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
A very keen and conscientious individual wrote to me from London, asking for advice on post graduate training and other professional questions, concerning what to do before and after a course the individual was planning to attend, to learn how to be a butler. While I congratulated this individual on their decision at first, as the discussion continued, I was made privy to the curriculum that would be covered during the four weeks of butler training. It did not add up at all to a trained butler, but instead consisted of random (albeit related) subjects that I would consider useful add-ons. This leads me to conclude that there are some individuals in the butler educational field with beguilingly glitzy presentations who have not the first idea of what butling is about, and who are doing nobody a favor by pretending to be something they are not. There are enough for-real butler schools in existence—please, if you are considering the butler profession and quite correctly want training for same, compare many schools and decide upon the one that seems to provide the most comprehensive curriculum that is within your budget, and that can present some evidence of placement success for its graduates. As for schools that are not delivering what is promised, please feel free to contact me—I’d be happy to help up your game.
Butlers in the Media
An interesting article in Bloomberg provides some insights into life as a butler in The Plaza, where the Institute trained the butlers on their relaunch in late 2007. Interesting, that is, judging by the number of outlets who picked up on the story.
Some articles appeared of butler schools in China, with different parent companies in Europe, being well attended by Chinese students eager to fill the demand created by the TV series, Downton Abbey, among the newly wealthy in the country.
Adding to the list of commercial misuses of the word butler, we have Beach Butler, Legal Butler, Silent Butler, Bubble Butler, HVAC Butler, and Ice Butler. Don’t ask!
And when it comes to “robot butlers,” the invasion continues at a rapid pace, the latest being plans by one company that makes a robotic vacuum cleaner, to have it map and share floor plans of the house with third parties. As the author of the article points out, “Our smart devices were originally designed to make our lives easier and more efficient, but increasingly we are discovering they are making our lives more public and ‘marketable’ in the process.”
We would add that, in the event that our employers make the mistake of sliding down the slippery path of automation, then the very real fear (bearing in mind the paragraph above), that employees might violate the butler’s golden rule of respecting the privacy of the employer and not spilling the beans (privately or) publicly may become real, and they should be willing for the world to know their intimate lives in great detail, all in real time. It might be worth a timely reminder of this to your employer if they ever fall for the cost-saving, etc. glitter of robotic butlers and systems.
And finally, this poor gentleman just cannot help himself: He continues to make national news giving his opinions about his ex-employer in public, and about other royals whom he has not even met. He is regarded as a viable source by the tabloids because of his privileged former position as a butler; but when he so flagrantly disregards the most fundamental of requirements for the position, he immediately invalidates his reliability as a source. Good for the tabloids, perhaps (one reporter noted, “Paul Burrell is a great signing who will ensure plenty of juicy subject matter”). On one hand Mr. Burrell claims the media are going too far in talking about his ex-employer, and on the other, he does exactly the same thing himself. As one editor said, “That’s rich!” While another commented, “He will again shamelessly betray her by revealing more of her secrets on TV.”
“I’ve been accused sometimes of telling too many secrets [but] I only have one person to justify myself to,” says Mr. Burrell. He added that he “felt the need to share information that would ‘enhance her [his ex-employer’s] image,’ or when it was a message he felt she would want shared.”
He explains away the dismay the ex-employer’s family and friends, media, professional colleagues, and the general public, have expressed for his breaking of confidences—by claiming they are all jealous of his relationship with her. An embarrassing case of being blinded by hubris.
Not remarkably, he now claims he is “worried when the leaking of information is going to stop…. I am in control of what I know, I’m not in control of what everyone else knows…. Some things make me feel a bit—I think ‘That shouldn’t be said.’”
The wolf guarding the hen house, the pot calling the kettle black, the surprise at obvious outcomes, the butler who missed Butler 101—a lot of lessons here—I wonder when they will sink in.
None of this cuts the mustard for anyone with two brain cells to rub together and even the most rudimentary of ethical codes to call home; and the continued self-aggrandizements do little for our profession as a whole, nor our employers.
The Wisdom of Butlers Past, Part 4
The author discusses the need for an ethical approach to ones duties, citing an example from the Bible where Joseph, a slave, was bought by Potiphar to run his estate. Joseph did it in such an ethical fashion that Potiphar considered Joseph’s god was blessing Potiphar, too, and so left the running of the estate totally in Joseph’s hands. When Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to steal from his employer and jump into bed with her, he refused because, while his master had trusted him with everything, that did not include his wife, nor did it include considering his employer’s possessions to be fair game!
The author then tells of a servant in the Bible who was not ethical: after his master had cured a person of a disease, without asking for anything in exchange, the servant ran after that person and demanded money for the help he had received. The servant apparently was not given any money, but he did end up with the same disease for his pains!
The interesting point being that the author claims this same effort by servants to extort money from the recipients of an employer’s largesse before allowing them to see the employer again was a problem even 200 years ago. Extortion and theft still exist today in our profession, as we hear of occasionally in the media. What we do not hear about is the 99.9% of butlers and household/estates managers who quietly and ethically perform their duties—no doubt the same was true two centuries ago.
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.
The Butlers Speak
The Placement Game, Part 6 of 6,
Effective Ways of Attracting Future Employers
The last question asked in this series was: “What have you found to be effective in attracting future employers—both at the CV/resume stage, and during interviews?”
The answers were quite individual and no clear common actions or recommendations came through, so they are relayed here as-is, for the reader to take away what they feel might work best in their case.
“Be honest and clear about who you are, what you can and cannot do, and what you want. If you are given the job, you will have to deal with any liberties you may have taken with the truth for many, many years—very uncomfortable for both employer and candidate.” AB
“I constantly update my skills and resume. I keep my CPR certification updated and recently took a Nursing Assistant program offered through the community college—so I can add eldercare to my child- and animal-friendly resume. I also earned Servsafe Food Handlers’ Certification. In the fall, I plan on taking a bartending course (when I am not taking 15 credits at the University). Recently, I had my headshot done by a professional photographer. There are many professional services that will write your resume for a fee. As for interviews, that is a little more complicated; maybe, practice with a friend on some possible questions and develop good responses for the putative employer. Smile, be courteous, and show the potential principle that you listen. Listen to the questions that you are asked, and answer with an appropriate response. Have some questions to ask the employer—just in case they want you to ask them questions. Go to the library and take out books on the interview process. On-line, there is a wealth of information, too.” DS
“I am enjoying my last position before retirement and am not in search mode; however, my advice is to stay in every new position for at least three years, always keep your eyes and ears open for what could be your perfect position, and utilize your professional connections at all times to pursue that dream job! I would be very careful in trusting strangers with your livelihood and future—look before you leap, if you will.” LW
“Honestly, I probably will not be looking for another employer. I am with this family for the duration.” NS
“It is imperative to keep up with as much technology as possible, keep your CV/resume to no more than one page. I found out the hard way that it is nice to tell future employers where and who you have worked for, but they want the bottom line, not the whole novel. Go to your interview with a list of questions, it will help jog your memory in case you are sidetracked.
“If you have a heads-up on the employer/family, look them up, find out as much as you can about them. You don’t want to be asked, “How much do you know about us and our company?” and you had not taken the initiative. There will be times when the agent will tell you, ‘I can’t tell you who they are right now,’ in which case you can answer truthfully, ‘I don’t know who the principals are at this point.’ This may be a double test from the client, who told the agent not to mention who they are. All will be revealed soon enough if they are interested in moving to the next step.
“It’s best not to talk money at the initial interview, which for the most part is a meet and greet. If you receive a callback, then that could be time to ask about the compensation package. I would advise anyone working through an agent who says ‘Money is no object,’ to realize that money is always an object. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that statement only to find the principals are not willing to pay anywhere near my asking package. So do yourself a favour, ask for the range before you waste their time and yours. Other pointers I would suggest for the interview are: arrive on time—five minutes before call time is more than enough, anything earlier is bad manners. Look the part, be smart, well groomed, clean hands and shoes, a ring and a watch is more than enough. A firm handshake, I personally think is a MUST. If you are offered a drink, politely refuse, one less thing to worry about. Make sure, if you need the rest room, to go before you arrive.” PB
“I believe that having a resume that is structured and specific for private service is a major point. I think also having that personal relationship and having met with that placement specialist is vital for them to represent you to principles properly.” RC
“The most effective pathway is through one of the few high-end recruiters that have repeat C-level corporate clients. Try nailing your interview, when asked if you have any questions, with: ‘If I started work today, what could I do for you that would mean the most to you?’ ‘What personal qualities and traits do you value the most in an employee?’ ‘With what you know about me now, do you see any skills or traits that do not meet your expectations?’” SA
“I always ask interviewees what I should know about them aside from their resumes. A good CV will make you want to read more. That is how you make your way through the pile. LinkedIn is always used.” MB
Butler Sought in the United Arab Emirates
A private, VIP family in the UAE is looking for a Butler, who will primarily look after the elderly Father of the family. The right candidate will be male, between 30-40 years old (although other ages will be considered), with some hospitality or private service education and/or experience. You must speak good English and have a positive attitude. You will be tasked with responsibilities for every day needs, from wardrobe care to catering, including managing up to 5 existing household employees; coordinating the activities of household employees engaged in cooking, cleaning, and related domestic duties; working closely with the Estate Manager; and accompanying the family during (frequent) travel. You will have 1 day off per week and will live in private accommodations that are separate from the family. Single as well as married candidates will be considered. Good salary (range USD $2700 – $3200 per month) and benefits, including the costs of an annual trip home.
If interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume/CV, to be connected to the contact person for this position.
Book Review of Serving the Wealthy
Sections on the Role of the Butler and the Principal’s Wines, Part 5 of 12
by Gretchen dePillis
The text in Serving the Wealthy (volume 1, page 162 onward) is a useful reminder for acting as the “officer of wines.”
On my most recent jaunt to Italy, I learned a couple of additional “grapes of wisdom” from one sommelier that I would like to share: Firstly, let red wine breathe one hour for each year from the date on the label*; secondly, while wines are usually described in terms of taste, such as “fruity” or “toasted oak,” this sommelier prefers to describe wines as being “brisk and exciting” or “passionate.” You may wish to include such descriptors when recommending wines to pair with a proposed menu.
* Note from editor: We have not heard of such a rule, which possibly might apply to younger wines, but a fine wine in its senior years will be thoroughly spoiled well before the 30-hour mark!
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
Another area of expertise where we butlers can be creative is, of course, the dining table. Setting up a dining table for a beautiful dinner is an art. The tablecloth, the flowers, the quality and symmetry or asymmetry of it all makes a great impression. One thing we can add as a little touch is an artistic fold of the napkin.
Here is a simple, yet elegant one:
1. Fold the napkin to half to create a triangular shape.
2. Fold the closed side of the napkin three times towards the tip.
3. Flip the napkin over and start rolling it sideways. Start rolling from one flap and stop before you reach the second flap.
4.Tuck the second flap under the rolled part. Straighten it inside.
5. Pull the two bottom parts firmly and arrange them as two leaves.
6. Place the napkin in the desired position on the table.
Mr. Gutman is the head butler at a private hotel in Florida and can be reached via the Institute.
Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 25
The Blue Blazer
by Amer Vargas
Watching an episode of The Simpsons depicting the famous Flaming Moe (Episode 45 of season 3, for Simpsons geeks) inspired this writer to next address flaming cocktails. Since it would not be so easy to choose one, let’s aim for the first recorded flaming cocktail ever concocted.
The Blue Blazer was cocktail number 197 in the first bartender’s manual ever written, created by Jerry Thomas and published in 1862. The making of the cocktail is as follows:
“It is recommended to use ‘two large silver-plated mugs, with handles’ and the ingredients to be mixed are equal parts of Scotch whisky and boiling water. Have at hand a teaspoon of sugar for the last step.”
The liquids are poured into one mug, then ignited. While it is flaming, pour four or five times from one mug to the other, as shown in the drawing of the 1862 book and in the picture by Stefan Giesbert on the right, appearing as a continued stream of liquid fire.
After burning the alcohol for a few seconds, sweeten with the sugar and serve in a tumbler with a lemon peel.
Whilst the cocktail is delicious, it can also be dangerous, so practice pouring the drink from mug to mug without spilling a drop, before setting it alight—or you might have a not-so-funny fright!
Handle with care and 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 4
by Jeffrey Herman
Use the following technique and polish when
a) Polishing near unwaxed or cracked components (wood, ivory, mother of pearl, felt, etc.);
b) Working on wooden handles & finials (an ornament at the top, end, or corner of an object), ivory insulators, and felt used on the bottoms of such as candlesticks, which can become damaged when exposed to excess moisture;
c) Dealing with hollow areas that will not dry (beaded rims, handle sockets with minute holes, etc.);
d) There is no source of water.
- Apply the smallest amount of Blitz Silver Shine Polish on a large cotton ball or make-up pad;
- Rub the object in a straight, back-and-forth manner so as to maintain a uniform appearance—avoid rubbing in a circular motion. Rotate the ball or pad regularly to expose unused surfaces;
- Let the polish dry;
- Remove the polish with a Selvyt cloth (preferred) or cotton dish towel. Selvyt is a lint-free, untreated,100% cotton wiping cloth.
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.”