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
iVIP is relaunching its service and the Institute has been asked again to provide the butler service for clients requesting it—mostly in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States. We would therefore like to hear from any private service butlers who are interested in joining our team and who can be contacted to see if they are available for the occasional assignment. As most assignments are short and can be fitted in on a day or two off, or during some vacation time, this opens the door to those already in service joining our ranks, too. Please contact us if you are interested.
Along a similar line, as the Chairman’s appearance last week on Fox Business Network in New York City shows, there will be an amazing opportunity for 10 British and European butlers to be part of the trip of a lifetime—20 days, 20 countries, two private jets in tandem, 50 guests (one party or possibly two related parties), 50 orchestrated events at the destinations, many firsts for service in the air, including a 1-to-1 staff/guest ratio in the air, top-of-the-line chefs, and the most amazing of locations—don’t think the usual resorts and water sports vacations, but for instance, serving canapés on top of a mountain at 13,000 feet and royal banquets in England. Multiple charities will benefit along the route. Valued at $14 million, the trip will be the most expensive and grand in scope in the history of tourism, and the quintessential experience for guests and butlers alike. The remuneration is not too shabby, either. We already have four slots taken, so let us know if you are interested. The trip is scheduled for August (this may change, depending on the client).
Butlers in the Media
The London Times reports that a Spanish priest, who has been jailed by the Vatican for leaking details of corruption in the priesthood, kept his gay lover close by having him pose as his butler, apparently. Do priests really need butlers?
Vespa, the scooter manufacturers, have broadened their product line to include personal cargo robots, but reporters still headline them as “robot butlers”—even when they simply scoot along the streets carrying cargo, like messenger boys or delivery truck drivers. They keep tacking on the notion of butlers like a post-it that has been used and re-used—maybe one day it will fall off and our professional title will not be taken in vain!
Ever heard of a Mid-Century Modern Butler’s Chair? Nope, nor had we. But one is being advertised for sale, even though “mid-century” and “modern” are oxymoronic.
In the trippy world of the Internet, the funkily named metanoodleblogspot has an interesting take on these robotic concierge services, generally mislabeled Digital Butlers.
The Institute’s on-line training courses are neither the cheapest nor the shortest, and do take focused and intelligent individuals to make it through. They are designed to provide the knowledge needed to succeed, and at a fairly affordable price. If 400 or so hours of home study and assignments for each of the longest two courses seems too daunting, then you could try one of the shorter courses. This is not a web-based course, but one with constant interaction with your tutor.
And keep in mind, anything worthwhile is probably going to take a bit of sacrifice here and there to accomplish—less time at parties, watching TV, cruising the Internet, and a bit of burning candles at midnight in your garret (a top-floor or attic, especially a small and dismal one, traditionally home for an artist who has yet to become famous).
A male butler is wanted for one day, attending the groom during his wedding on June 10, 2017. The wedding is to take place in Laguna Beach, and they are only interested in butlers from the local area. You’ll need to be available between about 2:00 and 7:00 pm that day. If you live within driving distance to Laguna Beach in the Southern California area, and are interested in helping out a groom in need, contact us for more details on this assignment.
Letters to the Editor
“Thank you for bringing us the Modern Butlers’ Journal! I always read it with great pleasure, and find it interesting to see what is going on in the world of butling.” AB
My employer is searching for a wine-control software-system to incorporate into his collection, which currently is only about 500 bottles, but he intends to increase it to about 3,000. Do you have the name of a good system or two that they might research and eventually acquire? LW
Ed: Good question on the cellar inventory. While I have no personal experience with such, the following two links (the second one a freebie) may prove of use for the home enthusiast (who is not concerned with sales, etc.). This third site provides five possible solutions (some not so good).
“You might not recall, but I contacted you probably 12 years ago while I was a private chef. I was unhappy in my situation and was looking to return to estate/home management. You offered me some good advice about making sure I didn’t compromise what I am seeking in employment for the sake of taking any job I could find. I greatly appreciated the advice you offered and can happily state that I just passed my 10-year anniversary with my principal. Thank you!!
“Now to my reason for contacting you: I find at times some awkwardness with some of the guests and myself when there are social events at my principal’s home which they’ve lived in for 5 years now. There’s no delicate way of saying this, so I’ll just say it: we regularly have guests clog the toilet. The toilet in question is a Toto style which keeps with the esthetic of my principals, but I think it must have some design flaws because all of the toilets in the home are Totos and this is the only one that is a different style from the rest and is also the only one that clogs. It’s not a question of using another powder room, as this is the main one for people to use and is in the main hallway near where almost everyone is during the events, and therefore is more frequently used. I am usually stationed in this hallway and see frantic guests coming out looking for help and thus starts the awkward moments as they are embarrassed and I am trying to be as discreet as possible, but with how central this location is, it is rather difficult.
The style of this powder room is very minimal. Small low toilet, mother-of-pearl walls with a minimal sink and vanity. There are no drawers or cabinets in which to hide a toilet plunger. So my question is, is it acceptable to put a toilet plunger in this powder room and leave it there or would that be poor taste? I have never worked in a home where plungers were left out in the open as they were typically kept in cabinets or discreetly hidden. The design of this powder room is so unaccommodating when it comes to hiding anything. I have discussed this with the principals and they understand the issue, however, they are not so keen on having a plunger “on display”—their words. I am hopeful you will have some good advice for this situation. AH
Ed: Good to hear from you again: I do remember the interchange vaguely, and am glad that the suggestion proved to be on the mark. Congratulations on passing the 10-year mark!
Interesting problem to be faced with: the plunger is a solution to a problem, but does not address the cause. Invariably, when one tries to provide a solution without addressing the cause of the problem being solved, it will result in some other problem.
What is the cause? Have you had plumbers in to snake the line, or inspect the toilet to see why it, and none of the others, is blocking? Is this toilet bowl the only one on the ground floor? Finding and addressing the cause is always the best approach.
If there really is no cause that can be located, and you have done everything possible, even to the extent of replacing the toilet, then the only other solution I can see is to (I hate to say it) cut into the mother-of-pearl wall and create recess for the plunger, and cover the door to that recess with mother-of-pearl, so it is like a secret door that is not visible. Alternatively, build a small box onto the wall for the plunger and cover it with mother-of-pearl. I would be interested in your feedback, as I may well be lacking pertinent information that would militate against my solutions.
Book Review of Serving the Wealthy
Sections on Tea (Volume 1, pages 248-251 and Volume 2, page 317)
What a Full Afternoon Tea Means (Part 1 of 3)
by Gretchen dePillis
It is my privilege to review the system of knowledge presented in the two-volume edition of Serving the Wealthy. The reason I call it a “system” is because these two books are organized to serve as a cross reference to each other. Not only is the content pertinent to private service, but it also has a wider application in the corporate world, hospitality, and so forth.
For this first review, I will touch upon the topic of a Full Afternoon English Tea. The procedure for how to prepare and serve a proper tea, is outlined in several pages in Volume 1. A very useful tea checklist is provided in Volume 2 (Appendix 16d, page 317).
I can tell you from personal experience that if an airplane pilot does not go through the pre-flight checklist before take-off, I will not fly with that pilot nor his/her craft again. I value the diligence and attention to detail needed to review a checklist to ensure nothing has been forgotten. Even if you have done this for years, there is always that one day you are distracted and may forget a single, yet vital step. It is for this reason, I urge you to keep the checklist in Volume 2 handy when serving tea, even if you feel you have it memorized, to ensure you do not negatively impact the tea experience. Should a small detail be omitted, there is the potential you disrupt the ambiance and experience for the guests you are serving.
“Having tea” is not merely a request to have a warmed beverage. Rather, it is an opportunity to partake in an elegant ceremony, and the butler is a key player in making sure the EXPERIENCE of the tea leaves the participants feeling satisfied and happy.
You will notice that one of the items on the checklist includes “small boxes for leftovers.” Examples of leftovers boxes can be found here. You may want to commission boxes with the name or crest of your employer’s estate (or company’s logo) on the box to serve as a parting memento for the guests.
In the next two parts of this review, I will provide some additional history on tea making, and then two recipes for tea treats, one by a butler. Reading these two volumes has inspired me to write, and I know of one other butler who has also been inspired to write by them, in order to share his knowledge, too.
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
Types of Molds
by Kobi Gutman
In the February issue, we touched on the subject of mold making in order to create soap sculptures more easily and rapidly. Before we discuss the technicalities of how to do it, let us briefly review the types of molds.
Various ways and substances can be used to create a mold, but no matter which technique or material we use, we are essentially looking at three basic types.
The first and simplest type is the one-part mold: This type is normally used to create items that have design on one side and are completely flat on the other side, such as when making a hand-print in wet cement. Once dried, the cement is basically a one-part mold.
For the second type, imagine submerging your hand in cement and leaving it there until the cement dries. In order to remove your hand, we need to cut open the cement around the hand. If we then cut the mould into two horizontally (taking care not to cut the hand!), the top mold would have the back of the hand imprinted, and the lower mold would have the forehand printed. We would have a two-part mold that could be used to create a complete, three-dimensional hand.
The last mold type is the multi-part mold used for irregular-shaped objects that, in order to take out the item, would require cutting the mold into more than two parts. Think, for example, of an octopus that would require multiple cuts to free from the mold.
The first thing we need, for any type of mold, is of course the object to be molded. We can use an existing object or we can make one ourselves. And that’s where we are heading next. The double mold of a swan above is the one we will create together, step-by-step, starting in the next issue.
Mr. Gutman is the head butler at a private resort in Florida and can be reached via the Institute.
The Butlers Speak
How much does Technology Figure in the Modern Butler’s & Household Manager’s World?
Not too surprisingly, 88% of the butlers and estate/household managers surveyed are required to use and know how to use technology—in the form of computers, smart phones/tablets, home management and security systems. But even those who had worked in estates where technology was in use, had also worked in other estates were there was little use of technology. The ages of the employers ranged from 35-85, but those in their 60s and 70s were amongst those taking advantage of technology in their homes.
Those households shunning most technology still a) have top-of-the line security systems, and b) require their butler to have a smart phone so the employers can connect easily with them. As one butler, whose employer is in his 80’s and so not too conversant with technology, puts it: “When I select a hotel, the amount of technology used in the suite is one of the important criteria: Nowadays, many hotels use i-Pads or similar units to control everything from the entertainment systems to the lights and curtains. To avoid finding the boss in the morning with the lights and TV still turned on, I only choose suites with old-fashioned and easily accessible light switches.”
No households use robots as yet, although one has a robot vacuum cleaner and is considering bringing in a self-driving Tesla—which will be an interesting development—scheduling the vehicle to be bring itself to the front door. One wonders if these vehicles will have self-opening doors, doing the butler/under-butler out of one of his traditional duties—even new, low-end cars these days unlock as one approaches with the key fob, so we are half way there.
Only one of the butlers was sufficiently trained when starting in her position to manage all the technology requirements of their employer, but each butler surveyed has worked hard to study online, attend seminars, ask friends, ask younger employees, arrange private lessons, ask the installers or vendors, to help them come up to speed. As there is such a wide range of technological applications and they are evolving constantly, there is no way that one can avoid having to learn on the job, but all butlers were in agreement that the more one can boost one’s ability to use different types of equipment and systems, the more valuable one will be and the more likely to be hired.
Only one is completely behind the 8-ball on technology: “I feel totally unprepared to work in a household with more technology than a microwave and which was built later than 2006! Since we have so little technology in our traditional household, I am completely unaware of nowadays’ possibilities and solutions for household management. I must confess that this shortcoming also has something to do with my personal lack of affection for technology, but it is on my wish list to add it to my skills as I know these tools can make our work easier and better organized.
One estate manager, Ms. Diane Shaheen, recounted the time line of technological progress as it has impinged upon private service: “Technology has been in every home I’ve worked in since 1980. The wealthy I worked for always had the most modern technology of that time period. In the 1990’s home, intercom systems were introduced, as well as electronic gates, and (very large) mobile phones. It was in 2000 that I started to see use of the more advanced surveillance equipment for both inside and outside of the home. Inside the home, stereo and home theaters were becoming more elaborate with increased size and capabilities. About 2005, I started to see technology experts on our vendor list of regular visitors. It is amazing to see the amount of computer technologies that we use in the homes where I have worked in the last ten years. The ‘smart phone’ and ‘smart home’ have revolutionized the mega mansions in which I have had the pleasure to work.”
What can we look forward to in the next decade? The butlers in the know suggest ubiquitous voice activation and even “total automation, if that is what the employer wants. Except, from my research, robots cannot grasp gently enough with their hands. That will most likely change one day. I do not see any family having robots for all their domestic service personnel: house yes; family no.”
“All homes will become more streamlined, secure, and with accounting and inventory checking, just to name a few. The home I’m in currently just implemented such systems. My bosses can tell when and by whom the alarm was set and turned off, can check the security cameras on their phone or iPad, no matter where they are in the world. At first, I was a little resistant, but soon became comfortable and now wouldn’t have it any other way: It’s a time saver and a lot more accurate.”
Training for private service has to include more and more courses and workshops on the various technology systems in use. And while automation and robots will become more prevalent in households, it is up to us to run them, or they may well be running us out of a job!
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 20
by Amer Vargas
In this journal, we are taking a good look at one of the delicious and improvised cocktails by connoisseur Nancy Mitchell from thekitchn.com (that’s not a typo!). We chose this particular cocktail because, as you will see, it is also related to the butler world, since it bears the name of one of the characters in Downton Abbey, a must-see drama series most butlers love, for we can see ourselves at work (a century ago).
Today, we will prepare a Lady Sybil. In the TV series, the role of Lady Sybil is beautifully played by Jessica Brown-Findlay, whose main features are her sweetness (in later years), as well as her self-confidence and stubbornness, all of which will be captured in this lovely, sweet and strong mix.
To prepare the Lady Sybil cocktail, we will need gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and some very chilled brut champagne.
Let’s make it!
First, we pour 1 oz/3 cl of gin and 3/4 oz/2.2 cl of St. Germain elderflower liqueur over ice in the shaker. After mixing, we strain it into a flute champagne glass, then we top it up with the chilled champagne, leaving an elegant and beautiful looking glass with condensation developing on the outside.
Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas @ modernbutlers.com
Q: Can you recommend any videos or sources for polishing silver?
A: For many years I have viewed videos online, produced by well-intentioned but ill-informed individuals, demonstrating harmful silver polishing techniques. Some use horribly abrasive products such as Nevr-Dull, toothpaste, or baking soda. Some advocate the use of the toxic product Tarn-X which, although not abrasive, will remove silver and factory-applied patinas, promote the formation of tarnish, all while being toxic. The aluminum foil technique (in which the user is encouraged to soak silver in water containing baking soda and a piece of aluminum foil) will also allow tarnish to form more quickly. Also, many videos say that it’s okay to put silver in your dishwasher—that’s not true, either! Others recommend applying silver polish with a brush? Really? Do you want to put deep scratches in your silver, remove all natural and factory-applied patina, and remove your silver-plating in 30 seconds?
I have spent 28 years testing products and researching the subject of silver care. With proper care, your silver will remain beautiful for generations! My widely respected Silver Care Guide gives you the most common sense and gentle approach to cleaning and storing your silver. Really!
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.