Butler standards Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #5

By Richard L. Ratliff

“Butlers and Kitchens and Chefs, Oh My!”

Scenario: Cookery has become something of a glamorous profession in recent years. A growing affluence has promoted a more informed palate for gourmet foods in general and cheffing more specifically, making fine dining more accessible in a growing number of gourmet restaurants and at estates in extraordinary modern kitchens. Well-trained chefs are in high demand and often enjoy celebrity profiles and high pay. Chefs and even the more lowly “cooks” of yesteryear have for generations demanded, and often received, almost carte blanche autocratic control over their domain in the kitchen and pantries. The recent rush of the luxury cuisine industry has only fed the fire, so to speak.

While chefs have become more visible, butlers remain appropriately in the background, but still are ultimately responsible for operations throughout the home, including the kitchen and pantries. Prima donna chefs often resent “interference” in their operations, sometimes waxing temperamental, occasionally even childish.

Most chefs, especially most very good ones, are conscientious, reasonable, and considerate. But some, unfortunately, are not. So, what is a good butler to do when not?

The Standards: The IIMB’s Professional Standards specify that “the chef/cook runs the kitchen while the butler supervises the chef/cook.” The Standards further state that “the chef…is to be treated with the appropriate respect but cannot be allowed to indulge in tyrannical nor abusive behavior.”

Recommendations: The problem is easier to avoid than to fix. If a household is seeking a new chef, the butler may recruit a suitable candidate, being careful from the beginning to search out a well-trained person with people skills and relationship-based management skills, as well as food-preparation skills. The butler may also set forth staff behavior standards, in writing, as well as food related standards and guidelines. The butler might even conduct a brief training session, if necessary, to clarify misconceptions and uncertainties. Performance reviews and staff training would stress food preparation and service, as well as behavior.

When a butler is faced with a situation where a chef who was hired before the butler arrived is misbehaving, it may resolve surprisingly easily by training the chef and other staff in the establishment of a relationship-based operating culture. In more difficult situations, specific and intensive training may be required for the chef alone—in a private, friendly environment. If the chef is incorrigible, it may be necessary to replace him with someone else, but only after consultation with the employer. And the relationship between employer and chef may be so strong that the butler will be rebuffed. In which the case the only tool available is public relations and the use of proper emotional engagement—which would require a training visit from the Institute, as the only providers of such training.

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 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.