The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 10
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Message from the Chairman
“A great butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman and through the latter, to serving humanity.” Mr. Stevens, the butler in Mr. Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.
I’d like to revisit a theme I have written about before, because it seems to be timely: a theme raised most eloquently by Mr. Ishiguro in that timeless book (and film), Remains of the Day, in which he explores the concept of duty versus social responsibility—a butler pours his heart and soul into supporting an individual who may not, on balance, be worthy of support—for at the end of the day, one looks back on a life that was meant to have been worthwhile, and finds it tainted by having magnified the less-than-satisfactory deeds of an employer. Take the butler mentioned below, who worked for years for Hugh Hefner before leaving in disgust: his resume would leave something to be desired when approaching the Pearly Gates, because he could have walked away years before, and chose not to.
The reason I bring this up is because more than a few of the überwealthy who employ us are actively engaged in highly destructive actions in society. In the same way that Adolph Hitler had a butler who supported him, so there are individuals of similar color who employ butlers. Maybe one cannot stop them, but the least one can do is refuse to provide them with the high-quality support that is our trademark. If nothing else, withdraw one’s support and tacit consent with their actions and goals, so one neither forwards their ends nor violates one’s own sense of rightness. Obviously, it is very much the minority of employers who are like this (unpleasant dispositions, bad hair days, and misbehaving from time to time are not at issue, but rather people who specialize in ruining others, advancing themselves and their agenda over the dead bodies of others, the collapsing of whole economies, and the garnering of huge wealth by dishonest means, most especially by creating false scarcities and using fear and intimidation). One is never locked into serving such people: any butler employment agency can help one move on—it is worth keeping in mind that there will be only one resume to present when the lights go out: the one that reflects all one’s decisions and actions.
Letters to the Editor
“I’m sure you’ve seen the article about Butlers working in Dubai. What is your take on the treatment and overall job sanctification of service professionals in that country?” SE
Ed: I think you will find that the attitude of Middle Eastern employers in general is that their staff are to be worked hard and long. I have seen butlers long in the profession burn out after a few years of such expectations. One has to ask, in the end, was it worth it? I did not find the salaries, relative to the hours worked, to be that high. There are always exceptions, of course, but when working as a butler there, the general rule is: be single, be prepared to work tirelessly, and bail out before you completely burn out!
“I discovered that there were few published works with insight into this present day profession. I found a used copy of ‘Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals,’ and couldn’t put it down. I read it in about two days. I was hooked. It helped me bring the whole profession into perspective, and most of all, it became very apparent to me that I already possessed many of the traits this profession required. The more I read, the more I was convinced that I was at least a viable candidate for this vocation. It wasn’t so much the mechanical duties that I possessed, like being a great chef or a tech guru, but having the heart of a butler. I knew I could learn the mechanics of the job with the proper training.” SW
Ed: This individual has since started the Private Butler Correspondence Course.
Apologies…are due to our subscribers who have reportedly just been inundated with an alert about the publication of up to 9 entries on our web site, including Spanish and Russian language items, and items published months ago. Our Tech Guru is investigating this malignancy and we hope it will not repeat.
Butlers in the Media
Here is a very interesting article, not about butlers, but the level of service that butlers provide, applied in a coffee store where the service levels (and quality of coffee) command $80 per cup of the brew.
Bath butlers, ski butlers, fireplace butlers, tartan butlers, fragrance butlers, and a new one for us: tea butlers—are all alive and well in the marketing world of hospitality.
An interesting article on what it was really like to be a black Butler in mid-Century Washington. It reinforces The Butler movie that was released recently.
Skip Film, a TV production company based in Los Angeles, is currently developing a new TV series based around the modern butler. Skip Film works with major cable networks like Discovery, Natgeo, History, Syfy, and A&E. They say: “We have two shows on air with Discovery now, Bering Sea Gold and The Last Hunstmen. We take a documentary style approach to our programming. The producers are interested in taking an honest look at all that goes into the butler profession. We are looking for an outgoing Butler and Principals who would be open to appearing on camera for their own series. All participants will be compensated if the show goes to series. If you or anyone you know would be a good fit, we want to hear from you!” Send an email with your contact info to kristenrinella AT yahoo.com or feel free to call Kristen at 310-315-7233 for more info.
Winning through Self Improvement
We thought we’d share one of the final essays of the most recent graduate of the Institute’s Private Butler Correspondence Course which we find to be very well stated and insightful: The subject was, Why a butler never tells all.
“Confidentiality is essential to a butler’s rectitude. It is easy to understand that without confidentiality, the butler loses credibility and the respect and trust of his employer, or any potential employers, other household staff, the profession, and society at large. No one can trust him. Compromise of this hallmark standard of professional behavior suggests a willingness to compromise other important standards, and a willingness to compromise one’s responsibility, including the welfare of other people for trivial reason.
“His employer, other members of the household, household guests, close associates of the employer and family, and household staff entrust the butler with the intimacies of life. Everyone can be embarrassed. No one is immune to weakness and misjudgment, physical flaw, misstep or misstatement, even if but momentarily; and an external world is ready and eager to flaunt, ridicule, and degrade, especially the wealthy and influential. Many are willing to pay handsomely for such secrets, not for their or anyone else’s betterment in any way, but purely for perverted pleasure, and the opportunity to tear down another to make them feel better about themselves without the effort otherwise necessary.
“The butler supports and preserves the best of everyone within his domain of service and influence, assisting to help make life more pleasurable and beneficial. When he compromises the standard of confidentiality, everyone suffers—and almost surely for trivial and superficial benefit from his professionally fatal indiscretion. Not only the butler and the person(s) compromised suffer, but also the butling and household management profession suffers with consequences of misbehavior by one of their own representatives. If he/she will compromise, others might, too; so who can be trusted? Service opportunities decrease, and respect for the profession decreases.
“Confidentiality is a matter of professional and personal integrity.
“The big news about butlers today is a new movie, “Daniel Lee’s The Butler,” starring Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. The story line follows the professional career of Eugene Allen, the White House Butler for more than 30 years in the service of eight presidents. I saw it last night. I understand that while it is based upon actual events, there were some changes of historical fact to enhance the story. Some people might fault that strategy, but no one faults the presentation of the butler’s importance, role and duties, performance, or life.
“I have most enjoyed this course of study and thank you for providing the opportunity. It has been a complete pleasure, and I must add, most instructive. I have never had a more rewarding educational experience, or more fun!” RR
Winning at the Placement Game
Butler or Household Management Couple needed for a down-to-earth and very nice couple who need someone long-term to run the 2,600 acre estate they are building on in Southern US. Practicing Christians preferred. Training and apprenticeship will be provided to make up for any shortfall. Must be willing to provide formal service, and achieve and maintain the standards required to serve royalty and dignitaries. Some travel required. Generous remuneration package. Live on-site.
ALERT: It has come to our attention that Villa Alexander, a hotel/private residence in Paphos, Cyprus, has been advertizing for and hiring Russian-speaking butlers. Upon arrival, they have refused to sign contracts and changed their job description to waiters—which is what they really wanted to hire in the first place. The management also demanded the “butlers” learn 300 dishes with all their ingredients by heart in three days (without being able to see or taste them). Anything below a 98% pass rate would result in not being paid for their work. Naturally, the butlers resigned after comparing notes.
The Maldives Hot on Training
The Chairman and Executive Director of the Institute spent a month at Louis Vuitton’s brand new Maison Cheval Blanc Randheli in one of the Northern Athols in the Maldives, delivering Round 1 of the Butler (being a French company, they call them Majordomes) training. Here, Madame Ferry trains three of the butlers in our villa (which was not yet fully furnished at the time). In the background, some butlers have practiced with a luxury bath set-up.
At the same time, Mr. Amer Vargas, the Institute’s VP for Europe, was providing a month of refresher training for the Butlers (called Fridays because their theme is island life) at Soneva Fushi—where Mrs. Ferry had trained the year before.
Mr. Vargas writes a blog about his time at Soneva Fushi:
Working bare feet in the Maldives
Soft white sands, crystal-clear, turquoise seawater and a gentle breeze coming in off the Indian Ocean. When human beings first started dreaming about paradise, they were actually thinking of the Maldives. North of the capital city, Male, lies a little big island that is home to Soneva Fushi, a “deserted island” hideaway complete with beautiful villas and some of the most exclusive and exquisite service one can enjoy anywhere in the world.
But maybe not as deserted as it seems…the resort is serviced mostly by Maldivian staff, who ensure all guests take pleasure in their stay. Indeed, the resort’s motto, SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) can be felt all throughout one’s stay. Soneva Fushi produces part of its own electricity and recycles the vast majority of its waste; it offers guests excursions that make one truly feel part of the Maldivian culture; it plants many of the organic vegetables served in its restaurants and grows them without chemicals. From the first moment of arrival on the island, intimate contact with nature through the “No News-No Shoes” concept starts a relaxation process that can be completed at the Spa. If guests want to take something unusual home with them, they can take different style cooking classes, learn more about the corals and fishes that live in the waters surrounding the resort from a marine biologist, or even have a private astronomy lesson from the resident astronomer, who will teach you about the stars and planets at the resort’s Observatory (the only one in the Maldives!). If this is not inspirational enough, guests can enroll in water sports lessons or guided snorkeling and diving activities to see mantas and other amazing underwater creatures. All in all, great experiences to take home!
And if that was not enough, Ms. Pamela Spruce of the Australian Butler School was training at another resort for a few weeks. We managed to meet up at the airport in Male for an hour as we were all heading home. For almost a decade we have been trying to have our paths cross, so there was a lot to catch up on in one hour flat!
by Frank Mitchell
The Candle Confusion, Part 2 of 2
Dress the trolley with the linen and arrange the other items on top. Since the trolley will be the centre of attention and quite often photographed by excited guests, everything must be perfectly clean and presentable. Present the menu and help the guest make his selection as normal. Return with the trolley and the cigar ordered. If you have a desktop humidor, you may bring this on the trolley and allow the guest to select the cigar he wants form the stock available.
As always, ask permission before cutting and lighting. Cut the cigar and drop the cap in your ashtray, not the one the guest will use. Light the candle with the matches and put them aside. Now you will use the candle to light the tapers, and the tapers to light the cigar. Proceed as normal, but bear in mind that the temperature of the taper flame is much lower than the temperature of a gas lighter flame. It will therefore take longer to light the cigar and you will go through quite a few tapers. Each time the taper burns down, drop it in the ashtray and quickly light another without putting the cigar down. If you give the cigar foot time to cool, it will further lengthen the lighting process.
Other than substituting the lighter for a taper, proceed as normal, following the rules for cutting, lighting and presenting discussed earlier in the series.
Now you may ask if this is the way a butler should light a cigar. It is not really practical and it is far too showy. I think my service is best when it is unobtrusive to the point of invisibility. I am there when needed, but I always keep the guest or principle the focus of attention.
When asked, I have performed this ritual and it has been great fun, but it is not for everyday use. Most guests just want a quiet smoke; they do not want to be turned into a floor show for other guests to gawk at. And since each cigar takes longer to light, it is not suitable if four or more cigars need to be lit. For this reason, it may be better suited to private dining or private service, and reserved for special, celebratory occasions.
Editor: We would like to thank Mr. Frank Mitchell for completing this, his second, series for the MBJ (the first covered luxury automobiles and chauffeuring in great depth).
Let’s Talk about Wine, Part IXX
by Amer Vargas
This time we travel to Lebanon, a country little known for its wine production despite a tradition stretching back thousands of years.
Indeed, the production of wine dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, over four thousand years ago. Wines from the region of Byblos (north of today’s Beirut) were commonly exported to Egypt’s Old Kingdom and the wines from Tyre and Sidon (south of Beirut) were famous all over the Mediterranean.
With the arrival of the Muslim Caliphates first and the Ottoman empire later, wine production decreased until the arrival of Jesuits in the middle of the 19th century: they planted Cinsaut vines from Algeria at Chateau Ksara, after which other wineries were established in Lebanon that went on to develop their own wines, most notably Domaine des Tourelles by Frenchman E.F. Brun, and Chateau Musar—which holds the honor of firmly placing Lebanese wines onto the world’s wine map after its 1967 vintage was awarded the “Find of the Fair” at the 1976 Bristol Wine Fair.
During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, wine production again decreased, but since the end of that conflict, new wineries have been established, now 36 in number, the greatest amount ever.
Located at the end (or the beginning) of the Mediterranean sea and neighboring Syria on the East and Israel on the South, Lebanon is a very agricultural land. Its landscape is dominated by two large mountain ranges that run the length of the country: the Lebanon Mountains and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. These two ranges create the Bekaa Valley at a height of 900 meters, where most vines are planted (with conditions similar to the world-famous Mendoza region in Argentina). Summers temperatures range between 10o C and 30o C, while winters experience low temperatures and snowfalls, but rarely anything that harms vineyards. Between cold seasons, rain is scarce, but snow melt and water from wells provide the water the plants need to grow. Soils are mostly a limestone base mixed with clay or loam, or are rich in terra rossa in some Bekaa Valley areas.
As with French wines, Lebanese wines pair excellent with a great number of dishes. Cinsaut-Cabernet-Sauvignon-based rosés work well with cold salads and many fish, including salmon; reds pair very well with dishes like snails with garlic butter, beef, veal, and pork dishes. Chardonnays match deliciously with white fish, vegetable risottos, and poultry-based plates.
So I propose a toast to the rare Chateau Musar Gaston Hochar of 1959 vintage, a bottle of which recently sold at a Christie’s auction for US $1,800.
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.
Click 'Like' to Comment via Facebook