The Modern Butlers’ Journal
In its 13th year of publication
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise
Message from the Chairman
I was on a train in Sweden recently, when a pregnant lady climbed laboriously on board. I immediately vacated my seat and offered it to her, only to have a swarthy, able-bodied young man plop his carcass in my pre-warmed seat. I indicated to him in sign language that the seat had been freed for the lady, but this obdurate (stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action) fellow would have none of it.
As a youth, raised on rugby and rock and roll at a public school in England, I was not known particularly for my good manners; although they have not changed significantly in the decades since, I am aghast that my mediocre standards are themselves so far above the current norm as to be positively unfathomable to many youth today.
All power to those denizens (inhabitants of a certain place) of protocol and etiquette, such as Mr. John Robertson and Ms. Fiona Cameron-Williams, who valiantly lead the charge toward a society that has some understanding of civility and the strange notion that other people exist whose comfort and happiness may be a worthwhile concern for each and every one of us.
On a more positive note, I wanted to share a photograph of some of the graduates (in their civvies after a farewell dinner) of the training completed recently at the latest palace to be added to the stable in Paris, Hotel de Crillon, on Place de la Concorde. It opened its doors recently after a major, four-year renovation that a photographer who has photographed in most such hotels and palaces around the world, assured me was the most beautiful hotel he has seen. The butler service was designed to match!
Butlers in the Media
A nice nod to Las Vegas’ premier butler.
The Guardian reports a residential care home in London offers a “new benchmark in nursing care” with the inclusion of butler service. A small amount of research would have highlighted a retirement home in Toronto, Canada that has been offering butler service for the last six years. And the butler service offered in London is simply a barista.
Several examples of other professions or businesses taking the butler name in vain popped up this last month, the strangest being a “Squirrel Butler.” The mind boggles. Talking of which, the word “boggle” means to be astonished or overwhelmed at trying to imagine something—and while the word is of uncertain origin, it seems to be related to the word for “devil,” which I find quite apropos.
Lastly, robots continue their inexorable march toward easing humans out of their jobs: the most recent being a bar in Las Vegas that only “employs” robotic bar tenders.
The Wisdom of Butlers Past, Part 3
In the next section of The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, the author tackles the subject of lowly status accorded to “servants” or those providing menial (low skill, low status) work—service providers in today’s language. We see this occasionally in social media comments on articles about butlers, whereby the commentators throw up their hands in horror at the idea of serving another person—the perceived drudgery, implied slavery and lack of self-determinism. Their comments really betray a disability on their part, because every one of us is in service to others—even the Queen of England is in service to her subjects and has duties to fulfill.
“Some persons speak of servants as if they were so much beneath them as to be unworthy of notice; but this adds nothing to their own respectability, and only betrays their ignorance and pride. There is no degradation in being a menial, except if you fail in the duties of one; no disgrace in wearing a livery (uniform), unless you bring reproach on it by your behavior. I have never been ashamed of being in livery but when I have seen other servants disgrace it.”
The author’s point is a good one: there is no need to consider oneself inferior because one provides service at the estate of an individual or family. What is inferior is when the performance of that service is inferior in some way, and brings ill repute to the employer and the profession as a whole.
In the next quotation, the author once again expresses the propaganda, widespread for centuries and still in existence in some parts of the world, that we are all born to a station. It’s a good way to keep people in service, but not a good strategy for building an intelligent staff that is creative, proactive, willing, interested, and alive.
“The various stations in life are appointed by God; all are useful and honorable in their different degrees. We find from history and holy writ, that domestic servants have frequently been entrusted with matters of the utmost importance to their employers.”
His point about the work being useful and honorable is right on the mark, though.
Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan @ pryor-publications.co.uk) and telling him you read about the offer in the Modern Butlers’ Journal.
Book Review of Serving the Wealthy
Sections on the Role of the Butler and the Principal’s Wines, Part 4 of 12
by Gretchen dePillis
Let us venture into the early duties of butlers as officers of the wine cellar. If you happen to be in France, do visit Chateau de Meursault (Rue du Moulin Foulot, 21190 Meursault, France) to see an example of a wine cellar which dates back roughly to the 12th century, when butlers started to manage wines for their masters. Each year this property hosts the Paulée Meursault celebration to mark the end of the grape harvest in Burgundy. If you are located in the United States, similar events take place at La Paulée de New York and La Paulée de San Francisco. Both American events were started by sommelier Daniel Johnnes, wine director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, in 2000. To witness first hand how the wine traditions grew from the 12th century to today, I suggest a visit to one of these events.
Serving the Wealthy, Volume 1, pages 162-166 appealed to me personally because it evoked memories of running my hands over rugged grape vines, seeing the vivid bright green leaves and tasting the wide variety of succulent flavors as I pop plump grapes into my mouth. From the professional standpoint, though, this section was most enlightening in the way it emphasizes what was expected of a butler centuries ago, and that equally today, the butler needs to understand and demonstrate knowledge in various aspects of the fermented grape, including optimal environmental conditions of the wine cellar and pairing food and wines—which can only occur once the butler understands the characteristics of the wine as well as of the foods—both quite advanced skills.
Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis @ gmail.com
by Kobi Gutman
Fondant icing is normally used with cakes and pastries yet it can also add shapes, colors, and beauty to fruit plates, turndown treats, etc.
- To make a petal, place one ball between two sheets of parchment paper and flatten it with your finger. Make the top tip of the petal a bit thinner.
- Flatten another petal, the exact same way, and wrap it around the core petal. Leave one end loose to allow the next petal to be added.
- Continue adding petals in this way. Roll back the top
of the petals to give it a more realistic look.
Mr. Gutman is the head butler at a private hotel in Florida and can be reached via the Institute.
The Butlers Speak
The Placement Game, Part 5 of 6, The Future of the Job Market
When asked how they see the future job markets—any regions or subsets for growth (i.e. for ladies, for Chinese speakers, etc.)—some of the butlers and estate(s)/household managers were upbeat and some not so. It seems that having multiple languages will stand one in good stead in this international market—and one that can be fast-tracked/offered on an interim basis by verbalized and written translation software on one’s smart phone.
“This is only my opinion, but having more than one language is of definite benefit: In Florida, I worked with Latino’s from all over the world, so, Spanish is almost a necessity in that State. Currently, I work in the North-eastern part of the United States, where I have worked with Latino’s, Koreans, and Filipinos. I try to slow down my spoken English, so they can better understand me. With certain software, I can also type dialogue in their language to communicate. A smile and kindness go a long way. With more and more billionaires and multi-millionaires, and with all the security troubles in the world, I see our industry flourishing. Keeping your reputation in tact is vital; also, your credit, driving record, not doing drugs nor being arrested and continuing education is smart. Free education exists on-line (www.edx.org, and www.coursera.org), and community colleges have low-cost classes too. Now, you can do on-line domestic service and Butler classes for a fee. At this point, I am working on my Bachelors’ degree in Estate Administration, because, I believe that it will be the only way I can advance in my career—which at time of writing includes ten years as a Household Manager and twenty-five years as an Estate Housekeeper/Cook.” DS
“In my opinion, the future is wide open for any person willing to work hard. An education in service is indeed a plus but it is the school of hard knocks that really separates the professional from the average worker. We need to be the professional at all times. You only know if you have what it takes to be a great service professional by being a great service professional! In the world of private service, average just doesn’t work out.” LW
“When I first began, I found jobs by word of mouth as there were few other options where I lived. Networking was the most productive method then, and I believe may still be today in many areas of the country. LinkedIn and Facebook offer fine opportunities to have an online presence at virtually no cost—everyone should have at least one of those two for work purposes only. I think the UAE is a good venue and I hope for a resurgence in the proper roles of ladies maids and butlers. I do see quite a few multilingual positions coming available. Marise
“I see a very bright future for private service in the years to come. Major metropolitan areas will always hold the largest number of traditional jobs. Opportunities for everyone, including other nationalities, multi-linguals, and those with specialty skills, will increase as wealth extends downward. The sham agencies proliferate and so I want to issue a caveat: With increased wealth, more entry-level employers will be hiring who have no experience in good employee-retention or even how to have staff work in their home. There will be an increase in staff turnover at that level until/unless employers learn their responsibilities in the workplace.” SA
“Sadly, I think the job market is dwindling for the most part for butlers. The good positions don’t seem to come up all that often, the people in them tending to stay. The younger generation of potential employers, who are either building their ‘dream home’ or moving from a three-thousand square foot home to a fifteen thousand, don’t seem to think of, or want, a Butler—nannies and housekeepers are on top of their list. They’ll have a personal assistant who will ‘try and keep the home ticking over.’ It’s not until some time passes that they ‘get the picture’ that they really do need a professional butler to help them run their multi-million dollar investment.” PB
“I am afraid that the upcoming markets (abroad) will prove to be more difficult to step into for European/Western butlers, because of the cultural differences. I have seen many disappointed butlers return after a short time in these countries.” AB
“Overall I see the industry asking more from a butler candidate: to be a chef, a party planner, and do the shopping. Or to maintain all calendars, schedule and deal with all vendors, clean the house, do the laundry and pressing, and manage the staff at the other three homes they own, etc.” RC
Next issue: Part 6 Effective Ways of Attracting Future Employers
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 24
The Water Melon Fizz, Something For the Dog Days (hottest days) of Summer
by Amer Vargas
During the dog days of summer, I am tempted to depart from our normal alcoholic recipes and offer an easy-to-make beverage that will delight anyone during the hottest of days. All credit to whoever created this recipe originally—I found out about it from a Spanish television program called “El Comidista TV,” which translated, makes about as much sense in Spanish as in English: “The Eatist TV.” Directed by the famous and funny Basque food critic, Mikel Iturriaga, he presented the mix as a way of enjoying a refreshing soda without artificial additives or added sugars.
This is how it goes: peel and cut 500 gr. of watermelon, picking out and removing the seeds and place the flesh in a blender for a few seconds. Then add 250 gr. of de-stoned cherries and mix again at full power to ensure it becomes as smooth as possible.
Pour into a serving jug full of ice and top up with sparkling water for that added kick that a fizzy refreshment gives. Serve with two or three mint leaves to make it extra-refreshing.
There you go! Refreshing, healthy, and for all ages. Enjoy!
Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President—feel free to contact him via email, AmerVargas @ modernbutlers.com
Consulting the Silver Expert
Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 3
by Jeffrey Herman
If you have a silver piece that is quite tarnished, use a commercial silver cleaner, some of which provide tarnish protection. Use the least-abrasive product possible. Polishes that are designed to be washed off are less abrasive because they use a liquid to suspend the polishing ingredients.
The least abrasive of the commercial cleaners are Blitz Silver Care Polish (preferred for its combination of tarnish protection and its ease of use: apply, rinse, buff and apply, let dry, buff); Earth Friendly Silver Polish (preferred for maintaining the object’s original finish & being extremely mild in terms of abrasiveness); 3M’s Tarni-Shield Silver Polish; or Twinkle Silver Polish. If you are thinking of using other polishes, please, please refer to Silver Polish Abrasion Ratings.
If a purplish stain remains after cleaning the silver (not silver plate) piece, do not mistake this stain for tarnish! Attempting to remove it will only damage the silver. This is so-called fire stain, which is oxidized copper and can be found on many pre-colonial-through-early-twentieth-century pieces from America.
It is not generally seen on pieces that have been produced by the large American silver companies after the early 1900s, but many one-person silversmith shops still use this technique. I will not discuss the technicalities of fire stain here, but the stain is usually obscured with fine silver either by silver plating the object or through a process called “depletion.” The fire stain under this fine silver layer, which may be a few thousandths of an inch thick, may not show up until after many years of polishing. Consult with a restoration silversmith if this is an issue with any of your pieces.
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 @ 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.”