Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2018, Message from the Chairman

Steven Ferry

Message from the Chairman

by Steven Ferry

Another substantial newsletter, so I’ll keep this message short again. As the humor offered in the last message proved popular, here is another to offset all the serious stuff in this month’s MBJ:

Looking for the collective noun for various professions, finds:

  • A Brace of Orthopedists
  • A Joint of Osteopaths
  • A Rash of Dermatologists
  • A Flutter of Cardiologists
  • A Guess of Diagnosticians
  • A Cell of Biologists
  • A Slug of Gardeners
  • A Groan of Punsters
  • An Order of Waiters
  • A Litter of Trashmen… er… Sanitary Engineers
  • A Stack of Librarians
  • A Pen of Writers
  • A Pride of Egotists
  • A Lot of Realtors
  • A Dose of Pharmacists
  • A Fib of Fishermen
  • A Flush of Plumbers
  • A Snap of Photographers

and unhappily,

  • A Sneer of Butlers

If you have any others to offer, we’d love to share them.


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.”

Butler books Butler history Mixology Newsletter Steven Ferry The Butlers Speak

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, February 2018, Message from the Chairman

Message from the Chairman

by Steven Ferry

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry

A long newsletter this month, as usual. I hope you enjoy it, find one or more departments to be of use and/or interest, and like the new format. If you are in the mood for some levity/humour, then you might enjoy the fruits of the modern education system, as evidenced in these signs, perhaps posted by someone in a rush:


In a London department store: BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS.




Notice in health food shop window: CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS.

Spotted in a safari park: ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR.




Spotted in a toilet of a London office: TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW


Best wishes for the month ahead.

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.”

Butler books Butler history Butler training Mixology Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, January 2018, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The Modern Butlers’ Journal

January 2018

In its 14th year of continuous publication

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Message from the Chairman

IIMB Chairman Steven FerryHaving proclaimed for decades that Remains of the Day must be the best film ever made, I finally read the book upon which it was based. A masterful piece of writing that perfectly captures the mindset of the old-world butler, and which in turn is perfectly captured in the movie. A couple of points were changed in the movie (e.g. the American Lewis is inexplicably transformed from a cad in the book to somewhat of a hero in the movie—was the underwriter of the movie an American?), but otherwise, the movie remained faithful to the book, right down to the verbatim dialogue.

What struck me most about the book was how much pusillanimity (cowardice) underlay the decorum exhibited so unfailingly by Mr. Stevens, the butler. “Pusillanimity” is a tongue-twister that derives from Greek, meaning “very small-minded.” The drive to be dignified blinded the butler to the real world and how to confront and deal with real people. While there are volumes of wisdom to be learned and retained from our forebears, small mindedness and rigidity are not among them.

The author presents us, therefore, with an exploration of misplaced, blind loyalty, wrapped up in a love story gone awry and an examination of early 20th century life in private service.

The quest then, as now, was to find a decent employer who was a driving force for good in the world and which, by extension, meant the butler’s hard work influenced a sphere larger than just the employer’s household, thus giving meaning and purpose to his hard work, dedication, loyalty, etc.

In the case of Mr. Stevens, his employer, in a surfeit of good faith and lack of perception and understanding of the nature of evil men, ended up vilified by society because his contributions did not end up in benefit for others, but instead contributed to the destruction that became known as World War II.

In the final pages of the book, Stevens concludes incorrectly and apathetically, that he should just accept whatever role he is given as a butler, and “try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy,” because the power brokers in society are much better placed to make things happen. This view is based on the notion that a butler is just a lowly servant, a “nobody” in the greater scheme of things.

The take away for modern butlers? Butlers are not just servants: we have as much right, and duty, actually, to support the framework of society and concepts of decency as any other person, no matter their role in life. For without everyone taking responsibility for society, it will fall apart. That does not mean we sit in judgement of our employers all the time, but we evaluate during the hiring process or soon afterwards, whether the employer is doing more good than bad, and whether or not we want to support them. Otherwise, we end up working for, and supporting, as some amongst us have done, pedophiles, white-collar criminals, war criminals (Hitler had a butler), drug lords, et al.

As Alexander Tyler wrote in his book, Cycle of Democracy, way back in 1770,  “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse [generosity in bestowing money or gifts] from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average lifespan of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.”

It is only where the majority knowingly and willingly help themselves and each other that a democracy can succeed. A democracy is only a democracy when everybody does it; where the majority point of view is that “somebody else will do it,” that democracy is on the way out, as government assumes increasingly dictatorial and punishing powers to control a society consisting of too many people out only for #1—and one eventually ends up with slaves, as Mr. Tyler mentioned in his book.

In a nutshell, if we are to maintain our positions as butlers, and also break this cycle of democracies falling apart, then we simply need to maintain our dignity, decorum, and everything else, while also thinking for ourselves and being ourself, not a wound-up replica of the past; and having the courage to see, say, and do as our integrity dictates.

Then we won’t end up like Mr. Stevens, looking for solace in the remains of his days, or living in the kind of dictatorship that his employer was unwittingly trying to bring about (in supporting Hitler and the Nazis before World War II).

Butlers in the Media

It seems Food and Beverage service providers are being repackaged as Butlers, per recent advertisements for room-service waiters and Club-Lounge attendants.

Along the same line, “Butlers” for the middle-income class—really people who do various chores for individuals and couples who otherwise have to spend their time off doing those chores—are proving very popular in Australia. In the article reporting on this trend, Christopher Reid, CEO of Australian Butler Services, quite rightly points out that the influx of completely untrained people into this market, calling themselves “butlers,” misrepresents the profession. The creators of Jarvis, one such company offering these services, are right to identify the market and provide the service, however calling the staff “butlers” is not only inaccurate but also, as always, riding on the coat tails of the profession while undermining its standards—not a very sensible strategy. A bit like calling all cars “Bentleys,” perhaps.

And equally, do you know what a file-butler is? No, nor did we. Apparently, it is software that acts as a browser and uploader. Then there is the “Hangover Butler” offered over the New Year to guide you through the morning after. As a historical note, the Earl of Sandwich (for whom sandwiches were created so he could eat while continuing to gamble) was such a compulsive gambler and drinker that his butler would wait until he had passed out drunk to remove his clothes, bathe him, and dress him in fresh clothes.

The Chairman was interviewed in November by National Public Radio in Connecticut for a program about obsequiousness (excessive or servile obedience or attentiveness, coming from the root word meaning “follow, comply with”). The purpose of the interview was to dispel the stereotyping of the butler as a “yes man.” His interview is the third in the hour-long program, so if you do not wish to hear the full program, skip forward to the last 20 minutes or so:

We do not agree with the premise of the show (that everyone “sucks up”) and would like to highlight that the theme of the show is actually sycophancy, whereas butlers (except for Blackadder and perhaps some American TV shows about butlers based on misconceived stereotypes by script writers) are thought of as obsequious more than sycophantic.


Well, if one looks at the root meaning of sycophancy, it is from the Greek, “fig informer,’ describing those who informed against the illegal exportation of figs from ancient Athens; the meaning today is “one who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.” 

And therein lies the problem: butlers may appear to be obsequious to others, but rarely is it to gain advantage; so using the butler profession to dispel the stereotype of sycophancy is actually not on target. Who is more likely to be obsequious towards important people to gain advantage? Try those wanting money or favors, such as lobbyists, car salesmen, and the like. Anyway, worth listening to, and we are happy to receive any feedback.

Letters to the Editor

“Thank you for sticking by us and making this past year’s Modern Butlers’ Journal so interesting, always an excellent read that I look forward to receiving each month. I am very pleased to see thirty graduations so far this year. Wonderful! Congratulations!” PW        

“I recently was hired as an Estates Manager in France with one of the wealthiest Russian families of our times. My role involves managing a €60 million refurbishment at one of their sites in Côte d’Azur, while overlooking a chalet in another region of France, including coordination of staff work, acting as a PA and working very closely with the family office in London. This position utilizes all my previously gained skills, such as those related to service, sales, languages, and those I picked up at the university. Nevertheless, there is something that truly makes me feel confident and more comfortable when dealing with the Principal and his family—I am referring to the understanding of my role acquired while on the Institute’s butler course. It is definitely one of the most important understandings to have, proving to be a big “service differentiator,” as you put it. I do consider my hiring to be a great success, not only because there is a big and interesting challenge involved, but also because the family itself is so respectful and diligent, they make you enjoy working for them. Last, but not least, they tripled my salary and provided me with a stunning two-story apartment right by the seaside.” OS

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #3-1

By Professor Richard Ratliff

A Butler’s Wardrobe, Part 1 of 2

Scenario: The modern butler may find himself or herself tending garden and helping the housekeeper in the morning, serving a midday luncheon, greeting and serving guests for an afternoon pool party, then setting and serving formal dinner in the evening. All these activities require different attire, for the butler as well as everyone else. Gone are the days of the anachronistic single livery, comprising black morning coat and gray striped trousers. Today’s butler requires different uniforms for different activities and occasions.

Standards: The Professional Standards of Performance dictate that “a butler’s appearance must reflect the role[s], with an appropriate wardrobe….”

Suggestions: The modern butler’s wardrobe constitutes of a set of uniforms that are suitable for a broad range of duties:

  • Formal wear:
    • White tie ensemble (for the most formal occasions), including black tuxedo trousers worn with black braces; black evening tailcoat; winged-collared, stiffly-starched, plain front tuxedo shirt worn with plain cufflinks and studs; a hand-tied white bow tie, and white waist coat or cummerbund, with black over-the-calf socks and black patent leather shoes.
    • Black tie ensemble (formal dinner wear and for other formal occasions): includes black tuxedo trousers and jacket, either a fold-down collared shirt or a wing-collared tuxedo shirt, a black hand-tied bow tie, and either a white waist coat or a white or black cummerbund. Cufflinks and studs are optional in today’s less formal world, but still preferred.

Note for female butlers: Formal evening wear is the same for female butlers as for male butlers, although happily, these days tuxedoes and white-tie ensembles may be found that are specially tailored for the female figure. They are not only more comfortable, but look better on women.

Next month’s column will cover informal wear.

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 8

“Early rising” is the first topic following the introduction to the book, with the advice to arise before the family does in order to complete without interruption the dirtiest parts of the job. Failing to do so will result in being called off to do things with dirty hands and clothes, and “nothing is more disagreeable.”

It is obvious from the text that follows that a) some employers refuse to provide staff with clothes for doing dirty tasks, and b) some fire the staff if they appear at table or elsewhere in dirty clothes.

The text offers the observation that smaller households provide fewer clothes, whereas they ought to provide more, as the staff has multiple hats requiring different uniforms. And what are the proper work/dirty clothes for a butler? “A pair of overalls with a proper waistcoat and jacket, and a leather apron, is the best dress for dirty work; and one must have white linen aprons for “attending to a gentleman.”

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

Dealing with Contractors, Part 1 of 2

This month, we examine the world of contractors, the challenges they present and the responses butlers and household managers have worked out that have proven successful.

The main challenge seems to be finding reliable contractors, especially in remote areas where the lack of alternatives means that, even with a service contract, one is given no priority and lacks leverage in the event the work is not up to standard.

In this case, one might consider hiring a full-time groundskeeper and/or building maintenance person; or if the contractor is competent, then providing “investment tips.” Email the Institute if you need a definition for this term!

Inheriting good and bad contractors when joining a household can also be an issue, the pluses being that they know the house and its systems, the hidden areas; the minus being that they may not be that competent or they overcharge. As the gatekeeper, one makes sure the employer is not been taken advantage of, even if it means being called the bad guy. In a town or city, there will be alternatives; in remote areas, consider hiring full-time personnel.

When it comes to finding contractors, word-of-mouth is tops, followed by the local Better Business Bureau and Internet yellow pages, as well as one’s network of other PSP’s, including DEMA.

Procedures employed for ensuring the right contractors are selected include finding three competitive companies and asking them to bid on the same job, in addition to asking for references (and speaking to those former clients), photographs of work done, as well as proof of insurance and worker’s comp. If the contractor is not a referral, then meeting them off-site to observe their character is wise. For some butlers, just having a PSP recommendation is enough, if not priceless.

One butler/HM made a mistake once by not asking the contractor if he were able to do all the work within his company, or if he were planning to bring in sub-contractors. This contractor ended up using subs who delayed the project and caused payment issues between the estate, the contractor, and the subs.

Once a person is hired, it is important to provide them with the do’s and don’ts, especially when it comes to scheduling around an employer’s absence, being respectful of other vendors and the residents of the estate—written rules would ensure the message filters through to the contractor’s crew. Explain the principal’s expectations for the completed work and staying on budget. Confidentiality is another issue, usually, such as not allowing photographs (if the vendor wants photographs of the finished work, they have to be taken together with the butler/estate manager and vetted by him or her). And for larger properties of several hundred acres, keeping people on task is usually important, which means the contractor needs to be on top of his crew, or else the butler will!

There will always be dust, noise, parking issues, etc. with vendors, so when everything is spelled out as above at the beginning, the outcome is better, as long as the butler/HM is always available to the contractor for questions, concerns, etc. “Some principles want the butler/HM to stay with the contractors while they are on the property. Others expect the butler/HM to provide a thorough overview of what needs to be done and ask appropriate questions regarding the work to be done; then ask questions when the work is complete and add pertinent information to the Household Manual, such as warranties and updated literature for any new equipment being installed.”

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

by Gretchen dePillis

The Solution for Sulfur Sensitivity

Preservatives used to be added to wines by the ancient Romans to prevent wine from turning to vinegar. They accomplished this preservation by burning candles made of sulfur inside empty amphora (wine containers). A century ago, some vintners noticed that adding sulfur during wine-making halted bacterial and yeast growth, with the added cosmetic benefit of making red wines look more crimson in color.

However, as discussed in earlier issues, some people are sensitive to such preservatives, meaning there is a market and a need for organic wines that do not add preservatives.

Biodynamic farming could be considered “extremely organic” and so is of even more interest to those with allergies. The concept of biodynamic farming originated in the 1920s with Austrian philosopher and scientist, Rudolf Steiner of Waldorf school fame, who took a holistic approach to agriculture (as well as health and education).

For a wine to be labeled “biodynamic,” it has to meet standards set by the Demeter Association [link], an internationally recognized certifying body.

If your employer is himself sulfite-sensitive or entertains sulfite-sensitive guests who would appreciate an organic wine, you may wish to expand your knowledge of this subject by reviewing the Organic Wine Journal [ ]. You can purchase biodynamic wines on line here: [ ]

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

KobiGutmanAn Apple Swan

by Kobi Gutman




  1. Cut the apple in half from top to bottom. One half will be used to make the swan’s body.  Keep the other half for a later step.


  1. Cut out a wing by cutting half way through from the top of the apple and then similarly cutting it from the side.


  1. Using the same technique, cut another piece within the wing and then another piece within that second piece. Then slide them to the back of the swan as shown in the image.


  1. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to create the wing on the other side of the body.


  1. Cut out a small V-shape piece from the front of the body. This will be the place for the neck.


  1. Take the second half of the apple that you set aside on step 1, slice a layer from it and cut it in half. Note that the thickness of this layer is the thickness of the neck and head of the swan.


  1. Cut out the core and you are left with the neck and head.


  1. Press the neck to the V-shape groove and there you have it.

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 28

A New Life

by Amer Vargas

­­The New Year has arrived and many have made their resolutions to make of their lives a much more enjoyable and pleasant existence: a New Life awaits.

Not that we need alcohol to make life enjoyable, but we can’t deny that in good company, a nice cocktail can make life more satisfying, to say the least. And so, for the New Life we go!

This concoction is prepared in the lowball glass the drinker will drink it from. And as is often the case in these cocktail articles, the preparation is very simple. There are three ingredients: Angostura Bitters, a cube of sugar, and the tequila of your choice.

This is how to do it: put the sugar cube in the glass, wet it with three dashes of Angostura, then muddle it until it is well spread around. Next fill the glass with crushed ice and add the Tequila (about 1.5 oz./45 ml.). Stir to mix the ingredients and garnish with a lemon twist.

There you go! A “New Life” for the New Year! Cheers!

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

Consulting the Silver Expert

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 8

Jeff Hermanby Jeffrey Herman

Coffee & Tea POT Stains

Place the pot in the sink with a cotton towel underneath and fill the pot with warm water. Drop in one five-minute denture cleaning tablet (these cost about five cents each) per two cups of water. Let stand for ten minutes. If it looks like the pot may overflow because of the effervescence, pour out some liquid through the spout, being careful not to allow the liquid to run down the outside of the pot. Empty the pot through the spout, then rinse with warm water.

You may find that the effervescing action of the tablets has removed only the grime and not the stains. If so, use a moist cellulose sponge or 3M Scotch Brite Greener Clean (non-scratch) scrub sponge (the natural fibers of the Greener are gentler than Scotch Brite’s blue non-scratch sponge) and a non-lemon-scented phosphate-free detergent to remove any remaining grime, then rinse with warm water. If the pot opening isn’t large enough for your hand, make a swab by wrapping the sponge or pad on the end of a wooden dowel and securing the upper end with electrical tape.

If stains remain, moisten the sponge (not the pad) and apply a liberal amount of Wright’s Silver Cream, then wipe away the stain and rinse the pot with warm water. Wright’s is an excellent cleaner for this task because it’s much less abrasive than commercial cleaners that are not meant specifically for silver. A cotton swab with a small amount of Wright’s will remove stains within the spout opening. Fill the pot with warm water and rinse out any polish that may remain in the spout.

Don’t use powdered abrasive cleaners as they will leave fine scratches that will attract more dirt. Don’t use steel wool (too abrasive and rust may result on the bottom), Scotch Brite abrasive pads or dips (too toxic).

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, September 2017, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The Modern Butlers’ Journal

September 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

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.

phone booth
When something doesn’t add up, it’s time for some quality control

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 @ 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

A Beast of a Job Interview by Mike Licht

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 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 @

Creative Corner

KobiGutmanNapkin Folding

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:

Bartender Preparing Blue Blazer, photo (c) by Stefan Giesbert
Jerry Thomas Preparing a Blue Blazer

“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 @

Consulting the Silver Expert

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 4

Jeff Hermanby 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.

  1. Apply the smallest amount of Blitz Silver Shine Polish on a large cotton ball or make-up pad;
  2. 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;
  3. Let the polish dry;
  4. 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 @

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.”