The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2016, International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 12, issue 3

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

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

Message from the Chairman

As the story below, about the young butler being sued illustrates, one can sometimes run afoul of house rules for the managing of work-issued credit cards—where the lines are to be drawn. Another example of exactly this trap crossed my desk(top) yesterday, whereby a young lady, fresh on a household manager position and eagerly awaited by the employer to take control of the estate management, was fired for this exact same transgression within days of being hired. A lose-lose for all concerned.

There is no substitute for making sure that clear instructions are given and received on the subject of what purchases are permitted on a company credit card—and it is ultimately the butler’s responsibility to make sure that the rules are made known and clear to everyone in a staff manual: employer, family office, butler, and other employees.

While the employer will presumably find other employees after further search, we sincerely hope that the household managers/butlers who fell short will pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes.

Bevvy of Butlers, Ireland, 1904
Reportedly, a bevy of butlers congregated in a castle in Ireland 112 years ago.

Letters to the Editor

I am serving afternoon tea to Lord and Lady […] this coming weekend. In the 20+ years I worked with [employer name], his mother and I had a pot of tea every afternoon when she was in residence. She always served, so I have never served tea myself! I have reviewed Chapter 9 in Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals. I had planned on wearing a long coat with a black vest and long tie with a batwing shirt. What do you suggest? AS

Ed: It sounds like you will have fun creating a wonderful experience for Lord and Lady […]. There is not much to add to the English Afternoon Tea section of the 2008 edition of Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals.

I suggest dummy running (practicing) by serving tea to a friend following the procedure (and checklist) in the book, and so polishing your presentation while also making sure that all the proper items are in supply. If possible, do so in the exact spaces where you will be serving the guests, so that problem areas will make themselves apparent and you can pre-empt them in a timely fashion. Here’s to a flawless presentation and smiling guests (and host, no doubt).

How does my uniform sound? I decided not to wear white tie and vest (English translation: “waistcoat”) because that outfit appears to be too formal for 4:00 pm. Am I correct? AS

Ed: To be frank, the uniform is a bit over the top for afternoon tea. Probably what the Lord and Lady would expect of butlers in America, though! One would normally wear day dress for afternoon tea rather than evening wear: lose the tails and instead don a black waistcoat, normal-collared shirt, grey or black tie, black or grey/black-striped trousers, Oxfords. 

People tend to think of butlers as wearing tails and white gloves all the time, but the fact is these are evening wear and for formal occasions. If you want to ham it up, go ahead and wear the black tails, etc., but I am pretty sure the guests would think you were trying to attract attention and had it wrong.

Thank you, Sir. My final question: should I wear white gloves? AS

Ed: No—real butlers never did and don’t. They are for formal occasions, or possibly for laying silver and crystal on a table so as to avoid smearing oils from the hand on them that would spoil their polished look.

Thank you so much. I never wore gloves when serving anything to [employer]. He didn’t trust the laundry to kill all the germs. When I worked for [earlier employer], I believe we wore them to set table as you suggested, to keep the oil from our hands off the flatware, which were made of gold and silver. Those were the days, but that is a story for another day. AS

Ed: Indeed!

As a follow-up, [the event] went very smoothly and I was magnificent! AS 

Butlers in the Media

To the long list of goods and services including the word “butler” in their name, we can now add “Pocket Butler” (unclear what it is); a “Boot Butler” to organize one’s boots; a Battery Butler—a Sheraton employee who recharges various electronic devices for hotel guests; and lastly, a new twist on “Dog Butler” in that it is not someone who walks the dogs, but who merely cleans up after them—which says something about dog owners these days.

And as we drop down the scale of propriety, we have topless (male) “butlers” doing their thing, and finally, a “butler” who is currently being sued for using a co-worker’s credit card (for business-related expenses) for a meal for himself; when fired, he used the work credit cards assigned to four other staff to make further personal purchases in protest of his firing. The fired butler’s lawyer is claiming the butler had been “having trouble recently as he is bipolar and off his medication;” also that he comes from ‘a family of means’ who live in an ‘affluent suburb’ and are prepared to pay full restitution.

If these are all accurate statements of fact, then one can only shake one’s head at the lack of responsibility and low ethics level exhibited by this young man, who took it upon himself to join the profession with an obvious lack of understanding of how to execute his duties faithfully—if indeed he were ever trained in the duties in the first place—and having perhaps too much of a sense of entitlement and an idea of the need for status over substance. We hope he can can find  guidance that will help disentangle him from this morass he has wandered into, and that he can start to make something of his life.

As for the bigger picture, since the young man was in the position only one month, hopefully employers reading this sad story will not feel compelled to tar all butlers and household managers with the same brush.

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 10

by Amer Vargas 

Of Grasshoppers

Especially for those who like to laugh at the exploits of the geeks in Big Bang Theory, today we will discover the recipe that may have awoken the ability of shy-with-the-ladies Rajesh Koothrappali to talk to them.

Grasshopper by Cindy H PhotographyIt starts when Raj attends a blind date set up by his parents with Penny, who is keen to practice her mixology skills so that she can perform more professionally during her barkeeper shifts. After preparing a Tequila Sunrise for Leonard, a mutual colleague, Penny asks Raj what he would like. Since he finds it uncomfortable to talk to her, he whispers in Leonard’s ear to tell her he would like whatever she suggests; to which she replies, “What about a grasshopper? I make a mean grasshopper.” And so ends the episode.

Let’s see how this soft and sweet cocktail is made. The Grasshopper has a distinctive green color (the reason for its name), as a consequence of having crème de menthe among its ingredients—the others being fresh cream and crème de cacao.

The preparation is really simple: the ingredients are poured in equal parts, generally 1 oz/3 cl each, into a shaker with ice. Once the mix is shaken and chilled, it is served strained in a classic cocktail glass and decorated with a two or three leaves of mint.

Enjoy responsibly and have fun with the drink (and the TV show, if it suits you).

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas @

Personalized Amenities

A new example from Mr. Gutman of that extra creative touch in personalizing an amenity for a guest.IMG-20160207-01390



Of Butlers and Roses, Part 23 of 25

by GJ dePillis

A Rose by Any Other Name can be Delicious

While the chef is focused on creating attractive, nutritious, and delectable dishes for the family and guests, it might be a good idea to augment the service with roses from the garden.

A large centerpiece with delightfully arranged roses, for instance, could be a talking point during the meal. Rose petals can be placed in finger bowls when guests need to use their fingers for a particular dish. Rose boutonnières can be provided for the gentlemen when the occasion calls for it. Or maybe for the ladies, a single long stem rose by which to remember the evening. Bowls of rose potpourri could be used to scent the air.

All of these are excellent uses of the rose, but how about eating one?

Rosa Gallica Officinalis, photo by David Austin Roses
Rosa Gallica Officinalis, photo (c) by David Austin Roses

Rose (Rosa Rugosa or Gallica Officinalis) petals have been described as having a mild sweet taste (once the bitter, white parts have been removed). The stronger the fragrance of the rose, the more intense the flavor. The rose bud (Cercis Canadensis) is also edible. Rose hips, or the little pill-sized red fruits left behind after the rose bloom has faded and fallen off, has medicinal properties and contains high amounts of vitamin C. The rose hip has been described as fruity yet spicy, like a cranberry. The Rosa Rugosa variety is considered one of the most flavorful.

To harvest rose hips, wait until the first frost and pick soon before the rose hips become overripe, as characterized by becoming soft and wrinkled. If the chef is not familiar with cooking rose hips, you may want to remind him to remove the hairy seeds inside and avoid using metal pans and utensils during preparation (other than stainless steel).

Next month, we will discuss some recipes using roses. Until then, happy rose-menu planning

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 @

Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Should I lacquer my silver?

A: Lacquering silver and silverplate is generally not recommended for a number of reasons:

  1. The individual may not properly prepare the object’s surface to accept the lacquer.
  2. It’s very difficult to obtain a uniform coating, even when applied by a professional.
  3. If the coating is not applied well, it may have streaks and small holes, allowing tarnish to form.
  4. Lacquer will eventually yellow and crack, allowing tarnish to form within the fissures and eventually under the protective coating. Strong solvents must then be used to remove the lacquer and the piece refinished. Take a look at these pieces that were once lacquered.

6c0e539d-a6f5-467a-b64d-fc5adf82fb78Because of the above issues, Renaissance wax – an archival micro-crystalline product – is recommended for those wanting to lacquer their silver.

Renaissance will not yellow or crack and will last for years if handled properly. Renaissance wax is not as durable as lacquer, so the object should be handled with heavyweight natural cotton jersey inspection gloves as acid from fingers may eventually remove it. Since dust can be acidic and eventually wear through the wax, placing your silver in a closed display will help insure that particulate matter will not fall on the object’s surface. Whether inside or outside a display case, every few months gently wipe the object with a Selvyt* cloth or soft cotton cloth. This will keep the wax or silver polish with tarnish protectant from breaking down prematurely.

Renaissance wax should not be used on flatware or other objects that will be used to eat from. When applying Renaissance, do so in small areas at a time (no larger than a 3″ square). Buff immediately with a soft cotton cloth, cotton ball, or make-up pad. Overlap each area to insure the entire surface is coated.

* [A trade name for a microfiber cloth available in England for £11 each. Terga cloths from Sweden were the originals and are about the same price. Cheaper Chinese knock-offs can be found in stores that have, so far, not been found to be as reliable in performance or as long lasting by the editor].

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.

Butler history Butler training Training

Passion and Excellent Service in the Mayan Riviera

When you dream about beautiful suites, Mexican flora, a navigable lagoon next to the clear sand and quiet beaches of the Mayan Riviera, together with a passion to truly impress the guests, you are probably dreaming about Rosewood Mayakoba.

Over the month of September we experienced in this property the four seasons, from sunny and hot days on the beach, to warm and cloudy days for sweating in the gym and relaxING in the spa, to rainy days for enjoying a drink and a book at the bar, to chilly nights under the blanket of the stars decorated with a total lunar eclipse of a supermoon. Altogether, a place to  remember always.

And we haven’t yet talked about the superb service every single staff member provides to his or her guests. Upon arrival, a little boat tour to introduce the outdoor facilities is followed by the welcoming butler who is ready to unpack your luggage. You are on holidays. No rush. Your butler encourages you to forget about everything and to start to relish every second whilst he or she takes care of everything. Fancy some action? These are the water activities I suggest you join. Looking for some tranquility and peace of mind? We have these great therapies in the spa or even in your suite. Want to visit an archaeological site nearby? My suggestion is that you fly there and have lunch at a local hacienda.

Rosewood Mayakoba Butlers

The butler is just pampering you, but wait until he provides the unexpected surprise… Once you are wowed, you will never forget.

Congratulations to all the Butler team at Rosewood Mayakoba!

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, February 2015, International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 11, issue 2

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

If you have heard the expression, “What the Butler Saw” and wondered what it referred to, its provenance is an acrimonious divorce case between Lord and Lady Colin Campbell of Scotland in 1886. The key to the trial seems to have been whether their butler could have seen Lady Campbell in a compromising position with the Captain of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, through the keyhole of the Campbell’s dining room in London. Although both parties were accused of adultery, the fact that Lady Campbell was not granted the divorce implies that the jury, who were taken to that exact keyhole at 79 Cardogan Street, were able to observe adequately the area of the dining room in question in order to give credence to the butler’s claims. Over the intervening 129 years, the phrase “What the Butler Saw” has became a euphemism for sex and voyeurism, and has been used as the title of various books, movies, etc. with that theme.

From the butler perspective, taking sides in a dispute between a married couple is a long-standing no-no. We are privy to events that normally are private moments, and so are expected to see, hear, and speak nothing in order to be allowed to continue in service, even when we do hear and see plenty. Two court cases, mentioned below, are reminders that we are occasionally (sometimes often) put in a position of having knowledge we would rather not have. How the butler manages such moments is the mark of the true butler as opposed to the gossip or worse.

Butlers in the Media

Here is an interesting article based on a report regarding problems the wealthy are having in staffing their stately homes in England. Candidates just don’t seem to be “loyal, deferential and discreet” anymore. “Recruitment and retention are common problems, while some employees are litigious and ready to sue their boss if they feel their rights are breached. Staffing issues—especially if they ever reach the court—can be extremely costly, in terms of time, personal angst, and money.” The advice given in the report to employers is, “It is vital to keep abreast of any new rules to avoid being sued by disgruntled employees. People are becoming increasingly well-informed about their rights and litigious, especially if they have a high-profile employer.” Further advice is to have the employer sign a Non-disclosure Agreement. But what a sorry state of affairs, betraying a general lack of education on the part of employees, and, no doubt, employers, and falling ethics levels in society.

With the Savoy’s media department working hard to promote the hotel through its butler offerings, the PR department of another hotel in London has added their own good words about the profession in relation to their hotel. The sentiments expressed were on target: for instance, the story of their solving a guest’s problem was telling: “One of the most unusual requests we have ever had was helping a distraught guest to locate her lost wedding ring. After retracing her entire day, we finally found it behind the counter at one of the big pharmacies in Piccadilly Circus.” If there be one thing that guests and employers appreciate the most, it is when a butler takes ownership of, and solves, their pressing problems.

Trying to find a butler on Craig’s list and similar avenues is oxymoronic, but when searching for a butler for venues other than  private service, it might make sense. is advertising an assistant butler position in a governor’s mansion in the US in Virginia at $32-40K. They claim the national average for assistant butlers is 30K….to which we can only reply, “Indeed? How was that figure established?” It seems to have been based on the salaries of all job titles in their database with the word “Assistant” in them, such as “Engineering Project Assistant.” Perhaps we should re-introduce “Logic” into school curriculums; and if there is not enough time for such a subject, then simply use them to replace the “political correctness” classes.

The Bettencourt trial continues in France, with mentions of the butler secretly recording conversations between his employer and her visitors. Across the Atlantic, similar legal actions are in the offing over a Black Book the butler kept on his employer (who was later convicted as a sex offender) and guests and their activities. In both cases, the butlers broke the golden rule about respecting the privacy of employers and their guests.

There are mitigating circumstances, however: In the case of the French butler, he appears to have been loyal to his employer, making the recordings to protect her interests, which he felt were being worked against by unscrupulous visitors. In the case of the American butler, he refused to hand over his book and served time in prison as a result. If the media are to be believed, he kept the book as insurance against his employer turning against him. Does this mean bribery was also occurring? It might have been. But in any event, the butler did not go public with it. However, his continuing to serve his employer in the full knowledge of the employer’s actions means the butler aided and abetted paedophiles by providing them with butler service. Is that really how one wants to summarize one’s life? “I served a paedophile loyally.”

This is yet another example of the central theme of that great book/movie, Remains of the Day, in which butlers are confronted by the notion that they have misplaced their loyalty and are left at the end with nothing of value to show for their life’s work. We would counsel anyone who finds themselves serving people who are unethical, to find another position and resign; and then make known quietly in the butler community, the unethical nature of that household/principal. If no butler were to provide the support of the profession to such people, then they would be rendered less effective in their nefarious dealings and society, and the profession, that much better off. Perhaps a quiet word in the ear of law enforcement at some later stage would allow them to do their jobs, too, for the betterment of one and all.

A new application joins the pantheon of Butler Thises and Thats: the Express Butler—an electronic pass that can be purchased at a theme park in Germany and which allows one to go to the front of the line.


Mature domestic couple/caregivers sought for snowbirds for their Ohio estate. Generous package. Email the Institute with your resumes and any questions.

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 12

by Amer Vargas 


Today we will visit the United States to learn a little bit about bourbon whiskey (not whisky, which is the English spelling for the Scottish brew).

While there is no reliable information on when bourbon was first produced, written records confirm that it was developed into its present form only in the late 19th century.

The origin of the name bourbon is not clear either. Some claim the name comes from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, whilst another line of history asserts that the name comes from Bourbon County, formerly a part of Virginia State but currently belonging to Kentucky, since that State’s reorganization took place in 1792.

Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, photo by Skeeze
Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, photo (c) by Skeeze

So, what is the difference between whisky and bourbon whiskey? Whilst the basic production of both remains the same—a grain mixture that is used to produce a mash that later undergoes fermentation, then double distillation to between 65% and 80% alcohol, before being poured into casks—there are two key elements that differentiate them.

The first is the ingredients: whisky is produced using barley as the main ingredient, while bourbon requires a minimum of a 51% corn, the rest being rye, wheat, and/or malted barley.

The other key difference lies within the aging process: whisky is aged in oak barrels that have been used for aging whisky before, with the casks used several times. Whereas bourbon is aged (usually between 4 and 9 years) in new American white oak barrels, the insides of which are charred with a torch before being filled. The charred wood impregnates the drink with color and aromas that differ significantly from whisky stored in an uncharred barrel.

Jeam Beam aging Bourbon, photo by Bbadgett
Jim Beam aging Bourbon, photo (c) by Badgett

During the aging process, the barrels are kept in warehouses that can be influenced by the outside weather. The climate temperature expands and contracts the wood of the casks, which thereby imparts different types of flavor in the liquor. The hotter the weather, the more the pores of the wood open and impart its flavor. Thus the barrels that are stored on the top floor of the warehouses, where it’s hotter, create a slightly different flavor from those stored on the bottom floor.

After the maturation time, bourbon is taken out of the barrel, is filtered and can be diluted with water to achieve the desired alcohol by volume, commonly 40%; although legally, it can be left at 80% maximum—so-called “barrel proof” bourbon.

United States Federal laws permit the production of bourbon in the US only by following the steps described above.

Bourbon on the rocks, photo by Travellingmcmahans
Bourbon on the rocks, photo (c) by Travellingmcmahans

Distillers can play with the proportions of the ingredients as long a minimum of 51% corn is maintained; they can also decide on the length of time for fermentation and aging, but they cannot omit any of the steps. This point is very important; for example, there is a common misconception that Jack Daniels is a bourbon whiskey, but its production includes an extra step: filtration through maplewood charcoal before being aged in the charred oak barrels—and this extra step means it is not actually a bourbon.

Bourbon is a very versatile drink. It can be taken straight, diluted with water, on the rocks, mixed with soda, or be an ingredient in cocktails like the Manhattan or a version of the Mint Julep—or as with so many alcoholic drinks, it can be used to impart flavor in cooking.

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Dulce de Leche, photo by Mary-SiftingFocus
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Dulce de Leche, photo by Mary-SiftingFocus

A personal favorite: Chocolate bread pudding with bourbon and dulce de leche sauce. Enjoy!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at


An Enterprising Butler

We have featured the work of this butler in a boutique hotel in Florida, the Fort Harrison, once before, for the little extra touches he puts into common items that are normally simply presented, and which he turns into works of art. He continues to create delicately carved fruits that are themed according to guest interests

Queen Flower1

and has extended his handiwork to the soaps his high-end suite guests receive.


The attention to detail and care for the guest shine through.

ratliff headshotWhen it Comes to Housekeeping

by Professor Richard Ratliff 

The Secret to Housekeeping Success

The most important secret to successful housekeeping is disciplined housekeeping routines. The key words are routines and disciplined. It doesn’t matter whether it is a grand house or a modest home.

One household staff can be trained and diligent, but always hurried and behind; and so the house disorderly, badly maintained, and even unclean. Another household staff may seem calm and dignified, perhaps a little slow, by comparison—but their house is orderly, in excellent repair, and spotless. The difference is very likely to be ad hoc daily assignments vis-à-vis well-established routines.

Routines should include order, cleaning, regular maintenance and immediate repairs. Tasks are best outlined for daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, semi-annual, and annual activities. A written overall schedule would be posted and used, coordinating all the activities.

The primary requirements are (1) that order, cleaning, and maintenance are all covered for the entire house; (2) that these activities follow a regular routine; (3) that time allotments are realistic for thorough and disciplined, but unhurried work; (4) that routines are followed rigorously; and (5), that repairs be made immediately. Housekeeping is a full-time job. If major unexpected tasks demand attention, consider hiring temporary staff or tradesmen, rather than compromise the housekeeping routines.

Specific frequency of different activities is less important than disciplined regularity. One staff may attempt daily dusting, another weekly—depending upon preferences and circumstances. In fact, disciplined weekly dusting may be superior to haphazard and interrupted “daily” dusting; and superior to actual daily dusting if other tasks go undone.

One further point: What is the best vacuum cleaner? Answer: The one that is used.

The result is a more attractive home, a happier employer, and a more contented household staff.

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 10 of 20

by GJ dePillis

Pruning different types of roses

Pruning roses properly is critical to their flourishing, so here are the basic rules.

  • HYBRID TEA ROSE & FLORABUNDA: These roses grow like a bush. Prune established plants down to 5 inches
  • OLD or ENGLISH ROSE: Cut back the height to one third (i.e. cut a three-foot tall bush to one-foot). Then cut back the side shoots to about 4 inches in length and remove dead wood (die back). They should not be pruned too much as the wood grows very slowly.
  • WEEPING STANDARDS: The goal is to have the roses “weep”—meaning have the shoots grow downward. If they grow upward, tie them down into position so they grow down or simply remove (cut off) the shoot to maintain the balance of the plant.
  • SPECIES or MODERN ROSES: These rarely require pruning except to remove dead wood. If it grows too big for the area it is in, try to cut whole branches down to the connecting cane.
  • REPEAT FLOWERING CLIMBING ROSES: Cut back to 4 inches (10cm) any branches that have already held a bloom, then tie the main growth into position so it can “climb up” the supporting structure. Rambling roses require very little pruning and only need to be cut back when they become too large for the area. You can train ramblers to climb a bit. Remove main shoots and cut back side shoots to about 4 inches.
  • GROUND COVER ROSES: Only remove dead wood and trim the borders to keep neat. As a note, most of these varieties are very disease resistant.
  • MINIATURE ROSES: After a few years, cut back the oldest stems and cut back roses which seem to have forgotten to remain “miniature.”
Photo by David Austin Roses
Photo by David Austin Roses

AFTER PRUNING: Remember to “fluff up” the soil with a fork—about 1 or 2 inches deep—to aerate it and remove tiny weeds. Then apply a long term fertilizer. Then, layer some compost or mulch on top. This sequence should give good blooms by summer time.

REMOVE SUCKERS*: Most roses are grafted onto hardy rootstock. This means that suckers which form are from a rose plant that you do not want. For this reason, always cut back sucker shoots. Remember to take off the bark so they don’t come back. Also note that some rose varieties can be mistaken for a sucker (most suckers have groupings of seven leaves to a branch, but so do some roses, such as Albas), so don’t be suckered into an ill-advised spring cleaning.

Until next time, happy pruning!

*A shoot at the base of a plant, especially coming from the root below ground level.

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 at

Jeff Herman

 Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

 Q: Can I add a patina to silver or does it have to be done professionally?

 A: I would advise against anyone other than a silver conservationist performing this application, for these reasons: 1) These chemicals are very toxic; 2), they are difficult to apply and highlight.

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 at

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.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal, January 2015, International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 11, issue 1

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

As Downton Abbey continues into its next season, helping spread kind views of our profession, the world continues to teeter from one outrageous calamity or excess to another, but life for most of us continues pretty well as normal. Certainly, for the Institute, we had a very successful year and the next one promises to see us expanding into new realms. We hope your year, too, will see the desired next steps being achieved for you and yours.

Butlers in the Media

A good article on the development of luxury resorts in the Maldives.

Strange, the ideas people have of butlers: One hotel is advertising on Craig’s List for a “butler,” whose duties are those of a night bellman. In another advertisement, a gentleman is promoting himself as a “butler” who  provides housesitting services.

Fascinating, the items of furniture on eBay that are either called “butler ____” or are connected with the profession—such as a butler’s bell pull or pulley.

This list is being extended on a regular basis as new items called “butler” are invented and  forced by contorted logic and/or tired marketing to ride upon the coattails of the profession. Here’s another example.

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 11

by Amer Vargas 

Amarula Cream 

Today, we travel to the beautiful country of South Africa to shed some light on the second-best-selling liqueur cream world-wide (Baileys being #1).

Amarula, photo by rob2001
Amarula, photo by rob2001

Amarula Cream is one of South Africa’s prides and there is a good reason for it: since its inception in 1989, this cream liqueur has multiplied its consumption and presence all over the world. Nowadays, while very popular in South Africa, of course, it is exported to more than a hundred countries, being especially popular in Brazil.

Marula fruit, photo by J.Riley
Marula fruit, photo by J.Riley

The main ingredient of Amarula is the marula fruit from the female marula tree. This exotic fruit grows only in the sub-equatorial plains of Africa and has a unique and delicious acidity and an interesting reputation: Marula has been recognized for centuries by many animals in the region for its powers of intoxication.

Marula tree, photo by Brett Hilton-Batber
Marula tree, photo by Brett Hilton-Batber

Many are the reports of animals becoming embarrassingly inebriated after eating the fruit—which has such a high sugar content that it ferments naturally in the sun, thereby producing alcohol.

From the end of January to March, the marula is hand-harvested. The fruit is crushed to separate the flesh and skin from the kernel, and then the skins are separated from the flesh. A “wine” is produced that is double distilled and aged in small oak casks for two years. The last step involves mixing the matured and distilled liquid with fresh cream.

Amarula, the Spirit of Africa, is commonly enjoyed on its own or “on the rocks,” but is also becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cocktails and even in some desserts.

Whichever presentation of Amarula you prefer, surround yourself with good friends and enjoy it while celebrating the beginning of this great 2015! Cheers!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 9 of 20

by GJ dePillis

The language of flowers – Florigraphy

On a practical note, whether organizing a gala, a formal banquet, or a private party, it always helps to use checklists, including for the floral arrangements. Several checklists can be found online  or in books, including the best-selling Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals. 


Moving beyond the prosaic, creating floral arrangements using blossoms and blooms from your employer’s garden where it is sufficiently substantial, always adds color and talking points. But talking of talking points, it is not widely known that there existed a whole lexicon associated with the giving and receiving of flowers during the late 1800’s—of which only the wealthy and their staff understood the meaning. For example, if a flower were given by a man to a lady for whom he harbored silent adoration, she would signal her response by the way she received it. If she touched the blossom to her lips, she was silently saying “Yes!” If she plucked off a petal and tossed it aside, she was saying, “No!” If someone was presented with a sprig of parsley, the message was “May you win at whatever you are engaged in.” If flowers were presented with ivy wrapped around the bouquet or cascading out of it, the message was “I desire”; in this case, the presenter of the bouquet was understood to be asking for permission to approach more intimately.

Even in this day and age, flowers are used for many occasions, and so have accumulated meanings or associations thereby: for example, do not give white flowers to a person of Chinese heritage, as the color white is associated with death/funerals in their culture; roses are considered to be romantic, etc.

Here are some more meanings associated with flowers, according to Flora’s Lexicon of 1839, some of which you no doubt will recognize:

  • Ranunculus: “You are radiant with charms”
  • Daffodil: “Chivalry and regard”
  • Tulips: “Intense love” (derived from the tulip frenzy of the 1600’s that made men trade their worldly goods for certain tulip bulbs):
Variegated tulips
  1. Red tulips: “Declaration of love”
  2. Variegated (striped petals) tulips: “You have beautiful eyes”
  3. Tree tulips: “You will have fame and rural happiness”
  • Crocus: “Cheerful mirth, pleasure of hope, and renewed gladness”
  • Raspberry: “I apologize”
  • Rose: “Beauty, and love”
  1. Coral rose: “I admire your accomplishments”
  2. Lavender rose: “My pure love is genuine and sincere”
  3. Pink rose: “You are graceful, gentle and lovely”
  4. Red rose: “I desire and love you”
  5. Red and white rose: “My happy heart is yours”
  6. White rose: “I am worthy of you” (sometimes used for bridal love and to express the bliss of being united after a waiting period of restraint)
  7. Yellow rose: “I am so pleased we are friends.”

Today, nobody is so introverted and super discreet as to semaphore their messages via florigraphy before opening their mouth, but we still do have certain flowers we use for certain occasions.

Until next time, have a wonderful time speaking the language of flowers.

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 at

Jeff HermanConsulting the Silver Expert

by Jeffrey Herman

Q: What are the rough spots on my sterling that I can’t remove with silver polish?

A: Those black rough spots you feel on sterling (or other solid silver alloys) and can’t remove with silver polish is most likely corrosion. Place an ammonia-soaked cotton ball on the corrosion spot and it should be dissolved within 10 minutes. If not, do it again for ten minutes at a time until the corrosion is removed. You may need to use some silver polish on a Q-tip or cotton ball and “massage” the area very lightly until you bring up the shine to blend in with the surrounding area. There will probably be a shallow etched spot that remains under the corroded area.

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 at


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.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, January 2014

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, issue 1

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

We would like to offer a “Thank You” and “Farewell” to Ms. Pamela Spruce, who has retired from teaching butlers after many years at the helm of the Australian Butler School. We wish Ms. Spruce well in her new adventures, as well as Mr. Chris Reid, who has taken over the ABS. In Ms. Spruce’s words: “I think we can both be proud of the contribution we have made to the private service industry over the past fifteen-plus  years in the business and trust that younger minds will take what we’ve achieved and build on it with fresh ideas and approaches.”

We were very happy to have stolen a couple of hours with Ms. Spruce (far right) as our paths crossed finally at the airport in Male, Maldives a few months ago—we had been training at resorts just a few miles from each other.














Continuing on the same theme, we would like to thank those who sent in  kind comments on last month’s editorial about keeping work and life upbeat. Perhaps it is fitting that we expand on the message with some comments on the training of butlers today—for while not all trainers are of the caliber of Ms. Spruce, they nonetheless all share a passion for genuinely helping others grow…but a very small minority are not so clear in their intentions, and it is such people I feel it appropriate to discuss in the hope of empowering those they afflict with their training.

As disappointing as life can become sometimes, in truth, it is actually a game where losing or winning are not such dire elements: You lose? No big deal, was the game fun to play? The better games do not require there be losers. And the better players are as happy to win as to lose, as long as the playing was fun and there are plenty more interesting games to play thereafter.

But for some people, the game of life has become desperately serious—they feel so wretched about themselves and others that they have to come out on top, even if it means cheating or hurting others in the process. Being the only recognized player becomes more important than enjoying the game, or taking joy in the contributions of other players, the skills demonstrated by self and others, and the excitement of achieving goals in a cooperative effort.

One may well meet such people when training. A while back, I did. I had left my butler students very excited about the future while I  went to service another client. I returned a few weeks later to complete their training, only to find them all of very low morale and 25% of them having left—and too many of the staff in other departments having left, too.

What had happened?

Another trainer, while claiming repeatedly to be the best trainer in the world, had told all the staff that if they did not do as he/she told them, they would be fired. Everything that they did was, according to this trainer, not good enough and they had been poorly trained;  this opinion was frequently and very loudly made known to them and their colleagues. At the same time, the butlers had been forbidden to practice or use their standard operating procedures from the moment I had left, and instead had been told verbally to perform random, contradictory, and ever-changing procedures. They were punished and shamed in front of others for wrong answers or actions. Tests were rigged for failure.

When two of the butlers rated this trainer’s training poorly in an HR follow-up survey, they were fired. Others just quit rather than face the indignities. And despite never having worked as a butler nor actually training the ones at this location in butler skills, this trainer instructed these butlers to tell guests, when they asked, that they had been trained by him/her.

The managers were unwilling to rein in this individual (because the person apparently represented the owner of the managing company), instead supporting his/her demands and trying to persuade themselves and others that there was nothing that could be done about this individual’s training and management style. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

Technically, such a being is stuck in the past and fighting some past unknown-to-them-and-everyone-else battle. Life has ceased to be a game, and instead, has become a desperate fight to the finish, where nothing anyone else does can ever be validated as good, and everything is criticized and made nothing of. In a nutshell, other people are completely unimportant and their actions never good enough.

When nothing and nobody are good enough, and therefore dismissed, an individual cuts themselves off from much enjoyment in life—they also happen to share the same mindset as criminals, who are not able truly to enjoy and experience their ill-gotten possessions and who have to insist upon their superiority.

In truth, the best way to control others, including those one is teaching, is with love, affection, two-way communication, trust, and confidence in them—a lesson this person could learn if only they actually cared for their students and were not so sure he/she already knew everything that needed to be known. Teaching can be frustrating, but the trick is to realize that any student who does not “get it” is simply saying, “Teach me in a way I can understand.”

In the years I have been engaged in training and consulting, I have met some strange games being played by a few colleagues (copying others verbatim and then claiming the work/ideas to be their own; training others in the profession without any personal experience in it, etc.), but these are all relatively harmless and make up the giant tapestry of how we as a group pass on skills from generation to generation. Overall, we muddle through and the profession keeps going.

But where an individual specializes in pushing others down, using fear and punishment instead of understanding the dignity, aspirations, decency, and value of each individual they have been charged with educating, then they degrade the game of learning, and the game of life, into an unhappy one. Such people only succeed, they only have power, as long as individuals fail to stand up to them. All the management and staff have to do is to say, “I am sorry, I do not agree with your comments and actions. Please leave.” If the individual won’t, they can simply take whatever (legal) measures are indicated, as such abuses generally violate the laws of the land, quite in addition to any standards of acceptable training in the 21st Century.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” as the saying goes. But where such individuals have their way, there is no will left in their victims—the life goes out of them, as the under-butler said on his deathbed in Remains of the Day.

I have quite often written about the abuse of people in service and encouraged anyone so abused to move on: we are not yet in a feudal system of service where we work in repressive conditions for little pay and no choice about where we work because the employer owns and controls us like he owns a car or a dog. A case was all over the news this past November of three ladies being coerced into domestic slavery in London for three decades, trapped by their own fear. If they had read one of my books, they might have understood the wicked web being woven by their “employers,” and perhaps acted to free themselves many years earlier.

For if those who abuse are simply left without service, then that cannot be such a bad thing: there are many, many individuals and corporations that provide perfectly good work environments. Being in service means serving from the heart, with passion; when the recipient of such service, or someone claiming to represent them, has lost sight of the fact that life is a fun game in which the server, also, deserves to enjoy life as a fellow player, then the passion is sucked out of the service game and it turns to drudgery and worse.

In this case, I am not encouraging people to move on (it would be silly to leave because of one person in an organization that is otherwise wonderful to be a part of), but to stand together in refusing to cooperate with abusive forms of training—it is not how good butlers or service professionals are made, and not the standard in our profession.

One last point from Emily Post who says in Etiquette, A Guide to Modern Manners, 1922: “Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.”

Good manners flow naturally from good manner, and from abusive manner flow abuses that continue only as long as the recipients feel obligated to play along.

Happy to hear any comments….

 Letters to the editor

A strange letter perhaps, but a picture speaks a thousand words, as the cliche goes, and one might be forgiven for thinking this use of “butler” is just where the idea belongs.













Butlers in the Media

Apple joins the throng of those trying to move closer to electronic butlers

book review on the life of servants in England over the last two centuries, picking up where E.S. Turner left off in his great book, What the Butler Saw.

A bit of media drama about Downton Abbey and the salaries that butlers can command, and about female butlers—all good trends in terms of recognition for the improving condition of the profession.

Forrest Whitaker, who was recently nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor for his lead role in The Butler, talks about the training he received for that role.

Perceptions of the Butler (Part 4 of 5)

by GJ dePillis

In past segments of this article, we explored the way a potential employer thinks about a possible candidate.

In this section,  potential employers were asked how their perception of such as a butler’s accent, land of origin, culture, marital status, etc., influenced their hiring decision. Please note that the survey responses are truly held beliefs by the respondents, and are given here because they reflect a certain reality. However, the respondents’ views do not reflect the views of the author, the editor or the Institute.

© 2013 by John dePillis

A.     British: 83% Positive, 17% negative.  Some of the initial impressions of a British butler would be that they were capable, appropriate, and that there would be no language barrier, thereby fostering easier communication between employer and employee.  The negative comments included the feeling that the employee may wish to “slide by” on the notion that the perfect butler was British and use their accent as a way to shirk duties.

B.     French: 16% Positive, 84% negative. Several surveyed felt the French individual would not be dedicated to the job and would be difficult to understand, as well as possibly temperamental.

C.     Italian:  50% Positive, 50% negative (In this case, the negative was because they felt this accent is associated with a chef and not a butler)  Some positive attributes were: they felt an Italian-speaking individual would be trustworthy and stylish.

D.     Jamaican:  33% Positive, 67% negative.    Some positive attributes associated with Jamaican butlers were that they might be polite and easygoing.  However, some employers felt such a person would be not dependable but rather focused on their own pursuits instead of the interests of the employer.

E.      Asian (including butlers from India):   Positive attributes included “diligent” and “hard working.”  Those surveyed felt these employees could be counted upon to attend to detailed work.  Some negative comments included concerns about culture clashes and values.

F.      Hispanic: 35% Positive, 65% negative.   Those with negative concerns were primarily uncertain that a Hispanic individual would be able to master the skill level expected of a butler. Given a choice, they would hire such an individual for a different position at their home, but definitely not as a butler.

G.     American Southern: 70% Positive, 30% negative.   Several employers surveyed felt that this individual would be charming and the accent was received favorably.  Some of those who responded negatively expressed concern that Southern employees might use slang and improper grammar, which could reflect negatively on the employer.

H.     American Bronx:  40% Positive, 60% negative.  Some negative concerns were that this individual would seem too street-wise or tough to represent the refined gentleman’s gentleman that the employer was expecting.  Words used were: opinionated, aggressive, and  arrogant.  Employers would value a butler who possessed varied skills and could “hold their own,” yet want the butler’s façade to express elegance and discretion.  Positives simply stated they would not judge an employee on this accent and would look at their actions, instead.

I.       American Canadian: 85% Positive, 15% negative. Words associated with a Canadian butler were reliable, polite, respectful, and honest.  The few negative comments were simply associated with the desire to hire a US citizen, as opposed to a Canadian citizen.

J.       American West Coast: 90% Positive, 10% negative.  Those with negative comments expressed concern that this applicant would see the job of Butler as a temporary occupation and not take it seriously. The remainder stated such a butler’s accent was not distracting and even welcoming and familiar.

K.      Other: This section allowed the interviewee to suggest an accent and associated assumption of the character of Butler applicant.  Comments included: Russian accents implied the employee would be very strict. Several found an Irish accent pleasant, enjoyable, not stuffy, and capable.

In this next section, the employer was asked to explain if and how their perception of a candidate would vary if a butler candidate were any of the following:

  • Honorably discharged United States veteran: 100% felt very positively about this candidate.
  • Married:  35% said that a married butler would be acceptable as an applicant, but they did not expect to hire the wife in any capacity. 65% felt a married butler would prevent him from travelling with the employer, therefore viewed a married applicant negatively.
  • Single: 100% felt an applicant who was single was preferable, but with some caveats: namely that all personal social activity should occur well away from the employer’s household. There should be no scandal associated with social interactions. Romantic socializing should not include members of the staff or household. Theoretically, should the butler’s personal life be made public, his actions should not reflect negatively on the employer’s household.
  • Gay/Lesbian:  One female respondent said she would prefer a gay male so that she would not be the unintended focus of his potential romantic intentions.  The remainder of respondents stated they were neutral as long as all social interactions took place well away from the employer’s household.  Respondents also felt strongly is that the gay or lesbian butler candidate should not be romantically involved with any other member of the staff or household.  The final condition was that if the butler’s personal life ever became public, it should not reflect negatively on the employer’s household.

Finally, we challenged preconceived notions:

Would you consider a female applicant for the office of butler?  30% stated no; 70% stated yes if she were qualified and was strong enough to lift a sterling silver tea tray.

When you think of a “butler,” what race/nationality comes to mind and why? 90% stated British;  10% stated they couldn’t think of any particular group.

Would you call your butler by first name, last name, or nickname? 65%  said they would call the butler by his first name; 33% said they would ask the butler what he wished to be called; 2% said they would use his last name.

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 at

Hospitality Training

After assisting LVMH further with their Grand Opening at Maison Cheval Blanc Randheli, it was time to spend a few weeks at Anantara Kihava Villas, another splendid private island in the Maldives. The Villa  Hosts put together this short Anantara Graduation video to show some of the training they received. 

Consulting the Silver Expert

by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Some of the gilding has worn off my fish slice, can it be re-plated?

A: Yes, the worn area can be sponge plated and blended into the surrounding gilding.

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 at

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.


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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 7

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Reviewing the prospects for our profession, they seem rather bright in an economy that does not otherwise offer much encouragement: the number of billionaires is set to double in the next seven years, and the number of HNW (High Net Worth) individuals (assets of $30 million and up, which has for many years been my own estimate of the wherewithal required for employers to take on butlers) will likewise increase 50%. While much of this growth is anticipated to take place in Asia and the Middle East, rather than the traditional European and United States markets, the increased demand for butlers and other household staff is still being seen in these countries, resulting in less time being spent looking for positions by those who have viable resumes. As disconcerting and uncertain as being between jobs may seem, rest assured that employers are actually desperate for reliable and competent staff, so my advice is to pass by those with high-turnovers and do not give in to those seeking, irrationally, to penny pinch on the remuneration package.

Please enjoy this newsletter—I learned something from the Canadian wines article; you may, too.

Letters to the Editor

“Good newsletter, thank you. Talking about employer ethics reminds me of John Gielgud’s line as the butler in Murder on the Orient-Express (1975), when he says something along the lines of ‘We should ask for the employers’ references rather than being asked for our own.’ Unfortunately, today, we have replaced privilege of birth with privilege of money, and the results are pretty horrible.” GL

“I have read your many articles and they have been of a great help to me. I would like to ask a few questions: In a five-star resort, would you set up one butler appointed to one room or for several rooms? What would be the difference between concierge service and butler service? What would be a medium-range salary for a butler in a resort?” AL

Editor: How many rooms a butler has to service depends on the quality of the butler offering to which the hotel or resort wants to aspire. Obviously, one butler per room/suite/villa would be expensive to maintain but would provide a level of service comparable to private service. In practice, either small boutique hotels/villas offer one butler per room/villa, or the top suites of hotels and resorts offer a butler dedicated to that suite, while guests in the other (or some of the other) suites share their butler.

Concierge Service is front of the house, offering assistance generally with guest requirements external to the hotel. The butler is in the suite, servicing the guests. This can include providing concierge service, especially when there is no concierge, or where the concierge handles the greater hotel, while the butlers service just some of the hotel guests. Generally, where there is a good concierge department, it is better for the butler to work with and through the concierge(s) for external requirements of guests.

Butler salaries in resorts really depend on the location of the resort. Butlers would typically make 15-40K (USD) in salaries, but tips are generally considered to double the take-home. Butler Managers make 25-50K, and if they are part of the tip sharing, then add to that figure according to the percentage of the tips that are apportioned to the Head Butler.  I suggest the top end of the salary ranges would apply to the West, the lower-end to “developing countries.” 

“Your answers have been a great help in this project.” AL

Butlers in the Media

The star-studded movie, The Butler, will be released on August 16 and is well worth viewing as our profession takes the lead role. It may not be the typical butler role, as White House Butlers have a narrowly focused job description compared with the Butler Administrator/Household or Estate Manager, and the focus is on the racial and political elements one would expect of household staff who are mostly African Americans serving nothing but a revolving series of political leaders. But the basic elements of butling and service are in place and well portrayed by Forest Whittaker, an actor who throws himself into the role based on extensive research to understand the mindset and behavior patterns of his roles. The movie is a serious look at a butler at work, modeled on real life rather than fiction—with the butler as the central character, the movie promises to add to the stature of our profession.

An interesting take from the New York Times on the future of the luxury hotel market.

The Institute’s Chairman was featured in a local upscale magazine recently (go to pages 52 onwards).

Consulting the Silver Expert

Mr. Jeffrey Herman has offered his services to our readers, for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339 0417 or email jeff at

Here is the first enquiry, answered with great speed:


Q: How can I remove the build-up of old paste on brass door handles? Also, we have water glasses that are clouded, but I cannot remove the fog with simple acidic bases, such as white vinegar with hot water. Any suggests?

JH: “For the brass, I would use this method. If you’re afraid of splashing water on the woodwork, spread some Purell on the area and let it soften the polish, then tap the polish with the brush bristles, which will lift the polish. Use a cotton towel or cotton ball to remove the residue. Just remember to use some form of liquid to soften the polish FIRST, and lift it out with a natural bristle brush to avoid scratching.

“For cloudy glass, I highly recommend Cindy who has done some fantastic work for me. Take a look at her before-and-after images. Her pricing is also very reasonable! Glass sickness is something to be left to a professional.”

frankmitchell  Cigars, Part XVI

by Frank Mitchell 

Serving a Cigar, Part 1 of 2

Whether serving a cigar in private service or in a hotel or resort, the rules are very much the same. The only real difference being that in a hotel, the guest usually orders the cigar off a menu, while in private service you may be expected to know what cigar(s) your principal smokes. It stands to reason that if you are in the hotel trade, you must be highly familiar with the cigars on your menu and know them well enough to make suggestions for beginners and perhaps make recommendations for matching certain cigars with certain liqueurs or cognacs.

In a hotel environment, your guest may want to inspect the cigar, but be careful to avoid their handling them in a way that may damage the cigar or which could be considered unhygienic by other guests. Never assume that you should go ahead with cutting and lighting the cigar. Cigar smokers are usually quite particular about how their cigar is cut and they have to know you and trust you before they will let you do it. Do not take offense if the smoker prefers to do the cutting and lighting himself. Many aficionados regard this prelude as one of the highlights of the experience or will want it done ‘just so’.

In this case, bring the cigar to the guest on a silver salver. I prefer to place it on a bright, clean, white napkin folded in a simple square, which is placed on the salver. For the short distance from the humidor to the guest, it may not be necessary to cover the cigar. However, if you were taking the cigar for service in a room or suite, you should cover it with a fold of the napkin. Follow the rules for handling a cigar as mentioned in the earlier chapter on care and storage. Remember that if you are serving the cigar away from the hotel’s cigar lounge, you may need to bring a cigar ashtray—make sure that it is perfectly clean and presentable.

Unless you know the smoker’s preferred method of cutting, you should also provide a selection of cutters and a good lighter. (A good lighter is fully charged and operational—it can be relied on not to go out halfway through the lighting process.) Present the cigar to the guest for inspection and let the smoker cut and light. He may let the cap fall onto the salver when he returns the cutter. If he does, you can flip the napkin when walking back to your service station, so that it is not visible to other guests. Back at your station, discard the cap and remember to change the napkin often.

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

by Amer Vargas

This month we visit the land with a red Maple leaf in its flag: Canada. The country is unjustly not too well-known for its wines, as wine consumers are misdirected by the cold temperatures and harsh winter weather, with springs that can bring freeze-and-melt cycles and summers that are very humid. In spite of all this, Canadian vintners have learned and developed techniques to overcome their challenges.

Over two centuries ago, early settlers failed to cultivate vitis vinifera (European wine grapes) plants, so they turned to continental labrusca and riparia grapes instead. These withstood all Canadian weather conditions, but made such low-quality wine that it had to be fortified in order to make it drinkable and sellable. The last four decades, however, have seen major changes and improvements that have put Canada firmly onto the wine-world map: better trellising systems and control of vineyards have allowed European grapes to be cultivated and some vintners have even managed to cross continental and European vines—varietals like Vidal, Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir—for a hybrid sporting the best of each: better taste and the ability to withstand rough climates. These varietals represent a very small percentage of the current Canadian wine production, with most wine still being made from only European varietals.

Icewine from Okanagan Valley, photo by Yorkville

In Canada, wine regions are mostly concentrated in the southern ends of Ontario and British Columbia. The vast majority of wineries and vineyards in British Columbia are located in the desert-like area of the Okanagan Valley, where Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are used for whites, whilst Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are used to create quality red wines.

In Ontario, more than 2/3rds of vineyards are concentrated in the Niagara Peninsula, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s wine production. In terms of production, Vidal, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have a special presence when talking about white wines from this region; the red counterparts grown here are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Baco Noir.

Frozen grapes, photo by Dominic Rivard

A unique feature about both British Columbia and Ontario is their ability to produce ice wine consistently each year. Ice wine is a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The water in the grape freezes, but the sugars and other solids do not, creating a concentrated grape must. This wine’s journey starts with a quick harvest on a very cold morning (to ensure the grape does not thaw when harvested) and an equally quick pressing. The rest of the process remains the same as with other wines. The result is a characteristic, refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity.


Photo by Chensiyuan

And for those who enjoy that sweetness and high acidity, the end of the 20th century saw the birth of its sparkling version, discovered by chance by Canadian wine writer Konrad Ejbich in his home cellar, and first produced for commercial sale by Inniskillin Wines.  Since 1998, they use the Charmat method, involving a double fermentation in bulk tanks—the result is just too delicious!

To good fortune, I raise my bubbly ice wine!



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.


Published Articles

Butlers are Indispensable to the Pampered Lifestyle

Whatever luxury hotel guests, and individuals and families in upscale private residences, are looking for, pampering and having fun are two common goals that butlers are relied upon increasingly to provide.

And what do they provide? The way we teach them, it is anything requested that is legal. And when the butler is doing it correctly, whatever they anticipate the guest or employer wants before they even ask for it. That is part of the magic of having a butler—where things appear as if by magic.

Some luxury resorts and hotels strive to create magical moments for their guests. This is right on track with their mission, and why butler service is being offered increasingly in hotel settings, instead of just in private estates, as used to be the case just thirty years ago (before the hospitality industry realized the extra dimension of service guests could experience in their suites and villas).

For families who have not inherited and grown up with great wealth and who may not be used to the idea of butlers as the superior service-providers usually reserved for aristocracy and royalty, there is much to be gained by turning over the grind of running their estates and staff to a trained and experienced butler, leaving themselves free to enjoy the freedoms their great wealth brings.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure of working around the world with private families (who obviously must remain nameless), as well as top hotel chains and private villas, where the managers and staff have been more than eager to learn just what it is that makes butlers the superior-service professionals that they are.

And that does not mean tails, white gloves, and hushed tones everywhere: in London and New York, yes, The Savoy, St. Regis, and Mandarin Oriental; but not in the natural world of the Six Senses or One & Only chains, where white beaches and flashing white-teeth smiles are more in order, and the butlers bare-footed.

If one thing is certain, whatever the venue, those who can afford it will always be better off with a modern or traditional butler in the wings, seeing to their every need.




The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, November, 2012

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 11

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

In our profession, discretion is an admired quality that is also a trademark. Quite rightly so, if we are to ever be allowed into another’s estate to serve them. The downside, which has yet to be identified as such, is that one can fall into smiling at another while thinking daggers—an emotion that is easy to see and unpleasant to be confronted with—and following a hidden agenda. When it becomes a habit, a person will be all smiles and handshakes while being busy undermining the person they pretend to befriend. It is my hope that this element of our profession can be reduced, as it serves neither perpetrator nor victim well. It results in broken promises to communicate or otherwise to do something, and a general culture of distrust and faux relationships. It is possible to maintain one’s integrity, to keep one’s own counsel, and to help others, without falling into pretense. I am sure you will agree with me, if you have ever felt a twinge of betrayal as a result of another’s actions.

On a different and sad note, Ms. Letitia Baldrige just passed away. The NYT provides a suitable eulogy for this bulwark of manners—her view being that manners are not a set of restrictive rules to be followed, but genuine consideration for others.

Letters to the Editor

“This sounds a bit left field, but to explain: Airlines are charging so much for a second bag nowadays, it works out cheaper to take a second passenger and carry one bag each. We thought it would be quite fun to do a story saying ‘If you want to cut the cost of air travel, have a butler travel with you.’ Any thoughts?” DM, National Newspaper Editor, London

Ed: It would be a clever vehicle for having a dig at the airline excesses, which I am sure will continue until passengers say “No more!” If you are wondering what the baggage-fee equivalent may be for renting a butler for the day, however, you are looking at $500 US minimum, so I don’t think it will work in the mathematics department when added to the butler’s fare, even if he is booked in steerage. But please, do what you can to make it fly in the world of emotions—you have our support.

Butlers in the Media

The Economist  and Bloomberg cover the increasing demand for butlers, particularly in emerging markets.

An interesting article on the more lavish hotel suites available for one’s employer when traveling.

A curious article, also about hotel suites and amenities, and claiming to cover the Top Ten Things Luxury Guests Want, talks of Fragrance Butlers, Surf Butlers, Tanning Butlers, and Tartan Butlers, but makes no mention of actual butlers.

Yet another hotel-related article, this time from CNN while it implies for some reason that there is something wrong with “on-call butlers,” draws attention to what it calls faux butlers—the emergence of “e-butlers who help the hapless get online; BBQ butlers who grill your dinner; boot butlers to refresh your ski boots after a day on the slopes; and a sunglasses butler to clean and repair your eye wear. What’s next? Our guess is an SPF butler to apply sunscreen to your nose.” We couldn’t agree more, and that is why we created the Hotel Butler Rating System in 2007, so as to differentiate between hotels working hard to provide real butler service, and those that just use the word “butler” as a marketing gimmick to identify in the guest’s mind the idea of “superior service” with whatever non-butler service they happen to want to market and sell.

Along the same line, here is another worldly item that has been graced with the moniker “butler” for instant positioning with superior service.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant

 by Lisa Krohn

An Interview Gone Wrong

I am sharing this story about an interview I had for a domestic position because the cultural complexities and the intellectual and protocol dynamics might be of interest to others, as I assess what went wrong and why, and offer ways to resolve these issues in the short and long term.

I was invited to a major hedge fund to interview for a residential, domestic project. That was all I knew. The contact was a man who presented himself as the principal, and his family name suggested to me that he came from a developing country. When I arrived at the office, the receptionist laughed when I told her whom I was meeting. I apologized for the mispronunciation and she clarified that she was laughing because the name was an alias. The man I eventually met was from a different developing nation than the one I had guessed, but despite the alias, was nonetheless a partner and major player in the firm.  He told me that he wanted to hire me for two reasons:

1. To teach his chauffeur how to be punctual when meeting him and, equally as important, to bring him to his destination on time or even a bit early—he confided that he had been yelling at the chauffeur daily for years, but he just would not change.

2. To teach his housekeeper how to be more efficient and have a better disposition.

I asked him why he had kept her and the gentleman said that his wife liked her and she did not steal the jewelry.

He then asked me to tell him how I was going to accomplish these requests.

Here is what I said and how it unfolded. I began with the idea that he obviously wanted to invest in them by hiring me, so that said a great deal about what he thought of them already. I asked how long the housekeeper and chauffer had been with him and whether they were related.

“Two-to-three years, not related,” was the reply.

I asked what nationalities they were and the gentleman became incensed, saying that was none of my business and had nothing to do with the problems.

I said “Sir, with all due respect, I recently studied a contemporary culture that lives on boats and which has no concept of what day or time it is.  Perhaps your chauffeur does not understand the integrity that is evoked by being on time in our Western culture. In that case, I could teach him pragmatically why it is crucial for you to be on time and why it builds self esteem for him.”

The gentleman replied, “Wrong answer!”

I was utterly shocked. Not embarrassed so much as intellectually at a loss as to what the answer should be.  I asked if he wanted to have a discussion about the question, but he indicated he was ready for me to leave. I then said I was confident that I could empower the housekeeper to be more efficient and have more joy in her work. I explained my lifetime of esoteric knowledge and how it was directly applicable to her in a pragmatic and tangible way. But he merely repeated that the meeting was over and walked me to the door.

Needless to say, I was not offered the project. This is the one and only time I have ever had this type of conversation and experience. I welcome your insights into what the answer to his question should have been, and what went wrong in our rapport. Do you think it was personal and he did not like me, the messenger? Perhaps I was right and he wanted my advice for free? Maybe he was so accustomed to yelling, being angry, and belittling others that this was the only way he knew to interact? Please advise if you feel so inclined. I welcome your thoughts.


The location used for the shooting of the popular TV Series DOWNTON ABBEY is Highclere Castle in England, and the real-world occupants (Earl and Countess Carnarvorn) are advertizing for an underbutler. What is of interest is the  preferred prior experience: “Experience in the hotel or fine dining industry is important, as is an outgoing personality keen to engage and provide a top-class service to a wide range of people. A knowledge of wine and fine food is useful.”

Cigars, Part IX

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

Part 1 of 3: Setting up the Humidor

Now that you have selected the right humidor, you will have to set it up. A humidor is not just a pretty box; it essentially tries to mimic the tropical environment in which the cigars originated. A dry cigar is harsh to smoke and has lost aromatic oils. A damp cigar will become mouldy quickly in warm weather and will be hard to light in cold weather. Make sure to position your humidor away from direct sunlight, drafts, fireplaces, and central heating or air-conditioning outlets.

Before you can stock cigars in your humidor, you will need to season it. This takes time and patience. If you are tempted to rush the process you may end up with a situation that takes even longer to remedy. If there is one thing I have learned about regulating humidors, it is that gradual, gentle changes are easier to control than wild swings resulting from rash attempts to change conditions quickly inside a humidor.

Calibrating your Hygrometer

One may assume that the cedar lining of a new humidor will be dry. If you stock a new humidor as is, the dry wood will draw all the moisture from the cigars. In order to know whether you are hitting the target or not, you will need an accurate hygrometer. Most digital hygrometers come already calibrated. Analogue ones must be calibrated before use. Here are some links that show a number of different ways to do this. The most well-know is probably the famous salt test.

While this method is quite accurate, do not use it to test a digital hygrometer as the corrosive atmosphere is not good for electronics (despite the text of one article saying that it is suitable for both types). I don’t imagine a corrosive environment is good for either type. However, if one only does it once, it would probably be alright for an analogue hygrometer.

An alternative is to wrap the hygrometer in a damp cloth for several hours, unwrap it and quickly take a reading. It should read around 95%. Take a note of how far off it is and then allow it to return to an ambient reading before adjusting it.

A better choice (and a very inexpensive one) is the Bóveda One Step Calibration pack. Said to be used by many museums, including the National Gallery, it seems to be well worth the $5 asking price and it is available online.

Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for making the adjustments to your hygrometer. This can be a rather delicate operation. Should you be wary of tackling this, remember that some people just make a note of the variance and take it into account, never actually adjusting their hygrometers.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part XI

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

There are different types of Port made from different grapes and grapes from different vintages (harvesting years). There is also a difference in  the amount of time the brew is stored , either in bottles or barrels—where the Port acquire hints of wood and/or benefits from the changes that only time can provide. According to the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute), there are the nine official Port classifications:

-White: dry and sweet versions  generally taken as an aperitif, with the dry versions aged up to ten years.

-Ruby: basic Port that acquires its name from the color of the brew. It’s aged for up to three years in a barrel, then bottled ready for consumption, and has a characteristic sweet and slightly spicy taste. The superior quality Rubies are called Premium Ruby.

-Tawny: also derives its name from the color of the drink. Real Tawny Port is made from grapes of different harvests and then aged from three to forty years (generally, just a percentage of the drink, not necessarily all of it). During that period, it acquires its brown-red color. Some “sharp” Port-makers make Tawnies by adding White Port to Red Port, but the results are a far cry from the dry and nutty flavours with raisin overtones that are found in the original.

-Crusted: of very limited production, this type of Port is named after the “crust” of sediment that forms in the bottle. It involves a blend of several harvests, bottled without being filtered and then allowed to mature, producing a rich and full-bodied Port wine.

-Vintage Character: (do not confuse with Vintage Port, see below) is a mix of Ruby ports that have undergone a total of four or five years of aging to create a better-than-Ruby Port.

-LBV or Late Bottled Vintage Port: wine from a single harvest, the year stated on the label, which has been aged in a barrel from four to six years. If it’s filtered, it doesn’t need decanting. The unfiltered counterpart is richer, rounder, and offers more complex flavors.

-Single Quinta: The same as an LBV, but coming from one specific vineyard or Quinta.

-Colheita’s: The same as a Tawny, but made out of a single harvest, the year of which is stated on the label, along with the year of bottling and a statement that the drink has aged several years in wooden barrels.

-Vintage: The highest quality Port is made out of a single harvest and aged two-to-three years in a wooden barrel, then bottled unfiltered to age for a considerable number of years. This process develops into the best of the Ports, exhibiting a wide range of flavors like plums, liquorice, pepper, blackcurrants, spices…depending on the maker and the harvest. Vintage Port is made only when the harvest is exceptional, which happens roughly three times each decade.

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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.

Butler training Training

Service in Asia

I had the particular pleasure of experiencing service levels in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as Phuket, Thailand, recently, and wanted to comment on them.


The staff I trained at Regent Taipei, the premier hotel on the island, were all university graduates, very intelligent, wanting to understand rather than learn by rote, very solicitous, and very professional in their mindset, approach, attitude, and  behaviour. In a way, I found them as a group at the pinnacle of both Western and Eastern cultures and service standards. While every hotel has some individuals of this caliber, what impressed me was how every individual was of this standard. Part and parcel of this focus on professionalism was that there were zero politics and cliques, so that they always worked as a team within and between departments.

The MBJ includes some photographs of these stars. I include just one here of the Senior VP of Operations for the Regent chain, Peter Finamore, and his family, who were kind enough to take me to  Taipei Palace Museum, which has many high-quality Chinese artifacts, as well as a special exhibition of Cartier jewelry. The statue is probably of Confucius.

Taipei is a vibrant city with swarms of kamikaze scooterheads swarming through the street,  friendly people, and much to see. Definitely worth a visit, and I recommend using Regent Taipei, with its array of luxury stores and wide variety of quality restaurants, as your base.




In Phuket, the staff of the soon-to-be opened Regent Phuket Panwa Bay were not as professional in terms of behaviors: innocent and excited would be closer to the reality—but if there be any culture that can surpass even the group dynamic of the team in Taipei, it is the complete teamwork that the Phuket individuals exhibited. It came across as the sheer excitement of being with and helping other people, honestly caring for others and their welfare. I really hope that the coming ASEAN (Asian common market) does not prompt  the Thai people to drop their wonderful friendliness and gentleness or allow it to be changed or pushed aside by workers coming in from China and Vietnam, etc., who may exhibit a more driven work-ethic while lacking the same friendliness and view of life as one constant mutual party—surely one of the reasons tourists come to Thailand.

Some of the butler-team graduates hamming it up at their graduation party—the hotel was still not open, so their party was a bit bare bones—but that didn’t stop them having fun.



The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, October, 2012

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 10

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Some articles in the media about butlers prompt a few comments below; rather a busy month of training around the world; an excellent Domestic Estate Managers Association conference in Los Angeles; and the continuing series on cigars, wines, and the world of the PA. Enjoy!

Butlers in the Media

Interesting article from the BBC,  Servants: A Life below Stairswhich is fascinating, no doubt, to Europeans and Americans, and anywhere else where Downton Abbey is proving popular; but as I discovered when in Thailand just now, the article resonates as a world apart, a piece of arcane history, really, for most others elsewhere. What led to this epiphany? The fact that a teacher at a respectable university was busy teaching hospitality students that butlers were a creation of the hotel industry, with no idea of the existence of butlers in private service for a thousand years before their recent appearance in hotels.

Just as man has long considered himself the center of the universe, anthropocentric, so Europeans have become overly fond of, or perhaps complacent in, the rectitude of our cause, forgetting that there are other players on the stage. Take, for instance, a Western colleague sending a letter to the editor as follows (in response to the use of “The Queen of England” in the last MBJ): “Interesting newsletter as always. One article refers to ‘the Queen of England’ and while we all know to whom you are referring, that is not her correct title. It is ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,’ which would be verbose in the context of your article. But if you simply said ‘the Queen,’ everyone would know who you were talking about!”

The response sent back, which the reader conceded was correct in principle, was: “I was of the same opinion until, sitting in Thailand, I deliberately added ‘of England’ because, in our Anglo-centric way, we forget that many other countries have queens, including Thailand!” He did, quite rightly, however, point out “When you say ‘Queen of England,’ it upsets the rest of Great Britain, as though they were second class citizens. I doubt the Irish care.”

The point? We can say that the English butler stands as the standard for all things butlerish, but the idea that anything anyone else offers on the subject of superior service, by definition, must not be quite up to standard is just to promote a stereotype that my be quaint in its ineluctable (unable to be resisted) certainty, but which actually falls short of the ideals of any butler for whom the profession is a lifelong learning experience. I say this having experienced a level of open-hearted, solicitous, and caring service in Taiwan and Thailand which, married with the many admirable traits of a butler, would have no doubt found much support from employers of butlers in centuries passed. In other words, the essential trait of dignity can be manifested quite adequately with humility—it does not require that haughty attitude, whether spoken or unspoken, that has so embedded itself in the butler psyche, and the English in general, over the centuries. There are certainly many ways in which the butler provides superior service that are well conceived, but are employers really well served by an attitude or mindset that is fixed in its innate superiority, as opposed to enjoying the flexibility that comes from sharp observation, intelligent evaluation, and skilled implementation of new ideas?


Another interesting article with the requisite salacious title to attract readers—“What the butler saw naked in the bath”—provides another look at butlers a century ago. The butler saw his boss in the bath who expected him to brush his hair. “As far as he was concerned, [the butler] didn’t really exist. He was just an automaton, someone whose only purpose in life was to serve.” When the butler began his lifelong career in 1914, he “worked 16-hour days emptying chamber pots, shining shoes, and doing anything he was told to do. He and his fellow hall-boys had half a day off a year at Christmas, slept in either cupboards or cellars and changed their clothes—on average—once a month.” The job was grueling and demeaning resulting in resentment towards employers. Butlers and household staff are not treated that way in most countries today, but there are still some countries where they are. No system of servitude will ever work, because the resentment it generates results in the worst level of slavery and the degradation of the perpetrators as much as the victims. Thank goodness most service is based largely on mutual support and benefit.


USA Today’s article 10 amazing free hotel amenities lists the infamous Tanning Butler at Ritz Carlton Miami Beach and the Book Butler at a hotel in Minneapolis in the top ten… really?


Congratulations to Larry Mogelonsky for his recent article. It is not often one hears someone outside the butler profession stating what is obvious to us, but still new news to hospitality in general: that the butler is such a simple solution to differentiating a luxury hotel, or at least greatly increasing the avenues open to pampering and wow’ing guests. And a logical extension of butler service in a private estates to the hotels the same employers may well frequent when traveling.

And Mr. Mogelonsky was spot-on in stating that guests need to be educated in how to utilize their butlers, and the scope of their offerings. Mr. Mogelonsky provided some examples of services he had received from butlers, but there are far more ways that butlers can be utilized. The variance in perception is caused by the training they receive failing to pass on the full range of services that butlers can provide, resulting in butler service in too many hotels being too narrow in scope. The Institute’s hotel butler  rating service lists some of the services available, and the extent of the butler service that can be experienced in different hotels.

A couple of points that are not totally accurate in Mr. Mogelonsky’s otherwise excellent article, is that “the decision to initiate a butler program should be tempered by the availability of appropriate staff as properly trained butlers are both expensive and rare,” and the suggestion that the concierge staff could be made into butlers. Staff from whatever department, preferably with F&B background, who have a service orientation and a modicum of intelligence, simply need to be trained as butlers by a trainer knowledgeable in the services that can be offered, as well as the proper mindset and communication skills. This does not cost much at all when measured against the higher ADRs that Mr. Mogelonsky accurately states to result in butler service suites/villas. Anyway, kudos to Mr. Mogelonsky for his support of this rather recent arrival on the hospitality scene: the butler.

***Another article from England’s Telegraph about hotel butlers, as well as private service butlers, in England/Scotland, which is quite accurate and contains some interesting information.

The Hollywood Reporter reports the price tag to maintain (and fly) the most expensive private jets, such as the  Bombardier Global Express, is $3 million a year, with fuel costs alone in the $3,000-US-an-hour range. Sales of the largest business jets have increased 23% over the last five years with Bombardier, Gulfstream, and converted Boeing commercial jets leading the way. One broker in Los Angeles correctly asserts that owners of such planes would need to have a net worth of at least $100 million.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant

 by Lisa Krohn

Organizing a Principal’s Life

In a first conversation with the principal, a prudent gesture on your part, if possible, would be to ask them to speak openly and freely about the negatives in their life. Encourage them tell you everything that is wrong, that they don’t like or are angry about. Doing so will create an invaluable directive for you on how to proceed and frees them up, giving them a feeling you can take everything that is wrong, bad, or simply not a preference, and turn it around to an efficient and effective system. It suggests you are a proactive problem solver. They might just say to you “That’s your job, figure it out,” in which case,  be aggressive in dissecting everything as much as possible. If something is working well and you objectively think it is for the best, then keep it the way it is, rather than making changes just so you can show change. Be subtle, don’t report or discuss the changes openly with the principal unless they asked to be informed. Keep a daily journal and write everything you do as you go along.

Listen, listen, and listen, not only with your ears and eyes, but with every part of your emotional and social intelligence. Very often what is not said by the principal, intentionally or not, is what you need to be attentive to, just as much as you attend to what they are saying.

Be flexible, spontaneous, and adaptable. Be vigilantly critical of your own work and behavior at all times. Your physical presence, regardless of height and weight, is very important. Being silent and not talking is easy. Making your body still is one thing, but to make your entire presence silent when they are talking to you, or when sitting with them while they are reading something, is a fundamental part of being a Personal Assistant.

Create a manual for your job that includes philosophy, not just practical points. It is your responsibility to the principal, as well as for your successors, to be transparent, creating systems and procedures that will allow another person to step into your shoes and know how to proceed.


Ms. Teresa Leigh and others at the DEMA conference in Los Angeles spoke about the derailing of private service staff by Single Family Offices and Multiple Family Offices: basically corporate and finance offices being tasked with the placement of the household staff while having no background or real understanding, on the whole, of household management—and how this has been leading to unrealistic expectations of duties and downward pressure on salaries of private service staff, in the mistaken idea that household salaries and culture should mirror corporate salaries and culture. In addition, the market is being diluted and pressured by employers conceiving that household staff should be willing to accept steep cuts in remuneration on the basis that many are out of work and candidates should be happy they have a job offer; and employers looking to non-professional household staff for their staffing needs.

This is more than a pendulum swing away from the high flying days of the 1990s and early 2000s when salaries were quite exuberant and the household industry flying high. A corporate culture is inserting itself into the household culture, whereas what works in an office is not what works in the home. It is up to the profession as a whole to redefine and reassert the domestic culture and how it is best run by itself, not by a corporation, if we are to provide a home for our principals.

Recent Graduates

Some of the recent butler graduates at Six Senses Kiri, Thailand

Graduates at Regent Phuket Panway Bay, Thailand (pre-opening)
Some of the recent butler graduates at Karisma Hotels in Mexico

Cigars, Part VIII

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

Handling Cigars 

A few tips about handling cigars before we talk storage. Cigars are a natural product and it is necessary to take care when transporting and handling them. Take even greater care when the cigars belong to your employer or, should you be working in a hotel, be offered for sale to your customers. Cigars are damaged relatively easily and should be handled as little as possible. Oils from our fingertips can be absorbed into the tobacco leaf. Wash your hands before handling cigars and avoid strongly scented soaps or hand lotions. Try to handle cigars by their bands if they have them or use cotton gloves. Avoid washing your gloves with strongly scented detergents or rinse aids which may also taint the tobacco.

Selecting a Humidor

All cigars need to be kept in a humidor. Even bulk boxes should be transported and stored in this manner. I once knew a GM who ruined several unopened boxes of Cuban cigars by insisting that they were safer locked away in his air-conditioned office. An unopened cigar box is not airtight – it is not a humidor. If your humidor cannot accommodate large boxes, you will have to buy cigars in smaller quantities or even individually. Keep this in mind when deciding what size humidor to buy. Buying an overly large humidor is also not recommended as it becomes difficult to regulate humidors that are less than half full.

One alternative is to line a camping cooler with untreated Spanish cedar and convert it into a bulk storage or transport humidor. By all accounts they work very well, but should preferably remain out of sight.

Humidors come in many sizes, ranging from the small, single-layer desktop humidor, to the large free-standing chest of drawers type. The most expensive humidor is not necessarily the best humidor. Cigar publications often run comparative reviews and these can make interesting reading. A good humidor is practically airtight. Open and close the humidor lid gently. There should be resistance due to the change in air pressure. The humidor should protect the cigars from light and should be lined with untreated Spanish cedar wood. For this reason, attractive acrylic-display humidors seldom work as advertised.

Humidors are described in terms of the number of cigars they can hold. Your humidor should be stocked somewhere between 50% and 100% of its capacity. A safe bet is to take the number of cigars you plan to keep in your humidor and add ⅓ of this number. This will tell you what size humidor you should purchase. A good humidor will offer a number of arrangements for stocking cigars of various shapes and sizes. If you are planning to stock unusually large or small sizes, make sure that the humidor can be configured to store them sensibly and safely.

For very busy hotels, where the humidor is continually being opened and stands in an air-conditioned environment, an electronically controlled active humidor is the best option. This type of humidor draws mains power and actively humidifies its interior, quickly raising the humidity level if the door has been open too long or if it has been restocked with bulk stock.

In quieter environments and in private homes, an unpowered passive humidor is not only quite adequate, but is both the more attractive and the more traditional option. Should you go this route, the next item on your shopping list is a good humidifying element. This is a small container with a grille opening containing a wicking material designed to hold moisture and slowly release it as needed. There are high tech alternatives available these days, but the traditional versions will do the trick, unless the humidor is opened and closed too often or is kept in a challenging climate. Humidifying elements are also rated in terms of the number of cigars they can humidify. Do not be tempted into saving money by buying too few elements. People believe that they will simply dry out faster and need topping up more often. This is not true. They can release a limited amount of moisture each day and won’t cope if the moisture level outside is to dry. A number of smaller elements distributed throughout the humidor will always be better than one very large element.

Analogue Hygrometer, photo by nathansnostalgia

Lastly, do not overlook the need for a good hygrometer. Many people opt for the lovely brass analogue hygrometers and then struggle to bring their humidors on target, not realising that these hygrometers need to be calibrated first. We will look at some of the ways you can do this next month.

A less attractive, but far more accurate, version is the digital hygrometer which comes to you already calibrated. For large stocks or valuable cigars, I recommend forgoing the attractive appearance of the analogue hygrometer in favour of the reliability and accuracy of the digital one. Whatever you decide, remember that saving money on this vital piece of equipment can cause you costly headaches – purchase the best one you can afford. If you are on a budget, remember that an inexpensive digital hygrometer will always deliver superior accuracy when compared to an analogue one in the same price bracket.

Next month we will discuss the various ways one can set up a humidor and consider the relative merits of each method.

DEMA Convention

The convention in Los Angeles just now was a triumph for DEMA: professionally run for professionals who finally have a vehicle for the butler and household manager industry to come together and work together with those who work with it. There were many good speakers, many excellent vendors presenting their wares and services, much good conversation, and many links made. Next year, the convention will be in Orlando. Although DEMA is mainly servicing North America, they are working on developing internationally, as well as launching a continuing-education program for butlers and household managers.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part X

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

 Welcome to Oporto, homeland to world famous Port wine. This beautiful city is the second biggest city in Portugal, and is located in the north bank of the Douro river, where its waters flow into the Atlantic.

Port is not just another kind of wine, but a fortified wine, meaning that a distilled spirit, commonly known as brandy (although it has nothing to do with the cognac-like beverage that one can purchase in wine stores), is added to the fermenting wine. Once the brandy comes into contact with the wine, fermentation stops, thus leaving significant amounts of natural sugars unfermented, and so giving the characteristic sweet taste of Port.

Croft Port Cellar, photo by R. Martins

Less fermentation does not mean the final drink has less alcohol than regular wines. In fact, the added brandy has a very high alcoholic content, giving Port wine 19 – 22 degrees of alcohol.

Only five grape varieties are used generally in making Port: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional; for white Port (not so well known) wine makers use white grapes exclusively: Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cao, Folgasao, Malvasia Fina, and Viosinho.

The area where Port is made and vines grown has a microclimate that presents the ideal weather –mild temperatures all year round—and ideal soil conditions. The land is full of slopes that have been into terraces that make mechanization very difficult, which means most of the work has to be done by hand, increasing the cost of producing and price for buying port.

The vineyards can be found on both sides of the Douro, and although traditionally Port had to be made in Vila Nova de Gaia (on the south bank of the Douro), nowadays it is allowed to age in barrels in other villages of the province.

Colheita & Vintage Ports, photo by Mirari Erdoiza




The creation of wine in Portugal goes back as far as the eleventh century and has improved over the centuries.

It was not until the English fought a war with the French in the Eighteenth Century that Portuguese wines (and so Port) increased in prominence and trade. The English, eager for good wine but not being able to obtain it from France, purchased it from its Portuguese allies. Later on, the English acquired some wineries near Oporto to make wines according to their own particular tastes. This fact explains why most of language relating to Port is in English and why Englishmen still consider Port to be a British tradition.

Editor note: One could say the same for tea, coming from China yet being considered a British tradition.

Tawny Port, photo by Jlastras












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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.