The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 13, issue 2
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise
Message from the Chairman
You may recall that a few months ago, we were surprised that so few people had responded to the silver contest in the MBJ. Was this because the time-honored butler duty, the care of silver, is no longer a part of the life of a butler; or because they did not have time to fill out the survey; or they were not reading the MBJ? It turned out that #2 was the reality: no time in a busy schedule to respond to the survey.
But our curiosity was piqued about what place silver does have in our lives today; and we saw, also, a golden opportunity: we have thousands of readers in the butler profession, each with their own experiences, skill sets, interests, and points of view, and these represent a terrific barometer for the profession in real time. So we thought it appropriate to ask a few more questions about silver: what position does it have in the butler’s life today—see the Butlers’ Column below for the answer. And beyond that, to continue with regular soundings on the different topics close to the heart of our profession.
So far, we have twenty (private service) butlers who have agreed to participate: if you’d like to join them and answer a few questions each month, then please email us and we would be glad to consult your knowledge and views.
The other news is that, following the publication in December of the two-volume set, Serving the Wealthy, we are now offering on-line courses to match them, and in addition to the full course, have created a series of shorter courses for those interested only in specific topics, or with insufficient time or funds to do the complete course. See the article below.
Butlers in the Media
Roswell, the Alien Butler—a table stand for cocktails, and for the more upmarket versions, try HOSPI, the robot butler that serves drinks and assists hotel guests; or the Segway Robotic Wine and Cheese Butler. If you happen to be playing a set of drums, then you can disguise your beer and cigarettes in a Joe’s Butler, a drum-shaped receptacle designed to hold items while playing.
Then there is this advertisement for a Men Suit Valet Stand Clothes Butler Organizer Wooden Metal Home Office Hanger. It might have been simpler to call it what it is: a Dumb Valet!
For more twilight zone, the Butlers in the Buff dress code includes a bow tie, collar, cuffs, and apron. Apart from abs and buns of steel, no other skills are required, as they are taught everything they need to know: etiquette, serving drinks, and mixing cocktails.
We have always said that a (real) butler does whatever is asked of him in terms of the range of duties normally associated with butlers. For the record, the range just expanded, as an advertisement has been placed (and probably filled by now) for a butler/personal trainer.
On the darker side of butling, one was just sentenced to prison in India (a military butler, not private service), for bribing job applicants and not delivering on promises made.
Maybe he could apply for the position touted in an English rag, “‘Yorkshire Ripper,’ Peter Sutcliffe, has a 24-hour ‘BUTLER’ in ‘comfortable’ prison life.” Translation: someone who escorts Mr. Sutcliffe when he leaves the cell, makes him drinks and fetches his meals, and makes sure his cell is tidy. But doesn’t it draw reader attention more if the reporter ties the job description into the upscale world of butling?
Lastly, an interesting article about the efforts by two schools to teach butlers in China—they are making progress, hats off to them, and the main challenge they are facing is persuading the Chinese employers to trust their staff—not because the staff are untrustworthy, but because the employers think they are not. Considering the way the Chinese generally take so long to make up their mind about someone, the fact that they have come far enough to hire butlers shows considerable progress.
The Private Butler Course, based on the two-volume Serving the Wealthy and a number of other industry classics, now totals 24 modules. It takes about 400 hours to complete all the reading and practical assignments. This course is therefore similar in length to a full, 8-10 week course at a more traditional, bricks-and-mortar butler school, while arguably providing more in-depth information on each subject, including one-on-one tutoring that allows each subject to be covered at one’s own pace, neither too fast nor too slow.
In addition, we have created a number of new, shorter courses for those who want to focus on specific subjects. These include:
a) Butler Basics for beginning butlers, people thinking about becoming a butler or people who simply want to learn about superior service as championed by the butler;
b) Fine Dining Skills for Butlers;
c) Management Skills for Butlers, which focuses entirely on the people and relationship skills a butler needs to be efficient and effective enough to act as “CEO Household, Inc.” This course is tutored by Professor Richard Ratliff, who is a consultant who specializes in the subject and wrote the related chapters in Serving the Wealthy. This is a more advanced course for people in the profession who are already experienced, perhaps even trained butlers or service professionals, but who want to take it to the next level;
d) Five short, Specialist Courses, focusing on one subject each, such as Cigars, Valeting, The Bar and Wine Cellar, and Security.
If you have wanted to expand your knowledge, but not had the time to break away, nor the funds to pay for them, nor the freedom to leave work and travel elsewhere for a course of study, then these courses were created as the answer, and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about them.
Introduction to Mold Making
by Kobi Gutman
Once in the field of soap carving, you may experience a special and recurring phenomenon of people seeing your works and asking you to carve one for them, too, or a second one to give to others as a gift.
As flattering as it may be, carving the same soap over and over takes quite some time and is not as much fun. This is how I found myself in what I consider to be a natural evolution: the field of mold-making. This is also where the melt & pour soap comes strongly into play.
Having a mold shortens the time of making a soap sculpture quite dramatically, literally from a few hours to a few minutes. That allows you to ‘wow‘ many guests easily and in a very short time.
But not only that, the molds can be used to make chocolate sculptures, popsicles, candles, candy, casts, and more. You can create unique items that would sell in your gift shop as souvenirs or as arts and crafts, or be served as a dessert in an intimate dinner or at a big banquet etc.
In the next few issues we will discuss the whole process of making a mold—beginning to end—including making the object to create the mold from. For now, here are some examples of soaps that were created using home-made molds.
Where can I find samples of what a butler should say, or butler protocol. We want to add a concierge service for our employees, and short of copying Downton Abbey, we are looking for quality ‘A butler would say this’ suggests or samples. AS
Ed: This is rather a wide-open question, and short of commissioning us to come up with a cheat sheet, which we do not recommend, try, as you say, studying some movies, such as Remains of the Day and the one you referenced, Downton Abbey; and also purchase the recently published two-volume edition, Serving the Wealthy or any other book involving butlers, such as Jeeves and Wooster, to give you an idea of the flavor of how a butler communicates. The idea is to understand the mindset so you know what to say, rather than having a canned list that one parrots back without understanding, and therefore, potentially embarrassing outcomes.
Is Silver Still a Part of Our Lives?
Our thanks to those butlers who responded to our survey on silver usage. Their employers range/ranged from royal and titled families to new wealth from many different backgrounds and countries—so we had a good cross-section of employers.
The results showed that 95% of employers, whether of first-generation or inherited wealth, do own silver, and they are all middle-aged to senior citizens—meaning the younger set either are not employing butlers or are less likely to own silver.
Cleaning silver was either part of the written job description of each butler, or he or she was simply expected to maintain the inventories of silver, china, and crystal, etc.—adding up to the same thing: silver is the butler’s job. But while in half of the positions held, butlers were expected to clean the silver themselves, in the other positions, they were responsible for making sure that others, such as housekeepers, cleaned the silver.
How often silver is being cleaned varies, but most butlers agree it is according to need and use, and with checks being done every other month. Mr. Arnt Boesveld sums it up best: “It depends on the items—cutlery that is used on a daily basis is polished once a month. Items on display such as photo frames etc., are polished as needed—on average, once every two months. Antique and fragile items are polished as needed, but usually only dusted, as we like to keep products away from them as much as possible.”
Mr. Paul Burgess-Williams adds, “Cleaning is done on an as-needed basis, as well as a once-a-month duty. Flatware that tends to turn black after contact with fish, various greens, or eggs, etc., is set aside after washing and polished the next day; and decorative items are done once a month, depending on weather—humidity can ‘kill’ your silver.”
The silver cleaning and polishing products butlers are using are mainly Goddards, followed in lesser volume by other name brands (Wright’s, Christofle, Cape Cod, and Haggerty), and following the release of Mr. Jeffrey Herman’s new product in the MBJ recently, also Herman’s Simply Clean.
They obviously all felt their preferred products worked well, although Mr. Boesveld importantly cautioned, “Goddard’s works very well, although it is an aggressive product, so of course, I use such products as little as possible.”
When asked for lessons they would like to share from their silver-cleaning experience, Mr. Chip Heath suggests, “Always wear gloves when polishing silver.” Mr. Richmond Schmidt, adds, “Silver in a well-run household is more likely to be over-cleaned rather than under-cleaned. I’ve seen many a housekeeper be too zealous and too harsh in cleaning silver, which can be caustic [chemically corroding] on the silver, depending on the method and solutions used. This is especially the case when using agents known as ‘silver-dips.’ With each cleaning, silver is actually lost down the sink, so to speak. I ban all silver dips in the houses where I work. They are effective for a quick clean and shine, but over time, they erode the silver from the base metal (in the case of silver-plated pieces).”
Several points from Mr. Paul Burgess-Williams again:
“I always keep my silver clean and ready to go at all times, as I never know when I’ll need to pull an item—and believe me, it’s far better to pull out a clean item than a dirty one when in a rush.
“Make sure you keep your cloths dry to the touch, use hot water, and dry and polish while your silver is still warm: cleaning too many pieces at one time and leaving them to cool doesn’t give the nice shine we like to see.
“I like to fill my tea set with paper towels to absorb any moisture left behind.
“For those hard-to-reach details in some silver, treat yourself to a proper silver brush—don’t skimp and try and use a tooth brush, as their bristles are too hard and will leave scratch marks.”
Along the same line, Mr. Roger Cushwa notes: “You never want to see rub marks or swirl marks where a person has rubbed or scrubbed too hard.” He also adds, “A light tarnish is not a bad thing, so avoid over cleaning.”
While a minor amount of tarnish could be tolerated briefly, especially if one wants to avoid over polishing, it is worth differentiating between tarnish and patina, which are sometimes confused: Tarnish is a general blackening of a silver object as a result of pollutants in the air, and usually means the silver is not being cared for properly. Patina, on the other hand, is a desirable, warm color that forms as a silver piece is handled and hand-polished using non-abrasive creams that lightly scratch the surface. These scratches blend together over time to form a warm and soft finish that is pleasing to the eye. Additionally, as a piece ages and takes on the characteristics of an antique, oxidization (blackening) in the ‘crevices’ adds to its attractive look. This is a key reason for not treating any silver, particularly antique silver, with silver dip, because doing so will remove the contrasting, fine black detailing and with them, the attractiveness and value of the piece.
Going back to the survey results, we had one other question—a curiosity about whether or not the employers appreciated the butler’s work in caring for the silver. Almost one-for-one, the employers did not notice the silver being polished, but they certainly noticed when it was not! The one exception was an employer who was keenly aware of the quality and value of his silver, and who is most particular that the staff be trained properly before cleaning and polishing it.
Talking of which, another butler offered an amusing story: “I remember, many years ago, chatting with a colleague who had recently started working for a family with a large silver collection. One day at lunch, the lady of the house commented on how nice it was to see the silver items that he had placed on the table, as she had not seen them in a very long while. She asked where he had found them. He had to admit that he had found them at the back of a cupboard, black and uncared for. It seems the previous butler didn’t like cleaning silver and his solution had been to hide it all. The lesson I took from this conversation was never to think for one moment that our employers don’t know what they possess. If we think ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ we are very much mistaken, as they see everything and lock it away in their ‘note to self’ box (smile).”
Mr. Jeffrey Herman, our resident silver expert, has given his seal of approval on the various statements made by the butlers, so thanks to all those for sharing their hard-won knowledge.
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 19
Cherry Kiss Cocktail
by Amer Vargas
In many places around the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. This traditional festivity involves boyfriends and girlfriends, lovers, partners, and married couples expressing their love, affection and commitment to the each other by interchanging presents and spending a bit of extra time together. So, why not share a love-drink too?
To prepare, pour 1 part gin into a shaker filled with ice, 1 part maraschino liqueur, 1 part pineapple juice, and add 3 dashes of grenadine. Shake the mix vigorously and then strain into chilled cocktails glasses or store in the freezer before serving.
The classic mix calls for a maraschino cherry, but some bartenders prefer to use a slice of orange. Whichever you choose, spread the love, and cheers!
Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas @ modernbutlers.com
A: I recommend, in the USA, Pairpoint Glassworks, who will hand-blow liners in any color for open salts, ice buckets, casseroles, etc. They do excellent work and their prices are very reasonable.
Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff AT hermansilver.com
The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, 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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