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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, December 2017, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The Modern Butlers’ Journal

December 2017

In its 13th year of continuous publication

International Institute of Modern Butlers

Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise

Message from the Chairman

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry

The Professional Standards of Performance for butlers and household managers have been published as a detailed addition to A Professional Butler’s Code of Ethics: Copies of these standards have been sent to our members, and are also available on the Institute’s web site. They are discussed at length in the book Serving the Wealthy: The Modern Butler’s and Household/Estate Manager’s Companion, as well as in the continuing series below by Professor Ratliff. We do look forward to input from you on any tricky situations you have run into during your career, to open the discussion on how the Professional Standards of Performance could be applied for a happy outcome. Together, we can pool and collate our skills and experience into useful pointers for those who follow in our footsteps.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Institute and the Modern Butler’s Journal!

Butlers in the Media

One can now purchase a «Charles the Butler 6-Piece Towel Set»; a Fajita Butler (to help restaurant goers make their own fajitas); and a «Menu Board butler» (not clear what this is, but it seems to be a dozen place cards).

Unfortunately, a butler in Northern England had a gambling habit and thought it best to deal with the inevitable debts by hawking the elderly principals’ valuables, and trying to pull the wool over their eyes when they wondered where their Picasso’s and Fabergé’s were disappearing to. Reprehensible. The individual who hired the butler obviously did not check his background well enough, because the warning signs were there. Although the butler was given free accommodation, his pay was pitiful, so this idea amongst some employers that it is fine to pay the help a pittance is probably a mistake they’ll never recognize (despite the expression «Pay peanuts, get monkeys»)—a mistake that cost them two million GBP in heirlooms, versus, say 60,000 GBP if they had simply doubled his salary over the years the butler worked for them. As for the butler—no formal training, just a military background—an old route into the butling profession based on points of discipline and acquiescence more than any other, more relevant skills.

All of this was avoidable with a modicum of intelligent management.

Letters to the Editor

«What a wonderful idea, asking the Butler community for its input on issues that we know we have all experienced at one time or another. I, for one, no longer feel alone in my thoughts and feelings, so thanks for your insight. I look forward to starting a new month with your wonderful news letter, please keep up the good work, Sir.» PW

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #2

By Professor Richard Ratliff

An Awkward Dinner Guest

(A Real Life) Scenario: A couple invited to a small dinner party asked permission to bring a visiting friend. Arriving, this friend loudly interrupted and usurped the conversations; he instructed the hostess on how to prepare a “proper” Italian minestrone soup (the first course of the meal); wore a casual shirt and cardigan whereas the dress code was tie and jacket (explaining that people where he was from knew how to hold a “relaxed and enjoyable dinner party”); noted the mental and social inferiors he had met at a Rotary luncheon earlier that day in town with his host; and committed other gross faux pas. The insensitive, ill-mannered guest was ruining the evening for everyone. The couple who had brought him was obviously distressed at his behavior. So the dinner host summoned the butler quietly: “Please do something!”

Standards: Professional Standards of Performance state the following: “A butler must be able to resolve and manage awkward circumstances with poise while preserving the dignity of others and the occasion. The butler…should employ…a relationship-based…philosophy. Any guest is a very important person (VIP) and should be treated as such. [H]ousehold staff should cater to guests’ tastes, preferences, and comfort, consistent with house rules and standards, according to the employer’s wishes.”

A Butler’s Professional Code of Ethics requires the following: “Serve members of the household and guests as they choose to be served…” Work toward achieving a strong foundation of mutual respect in your relationships with…guests….Behave respectfully toward all persons….”

Possible Solution: The butler might quietly inform the offending guest that the chef wanted to make sure he understood the guest’s suggestions for the soup—would the guest please see the chef now in the family dining room? Arranged by the butler, the chef would be waiting in the family dining room, discuss the suggestion, “thank” the guest, and then exit to continue his evening duties. Meanwhile, the butler might request the guest’s further assistance and enjoin another staff member to discuss with the guest—taking profuse notes—an “upcoming event”, including possible themes and details for the affair. The staff member would serve the guest in the family dining room while they talked. Meanwhile, the butler would continue dinner service for the main party, making apologies for the now-absent guest. The empty place and chair would be cleared from the main table. The butler would check on the guest from time to time as to his comfort and how the planning was going. The consultation might well last the entire dinner, ending in time for the guest to join his host before returning home. If he had to miss dessert, then a dessert tray could be prepared in thanks for him to take, and a follow-up thank-you note sent by the butler for his kind assistance.

For a more direct approach, especially if the dinner party would last longer than the guest could be kept separated, the butler might simply tell the guest, once the chef had left the room, that the host felt the evening might proceed more smoothly for all concerned if the guest made a point of listening, rather than talking, for the balance of the evening. The butler might need to handle guest upset or objections, and if not resolving, suggest that it might be better if the guest enjoy the balance of the meal with a good movie.

I encourage readers to email us with suggestions and questions raised in dealing with difficult situations you may have encountered in the course of your duties—so we can discuss them further.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles.

The Wisdom of Butlers Past, Part 7

In the final section of the introduction, the author states that he is about to retire as a butler and wants to pass on his knowledge, which he has found to be workable and to result in a lifetime of service that has been pleasing to his employers. He exhorts those coming into the profession to avoid various “sins” (drunkenness, womanizing—he might have added drugs to the list, had they been an issue two centuries ago), and to “improve yourselves by every means within your power.” All of this is pretty obvious to any professional, but if we look at the state of the society in which we operate, and from which we have to hire staff, we might wonder at the collective insanity that is enforced by law or peer pressure as «normal» these days.

Take-away from his introduction? Society has changed and standards have shifted in the last two centuries and so, while the challenges we face in establishing and managing a household are fundamentally the same, they are different on the surface. The tools we have are different, too. Back then, we had the Church and moral standards and peer pressure to keep things strictly in line. Today, we have knowledge and technology to assist us in providing what can ultimately be a happier and more pleasing estate for employers and staff alike.

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 ( and telling him you read about the offer in the Modern Butlers’ Journal.

The Butlers Speak

Finding & Managing Staff, Part 3 of 3

How do you manage the staff once they are on board? 

«When staff are first hired, I meet them one-on-one every week to go over any issues or concerns. We also talk every day  about their schedules and how things are going that day. Any serious issues are taken care of immediately. I encourage the staff to work out any personal issues they have with their co-workers. I am always open to suggestions on how to do things better, in a more timely fashion, and I do value their opinions. I never share personal information about an employee with another.  My principal defers any household decisions to me. If an employee asks him/her about something, they are referred back to me. In my opinion, this is the best possible way to keep everyone informed and up to date on issues. It prevents the ‘he said, she said’ problem, too.» NS

«I find giving new hires as much information about the position and what is required is very important, as well as telling them any and all house rules. I make a point of encouraging them to ask as many questions as they want, the only silly question being the one not asked. I find it takes a good month for the new hires to start to feel comfortable, I make it a point to check in with them during the day, to check on their work, and I find that giving praise is equally as important as pointing out things that may be wrong and how to improve them—it’s all in the delivery, really.» PBW

«Once trained, their task is to apply all their best skills and traits, while looking to expand their awareness of the workplace and principals. I have never had to ‘manage’ or even ‘supervise’ employees, because all have been a cohesive team with the highest regard for each other and the daily goals. I’m there to organize, make decisions, interface with principals, and be their primary source of daily information. I’m also there to offer a shoulder to cry upon, if needed.» SA

«I try to relay relevant information to the staff as it is given to me. Nothing kills morale faster than a staff who feels left out. They cannot successfully perform their duties if they do not have important information. And I relay this information in person, whenever possible, conveying my expectations as it relates to them. For example, I may inform the chauffeur of a change in the evening’s activities whilst adding ‘This isn’t quite what Mr. wanted, so be sure to keep a cheery disposition, lest we add to his grief.  Perhaps you could suggest a game he might be interested in watching, since the traffic will slow his journey?'» CH

How do you keep them motivated? 

«I make it a point to celebrate all birthdays together. We have lunch every day together, so I bring in treats or a surprise for them. I make a point of thanking each staff member throughout the day if, after making a special request, I notice they are doing a great job, or they have a good idea to share, etc.  Again, I value their input and I want them to succeed and know they are appreciated.  Whenever I have a chance to give them a special task, I do.  Whether it’s preparing for an upcoming event at the residence, preparing guest rooms for overnight guests, assisting with a lunch meeting, etc. They always jump at the chance to do something a little different. They really enjoy the break from their normal schedule.» NS

«I try to make everyone who works with me feel a part of the team, for without the team we, the house, are nothing. The same person signs my check as signs theirs. Motivating one’s team comes from the top; if the top is willing to unblock a toilet when everyone else is doing something else, it shows the rest that ‘Yes, he can ask me to unblock it, but he never gives me a job he wouldn’t or couldn’t do himself.'» PBW

«I create a feeling of family and belonging. Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and even weddings when invited. Annual performance bonuses, generous compensation, and laughter.» SA

«As the household budget allows, I periodically offer to refresh their supplies or tools or uniforms. I also invite them to tell me what they might need to be successful. I visit their supply cabinets regularly and pay attention to the condition of their break room and uniforms. Early in my career, I found a house staff having to eat their lunch in a windowless garage: Before I left that employer, the staff were eating their lunch in a climate-controlled, cheerful break room with a big window. I request that my employer pay for every staff member to be CPR/First Aid trained, scheduled on-site, so everyone is certified or re-certified at the same time. Finally, I maintain the tradition of allowing staff members to request the dessert of their choice on their birthday. They are welcome to share it with other staff or to take it home to share with their family or friends.»  CH

How successful are f) and g) in terms of performance and longevity? 

«Very successful!!!  We have two employees who have been with us for eleven years and another for nine years. I’ve been in my position for fourteen years. I give a lot of the credit to our principals and their willingness to let go, to let their employees work for them. In the beginning that was a little bit of a challenge.» NS

«For me, support, clear direction, fairness, compromise are all key, a delicate balance that on some days is off for a moment…it’s called life. We are at work a good many hours, I want to make it as enjoyable as possible for both sides: that’s called give and take. The family comes first of course, but without my staff and a good team effort, I am nothing, I can’t do it alone. Making everyone happy is hard, but as long as I try, I feel I’m doing my job.» PBW

«The most recent hire celebrated her tenth anniversary with the family in July.  The oldest employee pre-dates me by 18-years. Each day, we know our goals and know the principals so well that we can easily manage the inevitable daily variations and unexpected curves. I would say we are slightly spare on staff, but that leanness appeals to the gentleman. We have call-in help for special projects or events, and that’s essential when working lean. I keep them ‘in the fold’ by calling them in for deep cleaning, which takes place incrementally all year long whenever the family is traveling.» SA

«If, and only if, the employer endorses the management and motivation practices I have outlined above, is there any success in reaching and maintaining performance excellence and longevity.» CH

Temporary Butler Sought in Carmel-by-the-Sea for May 2018

Temporary butler wanted to assist with a 4-day family vacation in a rented home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, during May 18-21, 2018. The family consists of 15 people and will be having one formal dinner during their time at the estate. They are looking for someone who can set up meals with already-prepared food, clean up after meals, keep the kitchen clean during their 4-day stay, mix drinks, make coffee/hot chocolate/snacks when requested, and set up/prepare some light decorations for the dinner (centerpieces, dessert table). The ideal candidate should be comfortable handling the above requirements and dealing with family gatherings and could be male or female; preferably you live fairly local (SFO/Bay area), although the family is willing to cover travel costs if needed for the right candidate.

If you’re interested in this assignment for May of 2018, please contact the Institute at enquiries @ with your current résumé and photo, for more details.

Book Review of Serving the Wealthy, Sections on the Role of the Butler and the Principal’s Wines

by Gretchen dePillis

Biodynamics and sulfites in wines

The owner of a biodynamic vineyard I visited recently outside Lucca in Italy, told me that a one-liter bottle of commercial wine may contain up to 200 milligrams of sulfites, because sulfites are added to non-organic wines.

Compare this to organic and biodynamic (which is actually an even higher standard) wines, which have naturally forming sulfites (sulfur dioxide) of 10 milligrams per liter.

This distinction is important because those with allergic reactions to sulfites may experience decreased lung functionality after consuming or inhaling sulfites, and/or headaches, asthma, and skin irritation.

The United States requires a statement “contains sulfites” on wine labels whenever the sulfites exceed 10 parts per million (ppm), although it is not necessary to state how many. Some connoisseurs can smell sulfites as low as 50 ppm — a “cooked egg” smell (from hydrogen sulfide or dimethyl sulfide) when first opening a bottle, although the smell dissipates after the wine has been allowed to breathe a while.

As the National Organic Standard Board in the US voted down a petition to add sulfites to organic wines, one may want to stock the cellar with organic wines for sulfite sensitive principals or guests.

However, as with so many other food and drink labels, one has to pay attention to how unpopular information is disguised in the effort to sell. Made With Organic Grapes does not mean the wine is organic, nor that sulfites have not been added. The label has to specify that the wine is organic or Biodynamic to know that no extra sulfites have been added.

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 @

Creative Corner

KobiGutmanChristmas Tree Napkin Fold

by Kobi Gutman

Following the rose napkin fold in the September issue, here is one that’s perfect for the holiday season!



  1. Start with a square napkin and fold it half way
    vertically, and then half way horizontally.




2. All the corners of the unfolded napkin will end up at the same corner in four layers. Pull the first layer up towards the top corner.





3. Do the same with the rest of the layers. Each layer should be slightly underneath the previous one.




4. Flip the napkin and fold one side, as shown in the picture




5. Fold the other side the same way. 

6. Flip the napkin again.





7. Fold the top layer upward.


8. Fold the next layer the same way and tuck it under the top layer.




9. Do the same with the last two layers.




10. Tuck the remaining part fully under the last layer.




  1. There you have it, the Christmas tree napkin.



Happy Holidays!!


Mr. Kobi Gutman is the head butler at a private resort hotel in Florida and can be reached via the Institute.

Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 27

Strawberry Daiquiri Cocktail and Mocktail

by Amer Vargas

As Christmas Season approaches, our souls feel more inclined to spend time with family and friends, to warm up in the closeness of a relaxing fire and in the company of our dearest ones. The magic of the last days of the year surround us and happiness fills the lives of children (and adults alike) with the arrival of Santa Claus.

This month’s cocktail (and mocktail) pays homage to the gentle big fat man from the North Pole who delivers happiness and fun not only to the little ones of the family, but also to the not-so-little ones who prepare for Santa’s arrival armed with loads of enthusiasm and passion.

As it couldn’t be otherwise, a vivid red color predominates in this delicious strawberry cocktail, and we are adding a thick sugar brim to match Santa’s typical outfit.

These are the ingredients needed for a serving of Strawberry Daiquiri: 2 oz of rum of your choice, the juice of half a lime, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 6 frozen strawberries and 4-6 oz of a lemon- or lime-flavored carbonated drink. To prepare the cocktail, put all the ingredients, except for the carbonated drink, in a blender and blend until smooth. Then add the carbonated lemon or lime drink and blend to ensure the mix is homogeneous.

We generally present daiquiris in a hurricane glass. Before serving you can make a thick, sugar frost around the brim and after serving, finish by decorating with a slice of lemon or lime.

If you want a daiquiri for all ages, just skip the rum. Everyone will love it!

Merry Christmas and Ho Ho Ho!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President—feel free to contact him via email, AmerVargas @

Consulting the Silver Expert

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 7

Jeff Hermanby Jeffrey Herman


It’s that simple. There are four major reasons for keeping your prized sterling and silverplate out of the ‘chamber of doom.’

(1) Any factory-applied patina (the blackening in recessed areas) will be removed eventually;

(2) The harsh detergent, combined with the washer’s high cleaning temperature, are much too abrasive for silver—they will eventually turn the silver grey or white, with a dull, non-reflective surface;

(3) Most older, and some repaired hollow-handled knives, are filled with pitch. This low-melting cement will expand with heat, possibly forcing open a thin solder seam, or exploding the knife blade out of the handle;

(4) Silver that touches stainless in the dishwasher can create a chemical reaction, producing black spots or pitting on the stainless and possibly requiring the silver to be professionally refinished.

Sterling, like a fine automobile, must be handled with tender, loving care. Would anyone drive a Rolls Royce through a car wash?

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either contact him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or via email jeff @

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.»



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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2017, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The Modern Butlers’ Journal

November 2017

In its 13th year of continuous publication

International Institute of Modern Butlers

Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise

Message from the Chairman

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry

A lot of interesting subjects (to butlers at least) in this month’s MBJ.

This year has been quite tumultuous, one might think, if one is to believe the media and follow the effects being created by a very small minority of individuals and groups. It is not a dangerous world, as the media and such individuals would have us believe; and whatever problems they hammer continuously into our minds—to the point where we might throw up our arms in defeat and retreat into the smart phone, tablet, laptop, bottle or syringe—something can be done about them.

But more to the point, in the real world, most people continue to enjoy life and take pleasure in interacting and exchanging with their fellow humans, dogs, and life in general. This is the truth of the matter—not this virtual world of blood and guts, tragedy and collapse—and we will all do much better when we ignore the rantings and ravings, disconnect from the (bad) news, and simply focus on flourishing and prospering as individuals and communities. Certainly that is my wish for our profession and the people we serve.

Butlers in the Media

The use of robot butlers to deliver items to hotel guests is spreading, as Hilton joins the bandwagon. Some good news concerning human versus automated service providers: human concierges prove to be superior to app concierges by actual trial. Hopefully, this will help reverse the trend over the last three years that has seen a 20% drop in the number of luxury hotels employing concierges.

One misuse of the word «butler» that seems to have caught the media’s imagination is «Instagram Butler,» wherein a resort photographer provides guests with imaginative shots for their use on Instagram. A Realty Butler apparently makes Realtors’/Real estate Agents’ lives easier online; a Yard Butler landscapes the garden.

As Fran Nachman, concierge of the Sonesta hotel in Philadelphia pointed out in the above-linked article, «The word (concierge) has been co-opted by so many companies and products that some are forgetting that its original meaning refers to a profession.» The same fate could be awaiting butlers unless we keep the definition alive, and refer to any other use of the word «butler» as «any object or service trying to increase its prestige in the mind of the consumer by drawing on the superior-service reputation of the butler in looking after wealthy and powerful people.» Or does anyone have a better definition?

No less than three butlers were interviewed about their work for Hugh Hefner, who just passed away. One was complimentary and another was derogatory, painting two different pictures of the same individual.

Likewise, a butler to the Queen of England, no less, spoke about her abdicating. Whether made as an unofficial statement or an official release, a butler is a highly inappropriate avenue for such revelations, as it forwards the idea that butlers are blabbermouths if they are the first port of call for the media concerning celebrity business—hardly a part of the job description, or something we want to encourage as a reputation.

Finally, the chairman was interviewed for a short article about various things butler.

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications

By Professor Richard Ratliff

The International Institute of Modern Butlers has formulated a comprehensive set of Professional Standards of Performance for butlers and household managers. These standards have been published as detailed additions to A Professional Butler’s Code of Ethics. Copies of these standards are available from the Institute’s web site and are discussed at length in the new publication, Serving the Wealthy: The Modern Butler’s and Household/Estate Manager’s Companion.

We will be running a series in the Modern Butler’s Journal of brief scenarios showing how the new standards may be applied to specific circumstances faced by today’s butlers and household managers. The first in the series follows below.

Additionally, we encourage readers to email questions raised in dealing with difficult situations they may have encountered in the course of their duties—so we can discuss them further.


Scenario: A newly hired butler set the table for a family dinner on his first day of work: a standard, informal setting for plated service. The employer had requested a four-course sequence—soup, salad, lamb and potatoes, and sorbet for dessert. The butler set the soup spoons on the outside right of the plate, salad knives middle right, and main course knives next to the plate on the right. Forks likewise were placed outside left for the salad and inside left for the main course. Sorbet spoons were to be brought on the dessert plates when served.

The employer’s wife requested that salad knives be moved to the left of the dinner knives, and salad forks moved to the right of the main course forks. The wife’s request violates generally accepted practice in Western culture.

Should the butler comply with the demand?

Standards: While the new Professional Standards of Performance state that a butler should master generally accepted meal service practices, his “primary concerns are the comfort, pleasure, welfare, and security of the members of the household.” The standards clearly indicate that the butler is employed by, serves at the pleasure of, and “usually works directly under the head householder…,” and must be “gracious” and “flexible.” The standards specify “a properly working relationship between an employer and butler includes clearly defined roles, professional courtesy, mutual respect and trust, and effective communication.”

The correct answer: The butler works for the employer, and by extension, would cater to the wishes of the lady of the house as long as her wishes are not immoral, unethical, or illegal. The correct way is “how it is done in this house”.

Households differ, as expert opinions often differ—and who is to say what is right or wrong. Still, there must be consensus between the employer, butler, and members of the household. Unless the employer is recently wealthy and has no idea of normal protocol, in which case the butler might mention tactfully the standard practice (while signaling his willingness to acquiesce), he should simply move the knives and forks as instructed

Professor Ratliff began his butling career at 69 years of age, proving that it is never too late to enter the profession. While retired from full-time butling assignments, he still offers his services as a temporary butler. He co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles.

The Wisdom of Butlers Past, Part 6

In the last issue, we considered the nature of the employer one serves. In this month, we consider our own nature and that of those with whom we associate and bring into contact with the employer’s household. It may seem that the few who break the golden rules of butling (by stealing, breaking confidences, etc.) and capitalize, via a mass media yearning for sensation, on their new-found celebrity, succeed by growing rich; but one only has to look at the quality of their lives to see them struggling to find happiness in a life tainted by their own misdeeds.

“I trust, for your own sakes, you will make intimate companions of none other than persons of this [ethical] description. You must always bear in mind that your character is your bread and your all; you must therefore watch over it incessantly, to keep it unstained and undeniable, as without this, it is useless to seek after any respectable service whatsoever.  

“Nor can we wonder at the scrupulousness of ladies and gentlemen in this particular, or at-the-minute inquiries they make into every point of a stranger’s character, before they are willing to admit him in the capacity of a servant beneath the roof; as, from the moment they do it, he becomes of necessity entrusted, to a certain degree, with their property, and even their lives. And how many sad instances are there, of which we have all heard, of masters being robbed by dishonest servants, and even their lives being exposed to danger through evil connections, formed unknown to them by the inmates* of their family!  

“Remember also, that is not sufficient that your own conduct be good; if you associate with those whose conduct is bad, you’ll be judged by them at least as much as by yourself.”

* A meaning rarely used today, “one of several occupants of a house.”

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 @ and telling him you read about the offer in the Modern Butlers’ Journal.

Recent Graduations

This year, the Institute has held about thirty graduations in hospitality venues around the world. Here are some photos of recent proud graduates, equipped to excel:

Norwegian Cruise Lines «The Pride of America», Hawaii

The Landings, St. Lucia
Paradisus Cabo, Mexico, Butlers and Concierges

The Butlers Speak

Finding & Managing Staff, Part 2 of 3

What do you do to introduce new hires to their positions and environment?

«We have developed written policies and procedures. For housekeeping staff, we have the residence split into zones with their own cleaning timetable each week. I switch the cleaning lists each week so the staff are fully cross trained.  We also have pictures of the bedrooms on how beds are made, etc.  I go over each room in detail and clarify expectations.» NS

«I spend as much time as is needed with new hires, asking and answering as many questions. I show them the house, highlighting the the standards of the house and what we expect. I have them shadow another staff member for the day and then meet with them at the end of the day to chat about their experiences and any concerns they may have. I also speak with the staff member who has been with them and ask for their input on how the day went.» PBW

«Initially, we do a property walk while the principals are not in residence. Hopefully, once hired, there’s an opportunity for a probationary period without principals present to train the new hire in a less-pressured environment. We also hold a new-employee welcoming party off-campus.» SA

«Introducing them to all other household staff is essential. If possible, I try to spend the whole of their first day at their side to literally walk them through their duties (establishing expectations and demonstrating standards) and to guide them through the house.» CH

How effective have these proven? 

«Very.  I’m a believer in team work and that you can never have too much information.  I will always assist our staff in any way I can to help them develop their skills.» NS

«Invaluable, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I think it helps both parties tremendously.» PBW

«Works for me. The trick is to convince your principal that these steps remove a myriad of unknowns, and that I can be trusted to evaluate effectively the candidates beyond the capabilities of the agent. Since I know the context and environment, I become an essential bridge to a seamless transition of duties. When an employer tries to do more than endorse my conclusions, their criteria will inevitably lead to the wrong candidate. I have yet to meet an employer who is skilled at personality assessment. Skills are either good or can be learned. But personalities and motivation cannot be changed, or improved: either they are in place or they are not.» SA

«When I have been able to spend a day with a new staff member, the results have been delightful. Introducing them to (existing) staff—and detailing their responsibilities—has also proven to be quite effective in curtailing disputes over ‘who does what’ and in creating a team feeling.»  CH

Temporary Butler Wanted in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Temporary butler wanted to assist with a 4-day family vacation in a rented home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, during May 18-21, 2018. The family consists of 15 people and will be having one formal dinner during their time at the estate. They are looking for someone who can set up meals with already-prepared food, clean up after meals, keep the kitchen clean during their 4-day stay, mix drinks, make coffee/hot chocolate/snacks when requested, and set up/prepare some light decorations for the dinner (centerpieces, dessert table). The ideal candidate should be comfortable handling the above requirements and dealing with family gatherings and could be male or female; preferably you live fairly local (SFO/Bay area), although the family is willing to cover travel costs if needed for the right candidate.

If you’re interested in this assignment for May of 2018, please contact the Institute at enquiries @ with your current résumé and photo, for more details.

Book Review of Serving the Wealthy, Sections on the Role of the Butler and the Principal’s Wines

by Gretchen dePillis

Biodynamics and sulfites in wines & the bar

Serving the Wealthy’s section on stocking the bar and managing the cellar serves as a reminder for the expert and a useful guide to one with intermediate exposure to fermented beverages. It does not mention biodynamic wines, however, so my next few articles focus on sulfites, which are present in all wines, but only in very small quantities in biodynamic wines. Generally, when it comes to what we eat and drink, sulfites act as a preservative and can slow the browning of fruits, and inhibit bacterial spoilage as well as fermentation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of sulfites in fresh foods in 1986, but sulfites are still added as preservatives in commercially prepared drinks and foods. In case an employer or guest has an allergy to sulfites, it might help to know which bar items include heavy doses of sulfites: wines, Maraschino cherries; pickled cocktail onions; bottled non-frozen lemon or lime juice; and grape juice. Medium amounts of sulfites are added to ciders, corn syrup, pickled peppers, cordials (alcoholic), and soft drinks.

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 @


Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 26

The Champagne Cocktail

by Amer Vargas

This month we return with a classy, classic, elegant, and simple cocktail based upon everyone’s favorite French bubbly: Champagne.

Other than the main ingredient, three others compose this stylish cocktail: a sugar cube, Angostura bitters, and a lemon peel as garnish. With so few ingredients, preparation is really simple: place the sugar cube in a champagne flute (not a Pompadour low glass) and add 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters to the cube. Pour the champagne gently, as the sugar will have a tendency to create more bubbles than usual with the fizzy wine. Before serving, decorate with the lemon garnish.

This lovely and sophisticated cocktail is ideal for casual receptions with colleagues and even for not-so-formal gala dinners with friends and family.


Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President—feel free to contact him via email, AmerVargas @

Consulting the Silver Expert

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 6

Jeff Hermanby Jeffrey Herman

Removing Labels

If you have purchased a silver object with a price label that won’t peel off, don’t reach for a scrubby pad or steel wool. Instead, try using a hair dryer on a LOW setting (a heat gun is too hot) to gently warm the glue of the label. The label should then peel off cleanly.

If the label leaves a sticky residue, wait for the piece to cool and try removing it with some hand sanitizer, canola oil, or olive oil on a cotton ball or make-up pad. If that fails, rub a cotton ball or makeup pad, saturated with oil, on the residue and let it sit for one hour. The oils won’t harm the silver.

If this does not work the first time, repeat until the adhesive has dissolved and wipe away with a paper towel, cotton ball, or makeup pad.

Use Better Life Natural Glass Cleaner (which has a neutral pH) to remove any signs of the oil. If a discolored spot remains where the adhesive had been, remove it with one of the least-abrasive silver polishes.

Note 1: Never use a hair dryer on lacquered pieces.

Note 2: Products like Acetone, Goo Gone, Krud Cutter, Goof Off, and WD-40 will remove adhesive residue more quickly, but are less environmentally-friendly. Should you decide to use these products, make sure to wear nitrile gloves and perform the task in a well-ventilated area.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either contact him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or via email jeff @


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.»

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The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2017, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The Modern Butlers’ Journal

August 2017

In its 13th year of publication

International Institute of Modern Butlers

Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise

Message from the Chairman

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

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 @ 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


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 @


Creative Corner

Fondant Rose

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.

  1. Cut similar-sized pieces from the fondant and roll them into small balls. These will be petals




  1. 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.



  1. Take the petal that you’ve just created and roll
    it to form the first, inner petal.




  1. 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.




  1. Form another petal and add it to the flower,
    starting slightly inside the previous petal.



  1. Continue adding petals in this way. Roll back the top
    of the petals to give it a more realistic look.




  1. Make another layer of petals the same way until
    your rose blooms.



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.

A Beast of Job Interview by Mike Licht
A Beast of Job Interview by Mike Licht

“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 (, and, 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.

Water Melon Fizz

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 @

Consulting the Silver Expert

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 3

by Jeffrey Herman

Jeff 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 @

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.»

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The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, May, 2013

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 5

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

Enjoy the issue, which is quite long (so better I not make it longer!). However, please let us know if there is anything you’d like to see covered in future MBJs.

Letters to the Editor

«I am reading your book and finding it very interesting as well as informative. 

Would you by chance know where I might find a reliable online source for (1) a standard 3-tiered silver (or metal) tea stand for tea sandwiches and cakes that plates can be placed on; and (2) a maid’s uniform (dark dress, white collar, white cuffs, apron).

 Thank you. TS

Ed: You could try Godinger for the tea stands and these two sources for the maid’s uniform.

«Thank you for your prompt reply. I am not a Butler but certainly appreciate reading about how things should be done correctly. The information you provided guided me in refining my search and I have ordered two tea stands that suited my purposes perfectly. Those uniforms are exactly what I had in mind, thank you. TS

«Do you have printed information/guidelines that pertain to domestic staff understanding «Privacy Boundaries» with the Principals?  I am having a difficult time with our newest housekeeper understanding and adhering to this concept.  She will interrupt me during the day to do little tasks in the room in which I am working and then initiate a conversation.  When she walks into a room that my husband or I are in, she will start apologizing for doing so instead of just exiting quietly.  I and my other housekeeper have tried to explain why she can’t do this.  She claims she understands but it continues to happen.  She will also call out to me across the house when I am in her visual field to say things like, «Good Morning!»  I had to tell her to please stop «singing» when she is cleaning.  I do love her otherwise.  She is a good housekeeper but has never worked in an estate…only at our Country Club’s sports facility, where her behavior was permitted to some degree.   I don’t want to stifle her spirit…but….I can’t allow this to continue.» P.H.

Ed: Thanks for explaining the situation with your chatty new housekeeper. Yes, that is unfortunately a very common problem, especially in the US and with staff who are not used to working in private households. If you’ve already explained it to her several times, she obviously has other underlying issues that need to be addressed (for example, we find people often have been very specifically «trained» into these wrong habits elsewhere — perhaps someone has told her she «must always be friendly to guests or principals.» This may have occurred at the country club where she worked, which is of course an environment where that would be appropriate behavior. She basically needs to be «retrained» into her new environment, which usually takes a little bit of time and one-on-one attention. The Institute can deliver that sort of training (it would only take a day or so). Or you could simply wait until the butler we have hired for you arrives. He is used to training & correcting private household staff, has the right viewpoint and background and can start addressing the issue immediately. In the meantime, my recommendation would be to repeat your request to her, in a very friendly but firm way. State exactly how you DO want her to behave and then make her watch a series like Downton Abbey on her own time — tell her this will show her «the right way» to deal with her employers in a private household setting. Unfortunately, we at the Institute do not have anything in writing that you could use to correct/retrain her. But you could try a book like Letitia Baldridge’s New Manners for New Times 

«I appreciate your input and suggestions.  I lent her «Downton Abbey» to take home today.  We had a long chat about it on Saturday.  She does seem to have listened to me because she is better today.  The good news is that she really likes learning to become more professional.  I hope it will work out.  I will look at New Manners for New Times….already have Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals.»

Ed: I am delighted to hear that you are beginning to see some improvements now with your housekeeper. It is a good sign that she is responding to your instructions and that she wants to learn. I am sure (your new butler) will be able to finish up what you’ve started and get her up to par. 

Butlers in the Media

Some random thoughts being expressed about the high demand  in England for butlers by the extremely wealthy from other countries —including the view that those filling the demand are not being properly trained.

A butler in Norway is being sued by his employers for allegedly stealing $1 million over the twelve years he was in the service of the matriarch. However, not all things are as they seem: he claims he was given bonuses and that monies spent were in the service of the employer, or provided as gifts. There is no substitute for a good paper trail and record of monies coming in and going out, especially when in the service of an elderly employer who may not keep a close eye on finances—or relatives who might suspect the worst. And there is no substitute for having clean hands, either.

An interesting piece about media depictions of butlers not being true to the way butlers really were and how they acted in the old days, and therefore being incorrect. The point that is being missed is that the way a table was laid a century ago is not necessarily the only way to lay a table. What is timeless about the butler is not so much the mechanics of the profession and whether or not he wears white gloves when serving at table, as the understandings and standards for which he strives in the service of the discerning/demanding.

A touching story to inspire hotel butlers:  German Chancellor Merkel visited the butler who had served her for four decades at the hotel she visits each year for her vacations—he had left the employ of the hotel and so Chancellor Merkel tracked him down and visited him in his home.

A hotel butler reminisces about serving Prime Minister Thatcher in 1984.

Congratulations to IIMB member Mr. Giovanni Lodigiani, who advised the lead actor, Christian De Sica—who plays a «master of the household» role—on costumes, uniforms, general royal court vocabulary, standards, mannerism and so on in the recently released movie, The Unlawful Prince. It is a comedy with the plot set in a contemporary European royal court. The title for his role, (Gran Ciambellano/Lord Chamberlain) is of medieval origin, from the French «chambellan»  and, formerly, from the Latin «Camerarius» (from which the title of «Camerlengo» is still used in the Vatican Court), and signified  the person in charge of the treasury or the king’s room.

The new CEO of Starwood had some interesting things to say recently: «The wealthy today are more diverse—there are more wealthy women, and Asia is home to more millionaires and billionaires even though in the United States there are more millionaires and billionaires than ever before. Great design and great service by itself can’t set you apart anymore. The old notion of luxury of serving ladies and gentleman is a credo for the ages, but I’m not sure it’s a credo for this age of change. Today, one consumer’s definition of luxury might not be another’s definition of luxury. Brands are no longer the arbiters of what luxury is today. It used to be that scarcity was a defining feature for luxury, but now it depends on who a consumer views as the arbiter—a fashion blogger, a concierge or their favorite magazine editor.»

Whatever innovative and satisfying activities, locations, technology and other experiences offered guests, they will value also the kind of solicitous and refined service they expect in their private estates. Maybe the new CEO will help Starwood understand that, in the quest to achieve luxury by cutting costs, they seem to have missed the boat in this regard.

Travel Agencies

Talking of creating one-of-a-kind experiences, some travel agencies, the equivalent of the butler in terms of expectations being exceeded, do oblige—although those listed in the article do not include the really exclusive sources, such as Fischer Travel, nor the really wild purveyors, such as the old Dreammaker International.


Mature (48 – 56) domestic couple/caregivers sought for the Ohio estate of an elderly couple. The principals are snowbirds and only in Ohio part of the year. This is a live-in position. The woman must have good knowledge of housekeeping duties. You’ll only do light housekeeping yourself, but will need to supervise housekeepers. Must be able to do all cooking (simple cuisine) and provide daily, personal «elderly» care to the principles. Nurse training not required, but a plus. The man will supervise and handle all vendors and contractors who look after pool, gardens etc. He’ll also perform basic maintenance/ handyman/gardening/ car work from time to time. Some driving required: to/from airport & doctors and running of errands. Employers are looking for a couple that’s in it for the long haul (at least 10 years). Good remuneration package with full benefits. If interested, email enquiries @ with resumes including your contact information, a professional photo and your salary requirements.

frankmitchell  Cigars, Part XIV

by Frank Mitchell 

Selecting a Cigar Lighter, Part One of Two

Before one can light a cigar, one must make a hole in the cap to draw the smoke through. Some smokers, especially the Cubans, bite the end off their cigars. Others pinch off the cap with a fingernail. In order to avoid ruining a cigar, it is preferable to use a cutter. There are differing opinions on the best way to cut a cigar and a wide variety of cutters exist to serve the various schools of thought.

This month we look at some of the types and consider their advantages and disadvantages.

Guillotine Cutters

Most cigar lovers use a sharp guillotine-type cutter, leaving a little of the cap to hold the head of the cigar together. If the blades are beveled on both sides, it does not matter which way round you hold it. Single-bladed guillotines are not recommended for those of us called upon to cut cigars for our employers or guests. Single-bladed guillotines are more compact, but it is more difficult to create a straight cut with the single blade, as they can slip. (A straight cut is a cut that runs at a 90◦ angle to the length of a cigar).

If the hole one makes is too small or the blades of your cutter are dull and compress the filler, the cigar will be hard to draw on and liable to overheat. If one cuts off too much of the cap, the cigar may unravel. Good, sharp twin-blade guillotines have the advantage that they can be made to ‘grip’ the head while one checks both sides to ensure the cut will be straight. Then, without shifting the cutter (that would tear the cap), one snips firmly and confidently. A slow, uncertain cut is rough and wanders off-course.

A good guideline for the beginner practicing on a parejo (straight-sided cigar) is to place a sharp, twin-blade guillotine flat on a side plate or salver. Centre the cigar in the guillotine opening vertically, cap down, and snip. Most guillotine cutters are the correct thickness for this to work. However, this technique will mark a person as an amateur and one should only do this once or twice in the beginning, while learning. It is very difficult to ‘trim’ a hole that is too small, so it is best to do it correctly the first time.

Guillotine cutters can cut any shape cigar, as long as the head will fit into the guillotine opening. They are the easiest to use and so are most often the first choice of novices. However, I continue to use this style of cutter for its reliability, ease of use and compact dimensions—it is so easy to slip into a waistcoat (vest) pocket.

Cigar Scissors

They look like normal scissors except that they have rounded ‘parrot beak’ blades designed to encircle the cap before cutting. Some fold over like old-fashioned sewing scissors, so that the handle covers the blade. Although they are bigger than the guillotine cutter, such safety scissors may also be carried in a waistcoat pocket.

Scissors can cut practically any shape cigar, but it is more difficult to judge the amount one is cutting off with scissors than with the twin-blade guillotine. Scissors require a confident hand and are more often the choice of those who are slightly more experienced.

 Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Let’s Talk about Wine, Part XIV

by Amer Vargas

Today we return to South America to have a look at Argentinian wines.

Argentinian wine-making tradition dates back to the 16th century, when Spanish colonizers brought in vitis vinifera (grapes suitable for wine production) to enable the Catholic missionaries in that country to offer wine for Mass. Excellent soil and climate conditions in the regions around the Andes led to a quick expansion of viticulture. In the 19th century, European immigrants started introducing new wine-making techniques based on scientific research and new technologies. So began a great increase in the country’s wine production.

However, not everything was as great as expected. Since the mid-1800s and early 1900’s, the land devoted to vineyards had multiplied more than a hundredfold, which had stimulated the focus on low quality wine for mass consumption. Then, the arrival of soda drinks in the 20th century and the increased world-wide popularity of beer in the 1970s, led to many Argentinian winemakers losing their markets. Since then, more attention has been put on making quality wines, rather than on producing huge amounts of wine to be sold to mass markets, and today Argentinian wines once again enjoy a bright reputation.

The Andes—the mountain range that acts as a natural boundary between Argentina and Chile—provides a wide range of different soils at their base, which are rich in clay and sand and allow for the cultivation of vineyards. High-quality water of extreme purity flows down the mountains, also providing  just the right amount of humidity to the region. This feeds the vines as they need, whilst the dry continental climate, together with the distance from big cities and contaminated areas, make it very easy to produce organic wines with almost no artificial treatments.

Talking about Argentinian red wines means talking about Malbec, Argentina’s flagship variety original from France that was wiped out in Europe after the phylloxera attack there at the end of the 19th century. But its growth carried on in Argentina, where winemakers consolidated their appreciation for the grape and the wonderful wines that it produced. Nowadays, Argentina has the largest Malbec acreage in the world, involving more than a third of the red wine varieties. Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot are also produced in the country.

For the white wine varieties, the sweet Pedro Gimenez is the most cultivated, followed by Torrontés (Riojano and Sanjuanino), Chardonnay and Chenin. Argentina is extremely proud of Torrontés, a variety of incomparable flavor produced only in Argentina and found across all wine-making regions there.

Pairing wines from these two varieties is very easy and straightforward, because they have a strong personality that needs to be matched with the food they accompany. Thus, Malbec pairs well with red meats, grilled meats, strong flavored cheeses, and pasta with tomato based sauces; as for Torrontés,  its perfume and freshness match excellently with white fish and shellfish—or you may want to play with the contrast of aromatic and spicy Indian, Chinese or Thai cuisine.

I raise my glass of fresh and pale Torrontés Riojano to all of you. Salud!


 Great Expectations, Part One of Two

 by Bonnie Low-Kramen

It is crystal clear to me that many of the problems between employers and assistants in our workplace could be prevented by a clear set of written expectations. It surprises me to learn that many assistants begin Day #1 of their jobs without anything in writing as regards to a job description or compensation package. This scenario is a set-up for miscommunications, resentments, and ultimately, failure. Most often it is the assistant who ends up quitting her/his job which is a lose/lose situation. I believe that these ideas can be applied equally well to everyone in private service.

The Wharton School of Business recently issued an interesting report regarding the reasons why women earn 80% of what men earn.  It said that only 7% of women will negotiate their compensation offers, as compared with 57% of men who decide to negotiate a better deal. The report explained that 93% of women accepted what they were offered without questioning it, mainly because of their fear of not being liked. Women view negotiation as an uncomfortable confrontation to be avoided. Men, on the other hand, (at least 57% of them) view negotiation as “fun” and “a game” that can result in increased compensation.

Given that the profession of being an assistant consists of 95% women in the United States and 98% women in the United Kingdom, we need to look at realistic solutions to the issues facing us regarding not only successfully negotiating compensation but also job expectations.

Assistants need to have their deal in writing as an important place to begin their work. Job descriptions do not have to be written in stone, but they do need to be written. The document is subject to change by mutual agreement. Inevitably, assistants report “scope creep,” a term which means the scope of work starts growing…and growing and growing…unless it is controlled and anticipated. Documentation enables the assistant to negotiate an adjusted package, factually and calmly based on the revised job description.

There is too much suffering in silence and fear in today’s workplace and this includes private homes. This is the case with both assistants and principals and the consequences all too often include bullying and destructive behaviors, which lower morale and productivity. Given this reality, we need to put our minds on positive and reasonable ways to speak to one another to handle the inevitable problematic situations.

As a tool, I have created a Code of Ethics and Conduct for Employers and Assistants (Editor’s note: which will be published in next month’s MBJ, so stay tuned). It is a place to start as you begin what I hope will be a long and mutually satisfying term of work with your employer and company.

Assistants and employers alike have challenging and demanding jobs. Let us help one another by clearly discussing our expectations up front and put them in writing. Doing this at the beginning will pay off in the long run and fewer staffers will feel the need to quit.

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The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort,  spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.


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The Institute Conducts Butler Training for South African State-sponsored Program

In common with other developing countries, South Africa has a high unemployment rate. The rate is highest among school leavers—the group least likely to find employment in the formal sector, particularly if they are from rural areas.

In tough economic climates, successful job applicants need qualifications and experience. Young matriculants have neither and unless their parents can fund their studies, they are effectively barred from the job market.

In an innovative approach, Signature Life Institute of Hospitality Studies started a training program for matriculants from rural areas in KwaZulu Natal. For six months, these students are living and working at a Life Hotel, gaining on-the-job experience in a field of their choice. Their options are: Kitchen, Reception & Guest Services, Housekeeping & Laundry, Food & Beverage, and Hotel Butling. Included in the course is 3-weeks of intensive classroom tuition.

The International Institute of Modern Butlers is proud to be associated with this initiative and, under the auspices of the Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch, outside Cape Town, has taken on the responsibility of training the Hotel Butler candidates.

One of the most exciting aspects of this program is that successful students receive placements at the end of the six-month period. This is in stark contrast to expensive programs that produce hopeful students who then face a tough job market. It is unfortunately true that the longer a graduate goes without finding a job, the less likely they are to be employed in the field of their qualification—a statistic this program seeks to overcome. This training must provide the students with real, useable skills that prospective employers need.

One of the Institute’s biggest challenges has been how to train students who have no background in the hotel industry within the time period allowed. We are confident that the unique program—following proven, proprietary Institute training materials—will provide each student with the required skills.

We are certainly committed to making it a success with our partners.

Frank Mitchell

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So, What Is A Butler Anyway?

Rare is the week that goes by without word of some upscale hotel offering butler service as a way to improve service and retain or gain that coveted 5-star or diamond status. That’s as it should be. But then consider the industry veteran Horst Schulze’s declaration in the Wall Street Journal that Capella, his future line of hotels, will have a six-star rating. What does he specify as the criteria for such an august label? Private swimming pools. And personal butlers.

It seems butlers are really not just for the wealthy in their private estates, but also for their convenience when they travel.

So, in providing butler service, a pertinent question might be «What exactly is a butler?» Or more to the point, «What are butlers in a hotel setting?» They obviously are more than the dog, beach, computer, baby, and bath butlers that rushed out fully armed from marketing departments during the 1990s and beat a hasty retreat in the face of public disdain.

The answer is very clear to those hotel executives who have brought in any one of a handful of trainers able to teach their personnel how to «butle.» Anyone who has read Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators, will know that there is a technology and mindset to butling. It is something that can be learned to jump-start an individual in the Middle East, the Far East, the East Coast or the West Coast of America, the Caribbean, and anywhere else in the art of butling British style.

In addition to the dozen-or-less trainers working on site at hotels, there are a dozen-or-less schools around the world teaching strangers to the art of butling the skills and panache needed to fulfill their roles with sufficient aplomb. There is no shortage of resources for anyone wanting their employees trained to the high standards of service that the butler exemplifies.

In recognition of the increased demand for butlers, and the subsequent need to train butlers, and even non-butler staff in the mindset of the butler so as to raise service standards throughout hospitality venues (be they hotel, resort, spa, or private villa), the International Institute of Modern Butlers was founded.

The Institute purpose being to promote training in the butler model, to act as a clearinghouse for butler training resources around the world, and to help set and raise standards in the profession. It being recognized that, like any profession, butlers need standards and a standard-setting body to prevent the profession from becoming less than it should be.

And in the case of butlers, there is the additional requirement that a model be constructed of what the butler is and does in both the private and hospitality settings in the 21st Century. The ideal being, perhaps, a modern butler with the core values of the early-20th Century butler, rather than a mannequin with the outward trappings and motions of the butler and no mindset to back it up.

One important program the Institute is championing is an apprenticeship program for butler school graduates, whereby they apprentice under butlers in private estates or work in butler departments in hotels to hone their skills and add substance to their training. This represents a handy and cost-effective personnel pool for private estates, as well as hotels intent on offering butler service, or wanting to add butlers to their department without investing in bringing a trainer on board. It also allows butler school graduates to break into an industry that can be quite closed to neophytes knocking at the door. While a trainer working with trainees on site is the optimum way to slam-dunk a butler department into place in a hotel, an alternative is to bring in butler school graduates and have a trainer visit briefly to fine-tune and provide quality control-an important element given that butler schools focus on the basics of butling and few provide hospitality-centric training.

Which brings us back to the original question: what is a butler in the hospitality setting? The cinema and various books create stereotypical butlers whom we find amusing for their restraint and biting wit in the face of monumental stupidity; and endearing for their willingness to work behind the scenes while their employers blithely strut across the stage, playing out their own pre-ordained roles.

Yet, whether answering the telephone or dealing with difficult situations, there is something about the attentive and slightly aloof British butler that has a place in today’s modern hotels as much as in the 19th Century British stately home.

Maybe it is their low-key approach to service, in preference to the maestro-center-of-the-stage performance so characteristic of many American service professionals.

A butler is a frame of mind rather than a status or a series of duties. It is a mindset that anyone can adopt in any situation in life to very satisfying results, because it is founded on the truths that it is better to serve than be served, and that life can be rational and serene when one assumes responsibility for all things.

In almost every person, there is a penguin-suited figure dying to emerge, to bring a surprising level of equanimity, order and happiness to the lives of those around him or her. This may seem far-fetched in a world of hard-nosed corporate executives, self-centered guests and screaming, obnoxious children as sometimes parade through the hospitality world, but what does win in the world of service, funnily enough, is complete devotion to providing service. Anything less is transparent.

Butlers are superior service professionals. Their model has value. It is the future of service.

This article also appeared in the Hotel Business Review section of, and in Polish in the publication

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Just When You Thought You Knew Everything, a Word Like «Seneschal» Pops up

Q: I have been reading a science fiction book, Mission Earth, and the author, Mr. Hubbard, uses the terms “major-domo,” “chamberlain,” “seneschal”, as well as “butler” and they all seem to be the same thing. What niceties separate these terms? Is any one of them senior to the other?

A: Well, first of all, it is most surprising to see these terms-of-old applied in a work of science fiction. The answers are quite simple.

“Major domo” is the Spanish/Italian-culture equivalent of the “butler administrator,” supervising the running of the estate for an employer (who can include royalty and nobility). Major domo comes from Latin meaning “Chief in the house,” a term that arose about 500 years ago. Butler, I think we all know, comes from the Latin for “bottle,” referring to the chap who presented the wine to Romans a couple of thousand years ago.

“Seneschal” is the term for the same managerial position 700 years ago, and is no longer in use as a title. It comes from prehistoric German meaning “old” and “servant,” a reflection, possibly, on the loyalty of seneschals and/or the fact that only older servants made it to the giddy heights of seneschal.

“Chamberlain” refers to the same position, too, but only in the household of a monarch or nobility. Chamberlains predate seneschals by a couple of centuries. The word comes from ancient Greek for “vaulted room,” the underlying meaning being “bedchamber attendant.” The chamberlain’s title is “Lord Chamberlain” in royal households, and they remain the senior most members of a queen’s or king’s household.

As for which one of these gentlemen is senior to the other, none is, strictly speaking, as they are all masters of their own domain and cover the same basic functions, albeit on different scales. However, assuming some science fiction were to be applied, with a seneschal rising from his grave and being reincarnated a few hundred years later into our century, and assuming the Lord Chamberlain attended such an event, instead of his many junior staff, then the Lord Chamberlain would definitely be sitting at the head of the table for a formal employee meal, the seneschal to his right, and the major domo or butler to his left, and the American household manager below them—assuming also, that they had compared employers to see which actually outranked the other.

The dinner conversation would no doubt be most intriguing.

As a final note, perhaps we can find encouragement concerning the longevity and demand for our profession, when butlers et al are featured in science fiction stories.