore holes in cigars and lay eggs in them which pop if the cigar is smoked. It is reportedly quite unpleasant. If the eggs hatch before the cigar is smoked, the infection will spread. The cure is to freeze, thaw and re-humidify the cigars, rendering them un-saleable. Clearly, watching for signs of infection and acting quickly is preferable. Look for small round holes in a cigar. Tobacco dust under the cigars is also a tell-tale sign. Remove the cigar and tap the foot on a sheet of white paper. Tobacco dust falling out is bad news. If you spot an infection, you should quickly remove the cigar, along with all cigars in its immediate vicinity.
Inform your supplier immediately and ask for his help. A strong case for using only one reputable supplier: multiple suppliers will blame each other. With only one supplier there can be no blame mongering. He knows he will lose 100% of your business if he does not become involved and help.
Mixing Brands & Strengths
Butlers working in hospitality should try to avoid mixing brands of widely varying strengths in one humidor. The flavours will marry over time with mild cigars being affected the most. While this can be very rewarding to experiment with in a private humidor, hotel guests buying a known brand will expect a familiar flavour – that is why they patronise ‘their’ brand. They may not be pleased when the cigar has an unexpected taste, even if the ‘marriage’ was successful. Therefore, a hotel should limit the range they carry or have separate humidors for cigars of differing strengths. If the hotel has a very large humidor, the cigars can be housed on separate shelves, progressing from mild to strong. In this way, cigars stored adjacent to each other, will not differ greatly in strength.
Cellophane wrappers may also help protect a mild cigar’s flavour and should always be left in place. (It is also important to remember that if a guest is familiar with the line, he will expect them to be cellophane wrapped. He is unlikely to make a purchase if the cellophane has been removed.)
Next month, we will look at some of the cigar accoutrements you will need, and why simply re-purposing cigarette ashtrays and lighters is ill advised.
Let’s Talk about Wine, Part XI
by Amer Vargas
Wines from Chile
After New Zealand, we stay in the southern hemisphere, this time in Chile, to enjoy one of the best wine-producing places in the world.
Chile is en elongated country located in South America, bordered by the Andes mountains to the East, the dry Atacama Desert to the North and the Pacific Ocean to the West; thus, whilst the Humboldt Current from the Pacific brings cooling breezes to coastal vineyards, the Andes and other mountain formations provide just the right amount of river water and rains to make that part of the country a “winegrower’s paradise.”
Wine-making tradition in Chile dates back to the time the Spanish crown made the country a colony in the mid-1500s. Since then, the production of wine progressed on a roller coaster until, in 1980, new technology drove wine production steadily upwards. Ever since, a remarkable quality increase has led to international recognition of Chilean wines, such that Chile has become the fastest-growing wine exporter worldwide, with a significant presence in important markets like the USA, the UK and Japan.
One of the key aspects that makes Chilean wines so excellent is the natural protection against plant diseases provided by the natural barriers (the Atacama Desert, the Andes and the Pacific Ocean) surrounding the country. As a consequence, neither philloxera nor any other major grape-harming diseases have ever occurred in the country. As a result, pesticides can be and are being kept to a minimum; the other positive consequence is that grafting (a sort of plant surgery that involves attaching healthy vineyard stalks to strong roots to ensure the survival of the plant and the perfect growth of grapes—a procedure much used in all wine-producing countries around the world) is not required.
There are many types of soil all over Chile, but they all have one thing in common: they are all very healthy and very adequate for wine cultivation. The climate is Mediterranean, with warm dry summers and cold, rainy winters. Springs (growing season) are very peculiar, however, as there is a broad temperature oscillation between day and night. These circumstances cause the white grapes to develop fresh, fruity flavors and a crisp acidity; and in the case of red wines, they produce ripe tannins and a powerful color.
Although the most established wine regions lie in the center of the country in the Aconcagua Region, there are also important vineyards located in the North and the South.
By far the most cultivated red varietal is Cabernet Sauvignon, accounting for almost half of the production of red grapes. Next is Merlot and then Carmenere, a red grape that disappeared in Europe during the 19th century, but which was naturally rediscovered in Chile in the late 20th century. Since then, this grape has become a kind of hallmark for Chile. There is little production of white grapes in Chile, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being the main ones that are grown.
To mention just a few general matching notes, Chilean Chardonnay is well known to enhance both its own flavor and that of full-bodied fishes and white meats, as well as corn-based dishes. Zesty Sauvignon Blanc goes very well with blue cheese, salads and shrimps. And although very different in taste, many reds from Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot match very well with red meats, especially grilled.
Until the next wine article… Salud!
For the Silver Enthusiast
by Jeffrey Herman
A new feature on my web site is the Silver Polish Abrasion Ratings. If you’ve been using the same polish for decades or relying on those YouTube videos that promote the use of Tarn-X and Silvo, STOP!! Click on the ratings link above before you pick up the polish. My guide will inform you whether you’ve been treating your silver with loving care, or ruining the surface to the point of making it less valuable as a result of removing too much silver and wearing down the beautiful details that took many hours, days, or even weeks to create. Should you have any questions after reading the guide, please feel free to contact me: jeff at hermansilver.com.
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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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