The Modern Butlers’ Journal
In its 13 year of publication
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise
Message from the Chairman
An interesting find this month: a hardback book on the profession written in 1823 that has been republished by Pryor Publications in England. I had missed this particular book when doing my research on butling in London in the 1980s. The book is written by the improbably named “Onesimus”, who claims to be semi-educated and yet writes like a professor of literature. One thing is certain: he knew the trade, and while we do not need to make blacking (shoe polish), for instance, these days, it is highly instructive to see how our predecessors polished shoes, and how the technology and practice has a) remained consistent in the basics while b) advancing with the conveniences brought about by science and technology over the last two centuries.
I highly recommend this book for everyone in our profession, and when priced at $22, the price of 3 or 4 lattes, including shipping from the UK (a special for the MBJ readership, as the price is usually $26.40 with s&h additional), it is an excellent investment. Email Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk) to place an order. Please mention that you are an MBJ reader in order to receive the discount.
We will be including a short column with interesting gems and tidbits from the book in each Journal, in the certain knowledge that much of what we do today will be reinforced by understanding the life of the butler two centuries ago.
A lengthy project in Europe provides the opportunity for new perspectives:
…on “Time” in Holland…
and “(Holding onto the) Past” in Venice…
…and Kotor (Montenegro)
Butlers in the Media
Mr. Osvaldo Torres continues with his successful action, holding the Second Convention for Hotel Butlers in the Dominican Republic.
The key butler has now entered the world’s lexicon, another service or thing that leans on the butler profession to boost credibility: it is a rental manager for Airbnb who helps landlords rent their apartments by assuming mundane duties such as receiving guests, key delivery, apartment cleaning, customer service, account optimization, and calendar maintenance. And then did you know there is a “silent butler”—essentially a serving pan with a lid for the buffet.
Mr. Burrell continues to put the profession in a bad light—too giddy with spurious fame to realize he is simultaneously making a fool of himself as an erstwhile (former) butler who thinks a) it is all about him and b) that he should be making the privacy of the family he served, public knowledge.
The digital intrusion continues apace,with the introduction of Facebook’s revamped “digital butler,” M. Unlike its digital colleagues, Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana, who wait to be asked, at least, before speaking, M listens to and butts into conversations with its own suggestions. Does someone want to advise Mr. Zuckerberg on the concept of invisible service? Maybe his own butler, if he has one, could start behaving like M and see how Mr. Zuckerberg likes it before he inflicts M on the rest of the world?
An interesting article, on the other hand, compares flesh-and-blood concierges with digital versions such as Siri—and concludes that the humans still have the edge!
Book Review of Serving the Wealthy
Sections on The Role of the Butler and the Principal’s Wines, Part 1 of 12
by Gretchen dePillis
A Wealth of Knowledge
This section of Serving the Wealthy—caring for the principal’s wine cellar and other aspects associated with fermented beverages—conjured up memories for me of when I walked through a Tuscan vineyard.
One point of interest that struck me was the rose bushes that I saw planted at the end of a row of grapevines. They serve, apparently, as an early warning system for diseases, as roses show decline before grape vines.
Looking more into the ancient techniques of grape growing and wine making, I found a project [http://www.farmersofwine.com/project/] conceived by Enoitalia, a wine producer, designed to capture the stories of Italian viticulturists who keep alive the traditional methods of wine making. It may prove to be an interesting backdrop to the information on wine provided in Serving the Wealthy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Making a Mold
by Kobi Gutman
After creating an object to mold, as shown in the previous publication, it is time to create the mold itself.
Silicone molding kits include two different liquids that need to be mixed together in a certain ratio (either by volume or by weight) and allowed to cure until it has turned into a rubber state.
A very good product I found and recommend is CopyFlex liquid silicone, which is sold on makeyourownmolds.com. For this project I used OOMOO 30 by Smooth On.
1.The first thing to do is to secure the object so it doesn’t move during the molding process. I glued the swan to a plastic plate and then build a clay wall around it as a “container.”
At this point, I normally fill the container with water a) to ensure there are no leaks and b) to see exactly how much silicone I need to make.
2.Mix both parts of the silicone according to the manufacturer’s instructions and stir well until the mixture is smooth in color and has no streaks.
3.Pour the mixture into the container in a thin stream to help eliminate air bubbles in the mold. Because silicone shrinks during the curing process, fill the container to about 1.5 inches above the object.
4.Let the silicone cure for the recommended time by the manufacturer—normally several hours.
5.Once cured, remove the silicone from the container and cut it open down the center of the swan using an X-Acto knife. I strongly recommend watching a few videos on how to cut open a mold before trying it yourself.
And there you have it. Your mold is ready.
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 2 of 6
Pointers Regarding Dealing with Agencies
Continuing the survey of butlers and HMs/EMs, we next asked what avenues had proven the most successful in securing positions.
“As a starting butler, fresh out of butler school and without any experience, it seemed impossible to find a position by only sending my resume to agencies: I was tired of receiving kind ‘Thank you’ notes, letting me know that I was in their system and should wait to receive proposals. So I called a few of them, and told them I wanted to say hello and present myself. The most important step in my search for a job was buying a plane ticket to London and visiting some agencies. That worked pretty well, because two weeks later, I was on my way to my current job!”
Similarly, another respondent stated, “Mr. Werner Leutert has a smaller agency, Home Staffing Network, with only him and a couple of employees assisting. I was able to visit with him and his wife at their place of business and succeeded in developing a wonderful business relationship. I believe this is the key to being correctly matched with an amicable position.”
Most respondents echoed the need to use an agency. One suggested that ours is an such an exclusive field that a domestic service agency is the best and safest avenue to secure employment—not generalized sources such as Monster, Indeed, and Career Builder, which can result in thousands of unqualified candidates applying, and the dangers some such un-vetted individuals may pose when accepted in an employer’s home. However, there is a case for using these career boards: The butler who applied for and landed one job on Craigslist clarified that he would not have done so if it were not an agency listing the advertisement. And as one butler pointed out, “If you type ‘Butler’ in the search box of Monster, the listings are usually made by private domestic service agencies.”
“LinkedIn,” likewise, “is a useful site to place a general professional profile without adding client names—post titles, years worked, and a list of applicable skills, as well as a professional photograph, are the things to include. Three agencies have contacted me on this channel.”
The importance of having a relationship with trusted and responsive agents in an agency was stressed by several because these individuals know their candidates enough to find the right fit; and being able to email them, and consult their websites, helps candidates to stay on top of opportunities.
Along the same line, networking with colleagues was also mentioned as a successful route for finding positions.
If agencies and networking are the best channels, then are there any caveats (risks) associated with them that can be highlighted and avoided? It seems so, from the responses.
“Agencies that send you for an interview after just a few emails back and forth.”
“Serious agencies only deal with people they have met. Later on, looking for staff myself, I found out why this is so important. Most mis-matches I see resulting from bad selection and placement procedures, foremost being poor communication between the three parties: employer, agency, and candidate. Candidates are so eager for a position that they often are afraid to discuss their needs/limits/comfort zone. Employers often don’t take the time to interview a candidate properly. And when the agency doesn’t set up a proper communication and take care of the placement/matching procedure, within two weeks the candidate is generally on his way home again.”
“Always read the contract! Some of mine have been up to 17 pages long; look up words you do not understand and know what is expected from the position. Furthermore, those interested in the field should take the opportunity to learn the trade. While short-term, in-person training is available from experts brought in by employers to work with the staff for optimum performance in some homes, it would be better to take advantage of courses that exist before seeking employment, or today, whether before employment or during it, engaging in on-line correspondence courses. These are a fantastic way to invest in oneself, and become educated, to gain some experience: I wish these programs had been available thirty-five years ago when I started my career.”
“Sadly it’s a numbers game with most agencies: they tend to be all over their candidates to send them to the interview, but rarely provide any feedback. In the world of agencies, butlers, house managers, and chefs are not the agency’s main bread winners, which honor goes to nannies and housekeepers. Agencies want to be able to say they have great group of people to send from ‘their pool,’ and we come with the prospect of a windfall in commission, but it’s hard to find any that work as hard for us as they do for the client.”
“Obviously, butler schools want to place their students first in order to entice them to attend their school in the expectation of being placed, so any positions they advertise are often only for their students.”
And final words of wisdom from a butler concerning his hiring of staff: “All channels require a relentless determination. Ultimately, you’re selling your personality first and foremost, followed by your experience. I have long averred (claimed to be a fact) that I can train an eager neophyte (a person new to an activity or profession). But I cannot change his or her personality. Assessing the innate presence of a service mentality is the first criteria (for me) when interviewing a new hire.”
In upcoming issues
Part 3 Recognizing and Avoiding “Sham” Agencies
Part 4 General Pointers
Part 5 The Future of the Job Market
Part 6 Effective Ways of Attracting Future Employers
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 22
Rimming the Glass, Part 1 of 3
by Amer Vargas
After last month’s Electric Blue Margarita, I received a private comment from one of our readers bringing to my attention the importance of rimming cocktails properly (when the drink requires it). So today we are focusing on the first step of this important decoration aspect of many cocktails, mentioning different choices that we may pick from when we rim our cocktail glass.
To rim the glass properly, it is important to have all the tools ready, so that after moistening the rim of the glass, it doesn’t become dry before we dip it into the “frosting” agent.
Sugar-rimmed Martini by Kim TheGirlsNY
So, step one is choosing the liquid to moisten the rim and keep the “frost” stuck to the glass.
Here we have many choices:
- Plain and easy, water;
- Lemon or lime wedges, for acidic citric cocktails;
- Orange wedges for sweet citric cocktails;
- Other fruits, like pineapples, strawberries, kiwi, apple… you name it;
- Juices, avoiding those with thick or abundant pulp;
- Spirits (not so common, but it would be one of the spirits used in the cocktail);
- Colored liqueurs or syrups like blue liqueur, peppermint, grenadine, kiwi…which will add color as well as some aroma, to match or contrast with the cocktail and make it more eye appealing;
- Be creative! Mexican micheladas (beer-based cocktails) call for rimming with beer, and Spanish sangría (wine with fizzy orange) and calimocho (wine with cola) looks best when served in rimmed glasses with wine. Thus, consider the main ingredient of the mix and use it!
Rimming with fruit is as simple as rubbing the fruit over the rim of the glass.
For liquids, we need a dish bigger in diameter than the glass that we are rimming. Pour enough fluid to cover the bottom of the dish to a depth of about about 2 mm (or more if we want to create a thick rimming). After soaking the rim of the glass by placing it upside down in the dish for a few seconds, tilt it above the dish and shake it gently to lose any excess liquid that might leave marks down the side of the glass.
Next month we will talk about the “frosting” agent to use after moistening the rim. Stay tuned!
Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas@modernbutlers.com
Consulting the Silver Expert
Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 2
by Jeffrey Herman
Do you own plated holloware or flatware that you are no longer using, but cannot detach yourself from because it was gifted to you by your grandmother? Then have you considered repurposing them? Polish the object(s), then apply some liquid car wax for long-lasting protection, or simply let them tarnish. Here are some ideas:
Repurposed Silver (c) Jeffrey Herman
|Open Salt||Ear buds, mints, coins, miniature cupcakes|
|Baby Cup||Cotton swabs, cactuses|
|Tea Caddy||Cotton balls, candy, donut holes, sugar, cocoa|
|Tea Caddy Spoon||Nuts, mints, M&Ms|
|Loving Cup||Plants, ice cubes, kitchen utensils|
|Trays (general)||Wall mirror|
|Card Tray||Keys, coins|
|Tea Ball||Christmas tree ornament, potpourri|
|Salt & Pepper Shakers||Powdered sugar, potpourri|
|Sugar Tongs||Nuts, mints, M&Ms|
|Cold Meat Fork||Salad servers|
|Nut Pick||Olives, anchovies|
|Asparagus Tongs||Cigar server|
|Cigarette Box||Handkerchiefs, jewelry, desk accessories|
|Fish Knife||Cake server|
|Ice Tongs||Matzos balls|
|Beaker||Pens, pencils, long cotton swabs, straws|
|Covered Butter Dish||Keys, watches|
|Waste Bowl||Pin cushion|
|Flatware||Frame in a shadow box|
|Goblet||Ice cream sundaes|
|Napkin Ring||Guest facecloth|
|Tea Strainer||Powdered sugar sifter|
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.”