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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 8

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

A host told me recently that he had trouble trusting people—and it was evidently so, the way he vituperated (to disparage, blame another with use of strong language) against his neighbor. The same issue had come up a day earlier while consulting a client, who was having trouble with employees, vendors, even family members taking advantage of him. This question of knowing who to trust is central to all our lives, personal and on the job. “By their actions will you know them” is true enough advice, but do you really want your boss’  Italianate mansion repainted in gaudy neon pink six months behind schedule before you find out that you cannot trust the workman who came with such impeccable references and who yet seems to be both color blind and a bit too busy to see to your project?

Would it not help to know before you go?

Therein lies the trick, and I can heartily recommend you find out how to predict your fellow man before you go to much further down the road of life—at least, that is, if having a blood pressure that’s within range and things running smoothly are desirable goals.

Letters to the Editor

“For some time now, I have been very interested and have researched extensively the career of Butling. Could you kindly give me some  perspective and any other insights you might have on beginning a career as a Butler? In addition, I would be interested in your endorsement of the profession based on the prospects—both current and future. I, of course, would not hold you responsible for any decision I make as a result of your opinion and advice. As the sage saying goes: ‘In a multitude of councillors there is wisdom.'” CS

Editor: To your quote I might add: “Seek your own counsel!” You know better than anyone else what would work for you, and hopefully, any information I add may assist you in making the correct decision. The first step would be to undergo training—whether at a bricks-and-mortar butler school or through a correspondence course, if funds and time are an issue.

But before you invest time and money in such training, I would suggest you try your hand at private service (or even hospitality or any other service industry as a second, less-useful option), especially if you do not already have such experience, to see if you really love the reality of such work. Without passion, neither you nor your future employers will really shine. Any work in private service will do, wherever you can interact with employers/clients in their homes/estates.

With passion and training in place, the next thing is a CV that supports your quest to become a butler. There are people who are already experienced as butlers and who would be more attractive to many employers, but not to all. You may have some advantage (such as a language that they need you to speak) that few others have. Or an ancillary skill, such as nursing, if they are geriatric and needing a butler/caregiver, etc.

In other words, I would not be put off by the competition when it comes to finding work, as your qualities properly marketed, and with persistence, will allow you to break into the profession. Also, with the numbers of wealthy set to rise over the next several years, the demand for butlers will increase, and this may result in anyone having no experience but at least a certificate, being much-prized.


I’d like to see if I can work part time as butler/assistant/driver, etc. for one or several families in my (remote) area. Do you have any suggestions on how one can enter the industry in such a capacity?  I have had valuable experience working for two (high-standard) families in a city.

I know of one family here with a house manager.  There is plenty of money here—it’s just hidden and not shown off.   I could drop off business cards in the affluent areas.  It’s possible I could volunteer at the local lieutenant governor’s mansion.  (These are) a few different ideas I am considering. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. SE

Editor: Thanks for the update. Did you complete the butler course you had planned to do? If so, are they providing placement assistance? I believe that is meant to be part of the benefits of the course? Otherwise, have you contacted any other agencies? Your ideas are fine. You could add to them by doing the above, as well as advertizing in any upscale magazine and connecting with whatever existing Household Managers you can locate, to network.

Yes, I completed the course back in early 2011.  I was then placed by their placement agency with a family.  I have yet to contact them regarding positions in this area, as I remember them saying they have no contacts this far over. It’s a small and very underground market. SE

Editor: I suspect there are no domestic placement agencies in the area? Your plan to hand out your business card sounds like the best approach; maybe you could try and write, or be interviewed for, an article in the local paper, to put out the word and drum up interest from likely employers?

Butlers in the Media

“The Butler” movie is to be released on the 16th of this month, retitled Lee Daniel’s The Butler to avoid a conflict with an earlier short movie of the same title. Within a long article published recently in the Washington Post, is a short snippet from one  of the lead actors, Forrest Whitaker, on researching the role.

A happy travel-writer from the Huffington Post croons over the butlers in her hotel.

An unfortunate noise from down-under emanating from politicians who should know better, about whether standard secretarial service in setting up conference rooms for use, is really butler service paid for reprehensibly by public funds—just another angle on our profession. A more accurate or pertinent one concerns the rise of the profession, especially in the Middle and Far East.

Talking of which, a culture shock between the Middle East and the West: a Saudi princess finds herself in jail for allegedly treating her staff in Los Angeles—in violation of a recent change in Californian law concerning human trafficking—in the same way she does, no doubt, without repercussion in her home country. Plenty of room for improvement in perceptions and considerations about private-service staff  deserving treatment as human beings, rather than serfs.

Consulting the Silver Expert

Mr. Jeffrey 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 (in the USA) or email jeff at

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

A: Those black rough spots you feel on sterling (or other solid silver alloys) which cannot be removed with silver polish are most likely corrosion. Place an ammonia-soaked cotton ball on the corrosion spot and it should dissolve within ten minutes. If not, repeat for ten minutes at a time until the corrosion has gone. 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.


Household Manager sought by a senior couple in a 5,000 sq. ft. residence in Houston, Texas. The job requires standard household management functions as well as some cooking, covering for the housekeeper during her off days, and some driving. Good remuneration package, with salary DOE and your expectations; can be live-in or live-out. Interested candidates should contact the Institute via enquiries at with current resume, salary requirements and a good quality current photograph, preferably a full-length shot.

frankmitchell  Cigars, Part XVII

by Frank Mitchell 

Serving a Cigar, Part 2 of 2

The guest most likely to accept your offer to cut and light is probably a novice and may be hoping to pick up some tips. Make sure they can see what you are doing and be ready with an explanation. I have taught several guests how to cut and light a cigar and they are always immensely grateful. When you are cutting and lighting, you should use whichever cutter you are most comfortable with, provided it is suitable for that shape of cigar.

Cut a hole large enough to ensure a good draw, but leave a ring of cap intact, otherwise the cigar will fall apart. A rough guide is to cut halfway up the height of the cap, but this will depend on the size and shape of the cigar. There are several videos online that help explain this, but cutting and smoking a few cigars for yourself will be the best way to understand what you need to do.

When lighting a cigar, hold the cigar at a 45° angle to the floor and rotate it longitudinally between the thumb and forefinger as you toast the foot with the heat of the lighter. Do not push the foot into the flame to rush the process. This will only char the wrapper. Move the flame about so that it heats the foot evenly. When you decide the lit end needs some air on it, do not blow on the cigar! You may move the cigar through the air, but be very careful not to stab someone with the hot end! Reapply the flame before offering the cigar to the guest. By this time, they will have figured out what you are doing and may ask for the lighter to finish the job themselves.

In my experience, guests may occasionally pocket your cutter or lighter in the absent-minded repetition of a habitual motion. If the cigar paraphernalia belongs to the hotel, your policy may simply be to add it to the bill and keep some spares on hand. The guest may decide to keep them after all, or may prefer to return them and have the item removed from the bill. If it is a really good guest who spends a great deal of money at your establishment, it may be wise to simply write it off as an expense. If the paraphernalia are your private possession, be tactful. It is helpful to remember that pocketing a lighter after using it is an action which a smoker has practiced to the point of it being a reflex. You learn to watch for it and as the hand moves towards the pocket say “Thank you, sir,” while extending the salver: Problem solved.

Next month we will look at some of the more traditional (and perhaps showy) methods of lighting a cigar.

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

by Amer Vargas

This month we are in the beautiful country of Uruguay. The smallest in South America, it is located on the Atlantic coast of the continent and borders on Brazil to the North and Argentina to the West. With the latter, it shares a latitude that allows for wine growing (it shares that same latitude also with the great wine-growing regions of Chile, South Africa, and Australia).

Indeed, Uruguay is a privileged land when it comes to the right geography for cultivating wine producing grapes: vitis vinifera is cultivated in 16 of the 19 “departments” (similar to provinces) in the country; 90% of these are located in its more southern region.

Tannat grapes, photo by Pancrat

Uruguay is a fairly flat country and enjoys the benefits of a temperate, maritime climate, with sunny and dry summers, cold and humid autumns and winters, and average yearly temperatures of 18 0C/64.5 0F. Soils vary from dry and rocky in the north to rich in limestone and clay in the south, all of which allows for the production of a large variety of wine styles and grapes.

Wine production in Uruguay dates back more than 250 years. However, the arrival in 1870 of the Basque, Don Pascual Harriague, who brought with him the Tannat grape from southern France, provided the breakthrough the country needed to start appearing on the world map of best wines. Since then, and especially after the so-called Mercosur Agreement (an economic-commercial agreement between South American countries) in 1980, Uruguay has striven to increase the quality of its wines so as to be able to compete in the same markets as Argentina and Chile.

The Tannat grape is Uruguay’s signature grape, making up 36% of the total cultivated grapes. Other important grapes, in order of cultivated quantities, are Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Thus, most wine production in Uruguay is devoted to the creation of rich and medium-to-full-bodied red wines, although some of their white wines will please the most demanding of palates.

Don’t hesitate to pair the excellent Tannat with red meats, especially if grilled—simply a perfect pairing.




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.



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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, 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 

With the very welcome increased interest of late in butlers by the media and amongst the newly wealthy in various countries, my wish is that those who help deliver on the promise in the year ahead, focus on communicating the standards inherent in our profession, and avoid the ever-present effort to deliver abbreviated versions in response to clients applying their usual modus operandi of “getting a good deal” simply because they do not yet understand the true nature of butling and so end up “buying themselves short.” Maintaining our standards, if I might state the obvious, is a win-win for everyone, and I’d like to see everyone winning as we move into a new year full of hope.

Butlers in the Media

Aljazeera carries an article on how graduates fresh out of butler school are being used to train prospective butlers in China, where private service butlers can expect to make 20K a year for very long hours. European butlers are in demand as status symbols but do not stay long because of the working conditions and cultural differences, and a lack of ability to do their jobs properly in the absence of the Chinese language skills necessary to manage the rest of the staff.

The BBC, on the other hand, reported that China and Russia are both experiencing a demand by their wealthy for British butlers commanding $150,000 and up. The demand in China is being met in part by six new training schools, which have been opened in China by a British recruitment agency.

CNN reports on the publication of a survey of over 2,000 domestic workers in the US—mostly immigrants and holding lower positions—who work long hours for less than minimum wage, etc.  Apparently, “The Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees minimum wage, overtime and sick- and vacation pay, does not apply to domestic workers.” Butlers and household managers are rarely treated in this way, but one would hope that in the households they supervise, the staff are not so treated. For more information, see National Domestic Workers Alliance []

As reported in multiple media, the Pope pardoned his ex-butler after he mis-used his position of trust to steal documents and leak privileged information. He was banished from the Vatican, but is receiving assistance to find a new position and house, and to start his life anew. “This is a paternal gesture toward someone with whom the Pope for many years shared his daily life,” according to the Vatican Secretariat of State.

According to the book Plutocrats: The Rise of the Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, the top 10% of American households in terms of household income makes $150,000 and up—butlers themselves in many cases qualify for this category.

750,000 Americans are in the top 1%, having a household income of just under half a million dollars: such households cannot generally afford to employ a butler or household manager—but can afford housemen and other household staff. 70% of these families made their money in the past decade, almost half of them being entrepreneurs—meaning that the background of seven-in-ten rich households is not one of wealth and luxury, and therefore their exposure to butlers–and the lifestyle they make possible–has been mainly through the media and word of mouth. So this is not an optimal market for our profession.

Around 150,000 Americans have a household income of $4 million and over, and so are more likely to be able to afford to hire a butler.


Congratulations to General Manager, Mr. Iain McCormack, and the staff of Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, who were just declared the winner at the World’s Leading Luxury Resort and World’s Leading Villa Resort & Spa at the World Travel Awards Grand Final 2012. Their Mr. Fridays (butlers) were trained extensively by the Institute during October 2011.

A Creative Idea for Turndown 

Whether in a private estate or luxury resort, turndown amenities are a small way the butler can add to the guest (and employer) experience. Hats off to Mr. Kobi Gutman for a new twist that is bringing about many happy guests at the private Fort Harrison hotel in Florida, where he services the top suites. He actually carves these himself, not based on any earlier training or skills, but learning as he goes. Most simply utilize a red apple, and are tailor made either to the calendar (such as Halloween or July 4) or more often, to the individual receiving the amenity (like a Ferrari enthusiast). A smattering of his “works” are provided below—including one Mona Lisa, perhaps for an art aficionado?
































A Useful Resource

Congratulations to Ms. Fiona Cameron-Williams for her release of her Gentleman’s Gentleman application for the iPhone/iPad. We have not tested it yet, and look forward to some feedback from anyone who has or will.

Cigars, Part XI

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

Maintaining a Humidor

When talking about maintaining a humidor, the two most important things to discuss are temperature and humidity. One sees the term Relative Humidity (RH) used quite commonly, though many people do not understand what the term means.

‘Relative’ and the fact that RH is expressed as a percentage, indicates a ratio. In simple terms, it is the amount of water vapour in a volume of air expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water vapour that volume of air could hold at that temperature. How much this maximum is depends on the temperature; so RH is a function of both moisture content and temperature. By itself, RH does not indicate the actual moisture content in the air, since saturation point occurs at different temperatures.

Some cigar enthusiasts scoff at the need to concern themselves with the temperature. Unless you store your cigars in a temperature-controlled environment or live in a very mild climate, I believe the temperature must be taken into account. This is because a given amount of water vapour, in a given volume of air, will have a differing RH% depending on the temperature.

The ideal environment in which to store cigars is a relative humidity of 70% at 70◦F (21.1◦C). 

The below table will show that as the temperature rises, the humidity must fall. Conversely, as the temperature drops, the humidity must rise. Care must be taken not to deviate too far from the ideal, otherwise you will end up with soggy cigars or cigars which will which have lost their aromatic oils.

Reviving Dry Cigars

Don’t! It is that simple. When a cigar loses moisture, it is losing aromatic oils into a dry humidor. When the humidor is opened, these oils are lost into the atmosphere. This should not happen in a well-maintained humidor that is checked daily. Dry cigars will have lost flavour and are harsh to smoke. Re-humidifying cigars means replacing the lost aromatic oils with water. The result is always a loss of flavour and aroma.

You may research how to re-humidify cigars if you are ever given any and want to rescue them for your own consumption, but hotels that sell re-humidified cigars to guests are ripping them off. Nor should a butler serving in a private estate offer such cigars to the principal’s guests—experienced smokers will know that what you have given them is sub-standard.

Recent Graduates

Mr. Raoul Gonzales trains butlers on the Norwegian Cruise Line Vessel Dawn. He is one of the Norwegian Cruise Line’s butlers who was trained last year by the Institute to then train his fellow butlers on the hard skills of butling on a cruise ship. Here Mr. Gonzales is shown taking them through their paces on synchronized service.

Once NCL has completed the training evolution, they will offer more services throughout their fleet for their high-end guests, than any other cruise line.

 The PA’s Corner

By Bonnie Low-Kramen

How I Learned to Speak Up

When is the tall one going to talk?” This is what actress Olympia Dukakis used to ask other staff members at the Whole Theatre where I was the Public Relations Director before I became her Personal Assistant. I was 29 years old, it was 1986, and Olympia was my employer and mentor. We then went on to work together for 25 years.

In private service, we know that communication issues can make or break us—to learn to confront people and situations positively is a skill that builds leaders in our profession. Employers also have a fear of speaking up and there are ways that we can help them—silence is not (always) the answer.

I had so many reasons for not speaking my mind. I think these are the same reasons why many private service professionals don’t say what they know should be said and there is much suffering in silence. It’s the fear factor. The fear factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to the problem of staffers speaking up to anyone, but especially to colleagues and employers. I understand what it feels like to be mute in the face of a situation that needs to be confronted.

The fear was about appearing stupid, ill-informed, or unprepared, even though I was none of those things. There was fear of being wrong, making a mistake, and losing my job. The fear had to do with the possible reactions of fellow staffers such as: “What are you trying to pull? Are you trying to make me look bad? Are you angling for my job? Do you think you’re smarter than me? Do you think you’re better than me?”

My lack of confidence was known to me and now, Olympia, my employer, saw it in high-def and I didn’t like it. I threw myself into my job and worked hard to do it well. I took the risk to give her my opinions, and she valued what I had to say. I began finding my voice. What helped the most though was having Olympia Dukakis as a role model.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The theater director and I had already been coordinating press interviews for several weeks, all of which had progressed without any problems. Then, in front of the entire staff, he called me a “liar” and the room instantly became quiet. I was horrified at the injustice and the public humiliation. Olympia said to the director, “You must be mistaken. I know that would never happen with Bonnie. Let’s talk about this later.” And we did deal with it later. The director was a serial bully who enjoyed the power trip. The thing about bullies is that they are threatening and powerful until directly confronted. Then they shrink away and unfortunately, choose someone else to bully. Try it. Look a person straight in the eye and firmly say, “I won’t be spoken to that way” and mean it. Watch what happens.

Olympia stood up for me. She spoke up and plainly stated what needed to be said. Another time I recounted a contentious conversation I had on her behalf, and Olympia’s outraged reaction was, “You will not be spoken to like that. Don’t take it from her.” And I didn’t.

Finding my voice had everything to do with witnessing role models use theirs. Finding the words that work for you in challenging situations will work magic for your career.

I learned from Olympia that it is important to speak up and say the hard things in a way that people can hear. Time and again I witnessed the relief in the room when Olympia said the thing that everyone was thinking but no one wanted to say. In most cases, I witnessed how speaking up makes things better and the elephant in the room disappears.

Now I say the hard things, too. The trick is to not wait until little problems escalate into a big one. I would be lying if I said I am now totally comfortable speaking up, but I do it and I have become much better at it. I encourage my students to do it, too, and they excitedly tell me of the positive results. Practice definitely makes it easier.

For instance, when the producer became emotional and verbally abusive to me on the phone and I tried to speak, he cut me off.  After several attempts, I calmly and firmly said, “If you will let me speak without interrupting me, I can help solve this problem. If not, I’m hanging up.” He stopped talking and we did our work.

Speaking up builds self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and respect from others.

It feels like a risk. Do it anyway. I have found my voice. I learned the hard way that suffering in silence makes things worse, not better and only prolongs the inevitable in both work and in life. Life is too short.

Resources to Find Your Magic Words

Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations by Don Gabor

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

Editor Note: Ms. Low-Kramen also provides workshops on this topic, the next one being Jan 19-20 in California.


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

by Amer Vargas 

New Zealand Wines

Today we fly to New Zealand in the Southern Pacific Ocean to appreciate some of the world’s newest and finest wines. New Zealand is one of the few southern hemisphere countries to produce fine wines. Compared to its northern counterparts, New Zealand shares the same latitude degrees as France and Spain, which may give an idea of the sort of favorable climate for their vineyards. Many varietals (mostly imported) benefit from the maritime climate, with long sunshine hours and sea-breeze-cooled nights.

Wine history in New Zealand began after a fashion two centuries ago when British residents devoted some time to developing drinks much consumed in their home country—their favoring of beer and other spirits, however, delayed the real blossoming of wine making until the late 1960s, when a series of historic changes ultimately led to the planting of vines in lands that had been qualified previously as marginal pasture.

New Zealand produces unique white wines, 50% being Sauvignon Blancs, as well as Chardonnays and Rieslings. These wines are notable for their purity, vibrancy and intensity: The fruit undergoing a long ripening as a result of cool temperatures, which allows flavors to develop while retaining a fresh acidity. There are 10 major wine growing regions, the most important being Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay.

Cabernet-Merlot from Hawke’s Bay, photo by Salman Javed

New Zealand’s most grown red varietal is Pinot Noir, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also being important. Lately, Shiraz/Syrah is also being grown on previously cultivated land.

The country’s Sauvignon Blanc is widely recognized for its pungent and intense taste and its crisp acidity, which makes it easy to match with raw vegetables and salads. The Chardonnays offer a concentrated citrus and tropical fruit flavor combined with some refined minerals—and since they can yield all sort of body, they can be paired with a wide range of food, from fish and other seafood dishes such as shellfish, to poultry and citrus or vinaigrette dressed salads.

As for the reds, they are mostly full-bodied, which helps enhance medium-to-strong flavored cheeses, game and red meats.

Last, but not least, there is an excellent production of high-quality sparkling wines, following the Méthode Traditionelle (traditional method used to make Champagne).

I raise my sparkling Pelorus to this wonderful New Year that promises to be as excellent as my drink!

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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.



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.


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.


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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 9

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Just finishing training in Taipei, where service is the watchword and real caring is second nature—very encouraging and heartwarming to behold in a world that wobbles on despite all. I hope to see you, perhaps, at DEMA’s convention in Los Angeles later this month, and wish you continued success meanwhile.

Photo: Janos Feher


Letters to the Editor

“You have text on your web site that mentions:  A Richey report gave a certain resort’s butlers a 3% rating (we’d prefer not to name them for this reason!). The Richey report that followed the Institute’s subsequent training showed an improvement of 89%. Not ideal, but closer to it. This means the new rating is 5.67%. What I hoped you meant was, training resulted in improving the rating to 89%. The difference being the incorrect use of the word ‘of’ instead of ‘to.’ RJ.

Ed: Quite right, thanks for spotting that—the power of a small word!

Butlers in the Media

It’s been a pretty busy month for the media on the subject of butling, from the nefarious (the erstwhile and unqualified Bass butler is handed a stiff sentence after being found guilty of extortion at injection point; while in Italy, the Pope butler saga staggers on with a mea culpa from the vigilante butler, who “saw himself as an infiltrator acting on behalf of the Holy Spirit); to the fanciful (the re-release of Disney’s cartoon,  Aristocats, in which the butler, dressed in tails and suitably daunting, tries to dispose of some cats so he can inherit the employer’s fortune instead of them); to the ridiculous (from the New York Times of all sources, about the butler who wears flip flops); to the frankly negative from those who find their glasses half empty (a list of peeves that includes bath butler service made to seem ridiculous; however, it escapes the author that creatively conceived and multi-dimensional bath experiences can be tremendously enjoyable); to positive news, such as the ongoing shooting for “The Butler” movie in New Orleans, promising to show butlers in a proper light.

Of greatest interest, however, were the several articles showing serious discussions and portrayals of the profession:

An obituary for an old-school butler who enjoyed a successful and long career—farewell Colin MacPherson.

The Downsizing of the American Butler accurately notes that the employment situation for butlers favors the employer, with more applicants than job openings, butlers taking a 5-20% pay cut over the last five years, all while being expected to wear a variety of hats. This is thought to be a recent trend based on newly wealthy employers not understanding the role of the butler, but we have been writing about this for the last two decades: the modern butler is a jack of all trades, according to what services the employer needs him or her to perform. Obviously, if the employer wants his butler to do the work of three people, then the quality of service suffers; but where the work load is reasonable, then butlers are not ivory-tower personages: they should know how to roll up their sleeves and cook and drive, and, and, and – quite in addition to their traditional role.

“Butlers, much in demand, are thin on the ground” claims an otherwise interesting article in the Financial Times on the subject of the 63,000 citizens of earth with assets of 100 million or more, who find good staff hard to find, apparently.

You decide whether we are thin or thick on the ground.

Most interesting to the editor, however, was a review of  Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, a very well-written piece about one of the best films ever made.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant

 by Lisa Krohn

Qualities that make a Personal Assistant:

We all have a working knowledge of what a PA’s basic pragmatic responsibilities are. However, in my experience a stellar PA is someone who has an organic understanding and rhythm with the principal that is distinctly different from any other employee relationships.

Above all, being discreet and altruistic.

Never any slight nuance of something you do shall await a ‘thank you’ or the notion that it will be ‘on my list of why I deserve a bonus.’

You are an intimate confidant, that is, quiet but strong in persona. Your presence, regardless of your physical size, takes up very little air and space when in the room with the principal.

You never need to express your opinion unless asked.

You never have to be right.

Being vigilant and acutely aware of everything that is going on.

You are always on both the offensive and defensive to resolve all before anything untoward happens.

You are proactive and decisive, knowing what they want prior to them asking or even thinking about it.

Executing quietly as though it was already done or in place.

Accountable for one’s mistakes.

You may be the only person speaking directly to the principals. Your leadership skills and ability to know how to do every person’s job in the residence is important. You might have to fill in and or assist in some way in addition to your duties.

Spending time with your colleagues, learning who they are on a personal level, is crucial to your success. This is not about being best friends or even sharing on a daily basis, but creating a rapport, respect, and empathy for who they are in order to be able to delegate, teach, oversee and be constructively critical when critiquing their work.

They also must feel comfortable and respected when coming to you if they are confused, failed, or did something wrong.


Of interest, the Queen of England is looking for an under butler, based at St James’s Palace, who can remain “calm under pressure” and be able to “maintain confidentiality and exercise tact at all times.” 40-hour weeks and salary up to the individual to name—a departure from normal, in which Palace butlers are generally offered low wages.  “General duties include welcoming guests, laying up and waiting tables at dinners and events, cleaning and tidying all areas required and assisting with the cleaning and maintenance programme in the house and offices… The role requires aspects of manual handling including lifting and carrying of objects, climbing ladders and working at heights…. The successful applicant must have relevant experience of working within a private house, hospitality or catering environment.”

Recent Graduates

Some of the recent butler graduates at Taipei, Taiwan's premier hotel, The Regent

Cigars, Part VII

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

Cigar Shapes

The next subject we need to look at is the various cigar shapes and sizes. This is an important aspect of cigar making and knowing what you are looking at is a fundamental requirement of making an informed purchase. If you are working in an establishment that sells cigars, it is imperative that you have a sound understanding of the various shape names.

A cigar, being a cylinder, is measured in two dimensions: its length and its girth (or diameter.) The length will always be given in inches, while the girth is measured in ring gauge. Strictly speaking, ring gauge is also a measurement based on the inch, but as no cigar is ever an inch thick, it is invariably expressed as a fraction of an inch. That fraction is always /64. So a cigar with a ring gauge of 32/64 is ½ an inch in diameter. Since the denominator is always 64, we no longer write it down and simply express the girth as 32”.  Therefore, a cigar size given on the cigar menu as 7”x32” is not 32 inches long and 7 inches wide! That would be impossible to smoke. Such a cigar is actually 7 inches long and ½ an inch wide. Novices may find this method of notation frustrating and confusing—your job as a butler is to guide your guest with aplomb, taking care not to dent their ego in the process. Ring gauges commonly range between 28” and 54”.

The various sizes and shapes all have their own names. This means that when referring to a cigar by name, you are essentially talking about its shape and its size. It is certainly convenient, but can be a little intimidating at first. My approach has been to familiarize myself with one shape at a time. If one goes about this with a fair degree of diligence, you will soon have an understanding of the various shapes and be able to speak with some confidence on the subject.

An important point to understand is that while there is an established consensus on what each shape looks like, there is some latitude allowed on the exact dimensions. For this reason, cigar handbooks usually give a narrow range of dimensions when referring to a cigar name to allow for differences in interpretation. Within each brand however, great care is taken to achieve consistency of shape and size. In practice, the differences between brands are so small that they are often practically insignificant.

For a wonderfully detailed list of the various cigar names and their sizes, please visit the Cigar Aficionado site:


Most cigars are straight-sided and are known as Parejos. They are open at the head (the end you light) and are sealed with a cap at the foot. We will cover cutting and lighting in a later article.

Well known Parejos include the Churchill, Corona, Lonsdale, Panatela and Robusto. The names are often accompanied by an adjective that indicates a reduction or increase in size. Petit, Slim, Finos, or Demi will indicate a reduction in size, while Gorda, Gran, Grande, Larga, Extra or Double would indicate an increase.


While Parejos may be handmade or machine-made, the shaped cigars known as Figurados are always handmade. If making a cigar by hand is a skill, then making a Figurado is an art. If one bears in mind that batches of Figurados have to be absolutely consistent, then one can appreciate how hard it is to get it right. Only the most experienced torcedors roll Figurados and they take longer to make. Both of these factors are to be taken into account when considering the cost of purchasing such a cigar. Well-known Figurados are the Belicoso, Diadema, Perfecto, Pyramid and Torpedo. Some sources list Culebra, but this shape remains unusual. Davidoff re-introduced the fascinating but obsolete Culebra to the market after Zino Davidoff saw one in a cigar museum. Partagas has also introduced a Culebra and articles on the shape have created a demand that makes the shape hard to come by. It will be interesting to see how long this unusual shape remains in vogue.

Novelty cigars come in all sorts of shapes mimicking everyday articles such as baseball bats or footballs. These shapes are impractical and remain more of interest to collectors than to cigar aficionados.

Next month we will look at the safe transport and proper storage of cigars.

DEMA Convention

The 2012 DEMA Convention will  be held in Los Angeles from September 28-30. In addition to the speakers and topics listed in the last MBJ, the Chairman of the Institute will be in attendance, speaking on Sunday morning on the subject of aplomb—not a fruit, but an essential butler trait that is the doorway, a rite of passage, from the uncertainties of the tyro to the relaxed competence of the pro. These simple tools will put you on the fast track to aplombing with a rapier-like grace that would impress even Jeeves, with everyone from the boss, the guests, staff, vendors, officials, your significant other and mother-in-law all seeing and doing it your way. Yes, you are The Butler/Majordome/Majordomo/Household/Estate Manager—the one who knows all and without whom the estate would fall apart.”

Register at


Let’s Talk about Wine, Part IX

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

Today we move into Italy to discover a bit about its wonderful libations.

Chianti Cellar (roblisameehan)

Wine has been made in Italy since at least the 11th century BC, when the Enotrians (a Greek tribe, meaning people from the land of wines) inhabited the south of the peninsula. The growth of the Roman Empire lead to very important changes in wine production in two sectors: large-scale production and significant improvements in storage methods, ranging from the appearance and improvement of wood barrels to the creation of the first bottles that kept the wine in better conditions than the old amphorae (jars).

 The Roman domination of Europe spread knowledge of wine to the conquered regions, thus improving the already existing wine production in Gaul (France) and Hispania (Spain). Wine was so important for the Romans that they even had a deity for it within their polytheist religion: Bacchus, the god of wine, was given honors once a year in the famous Bacchanals, a party held to the sake of the god and as a tribute to the pleasures of life, at which much wine was drunk.
Chianti bottle from Tuscany (Giulio Nepi)

Italian wines have achieved excellence thanks to several important factors: vine-growing conditions are extremely favorable thanks to the abundance of Mediterranean sunshine, mild temperatures and cool, mountain air currents and sea breezes; the quality of the soils, and rainfall that is present in autumn, winter and spring, while summers are dry.

It is not easy to define the general characteristics of Italian wines, as they are produced all over the country. Italy’s twenty wine regions match the twenty administrative regions and, depending on the quality of the wine and the importance of the wine area, the brew is categorized under one of the four following denominations, as stated in the label of the bottle:

Barolo bottle (al10trader)

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG, meaning Controlled and Guaranteed Place Name, brings together the small group that is considered the best of the best wines. There are only 36 DOCGs, mostly concentrated in the Piedmont and Tuscany regions. Within the most important DOCGs, we find the world famous Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC, meaning Controlled Place Name, categorizes wines whose name, origin, grape varieties, production, and storage methods are regulated by law. There are currently more than 300 DOCs; to name just a few, we find Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo, Copertino, Etna and Bardolino.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica or IGT, meaning Typical Geographic Indication, indicates that the wine has been produced in a particular wine area. The name of an IGT cannot be the same as a DOCG or a DOC, to avoid misunderstandings. Here we find Palizzi, Falanghina and Lambrusco.

Vini da Tavola, sometimes expressed on the label as “Italy,” refers to all other wines that do not fall under the previous categories.

There are more than 2,000 native grape varietals, the most important  red vines being Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Montelpuciano, Dolcetto or Malvasia Nera; the most important white grapes being Catarrato, Trebbiano, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and Malvasia Bianca.

Altogether, Italy produces many fine wines. Raise your glass of refreshing Bianco (white wine) before we fly to Portugal in the next issue of our next Modern Butlers’ Journal!

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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.


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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 8

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Greetings: a longish journal this month, with a new contributor, Ms. Lisa Krohn, from the PA profession; and some good news on the public-image/PR fronts for our profession:  Jim Grise was featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and there was more news in the media of butlers doing the usual, as opposed to butlers messing up. And taking direct action to influence the way the media portray our profession, I had the opportunity to train two Hollywood actors this last month on what a butler is, how he or she thinks, and acts, so they could portray their roles faithfully in their respective films. I found both individuals to be very eager to know the truth and look forward to interesting, as well as faithful, portrayals. And my most recent article for the hospitality industry, Creative Strategies for Maintaining Training Quality without Busting the Budget was picked up by several media outlets, showing strong interest in the subject. Information on the upcoming DEMA conference in Los Angeles for private service professions is provided below: consider going if you can; it is not often we have an industry specific convention to attend. In fact, by way of late breaking news, I am seeing if I can change flights and itineraries in order to make it there on the way back Stateside. See you there, perhaps?

 Letters to the Editor

 When a lady curtsy’s, should she have her hands behind her back, in front, or one in front and one behind? Googling it, I find one source that says to have the hands to the side or to raise the skirt, is considered insulting or at minimum impolite. If the lady is not to have her hands at her sides, perhaps clasped in front is best? What are your thoughts in this regard? FM

Ed: I believe we are running into different conventions in different countries at different times. The curtsy I grew up with in England was hands to side, splaying the dress slightly on each side while bending slightly at both knees, one leg slightly ahead of the other, and bowing slightly with the head. seems to back this up. If she be wearing trousers…. perhaps the hands in front, as you suggest?

Do the ladies in the readership have anything to offer on this question, this being more properly your domain?


In response to last month’s editorial:

“The showrooming trend extends beyond finding better prices. I often showroom and purchase online, simply because it’s predictably a nicer experience.  Online, my name and preferences are always remembered, suggestions for complementary products are made, the checkout is efficient and I’m thanked for my loyalty.  Best of all, I receive a follow-up survey of my guest experience. How many local shops would call and ask, “Did we treat you well this morning? How could this have been a better experience?” Precisely, none. Not even luxury retailers would think of doing such a thing.  The brick-and-mortar experience often begins as an interruption to someone’s hectic day and ends with that dreadful announcement of your anonymous existence, “Next customer in line” from an attendant staring off into space, barely tolerating another transaction. Human contact is a two-sided coin; it can be gloriously uplifting, or horribly deflating.  Most local merchants today seem satisfied with providing the latter. If local merchants wish to survive, they’ll need to become as warm and welcoming as online robots. This may even start a revolution in retailing for the return to gracious, genteel service as the norm. Or, maybe not. The choice will be theirs.” JG

Ed: Very well put indeed, and point well taken. If brick-and-mortar stores do not change, then we will all be the poorer, because I can say that 50% of what I receive from online stores, sight unseen, has to be returned as defective and would never have been bought in the first place had I been able to throw an eyeball over it and kick its tyres/tires, so to speak. I am sure you will agree, given that you showroom at all, while that opportunity still exists.


“I have been traveling fairly extensively for more than forty years to various parts of the world, and I thought I knew how to pack a suitcase. I read your book and looked at a video on You Tube from IIMB on packing with tissue paper. I packed one day, as if I were traveling, left the suitcase in the room overnight, and took out the contents the next day.  Everything was ready to wear immediately—no touch up ironing or anything, except for one jacket folded in the alternate way, with a sleeve turned inside out and tucked into the other sleeve. I hung up everything and actually wore the suit with the slightly wrinkled jacket to a function the following day. The wrinkles hung out of the jacket and the suit was perfect. I shall never pack differently!” RR

Butlers in the Media

Move aside, Australian and New Zealand hotel butlers, because we now have cyberbutlers resident in guest iPhones. Looks like a good product — for hotels without butlers, at least.

This hotel was a bit over exuberant in its claims, but it definitely has the right idea: letting guests and the world know where they stand in the Hotel Butler Rating System.

When Jeeves is a She in the Wall Street Journal works on the premise that since 1999, half or more of hotel butlers are female—that datum is based on the words of one hotel manager in Bangkok. This may be true in Thailand, but not elsewhere. However, the points made in the article, about the services lady butlers can perform for female guests that would not generally be entertained with male butlers (in most parts of the world), are well made. The actual figures on female butlers are probably closer to 25%, and frankly, the more the merrier.

Note the photos of a graduation below in the Maldives: 15% of the graduate butlers are ladies.

Congratulations to Mr. Jim Grise, who was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle this month. As he said, “The story by the journalist you referred me to back in March has finally been published. They had a couple of the details mixed up, but a good article in general.” We couldn’t agree more, congratulations!

And finally, not butlers in the media, but something  in the media that may well be of interest to them:

Fine dining seems to be passé as luxury hotels (in Chicago, at least, according to the Chicago Tribune) find fewer guests interested, preferring a more comfortable and relaxing ambiance. This is not surprising, as ties and suits disappear from the workplace and Gen X and Y start to predominate in society. In another five years, they will be the majority, and hotels are being forced to respond to the changing perceptions and ideals. There will always be a place for fine dining, no doubt, but it will be increasingly difficult to find. This blog, however, describing an experience at the 5-star/5-diamond Lautrec restaurant in Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, seems to show that passion rather than stuffiness and concern with being “de rigeur” is a winning approach to fine dining—the writer’s experience mirrors my own while training there a some years ago. I still recall Terry, their lead waiter, with fondness and admiration—the most inspiring waiter I have had the good fortune to be served by among many excellent ones—and the rest of the solicitous team.


Looking ahead, if you are interested in a butler/household manager internship next summer in a private residence in Maine, please make your candidacy known to us here at the Institute.

The Art of Being a Personal Assistant


 by Lisa Krohn

Ms. Lisa Krohn is welcomed as a new contributor to the Modern Butlers’ Journal. She has held a series of jobs as a personal assistant, personal organizer, and many such complimentary projects for 25 years, her work taking her to the Oval Office, Hollywood, New York, and five-star hotels. As she says, “The cultural and intellectual diversity may have polarity but the art of service is the same. Our demeanor, stature, integrity, discretion, and lack of ego can be applied to all jobs in service.” Ms. Krohn shares with us, over the next few issues, the most important life lessons she has learned, why they are significant, and how they can be incorporated into one’s work in private service. I had the occasion to quote Ms. Krohn just last week to a particularly harassed PA I was training, who was doing a marvelous job of not following the lesson in this month’s journal, and who, when he began to do so, was surprised to find that he was calmer and clearer of head.

What can you do for yourself as someone in service to be at peak performance  all the time?

Cultivate and produce your own life first each day. This may not sound feasible, enjoyable, or even purposeful at first glance. Yet, this is a decisive factor in our being at peak performance for ourselves and all those we serve.

It is my experience that people who have chosen careers in service often find their personal lives in a secondary position to their principal’s. This is in our nature, and on occasion, necessary. For the most part, this neglect takes place in our residences. Our homes are often not well organized or cleaned (this has nothing to do with income). Our bills may not be paid on time, vacations not planned for ourselves in advance. When we have children, we often don’t plan for their futures in the ways we would like and certainly we do not spend quality and or quantity of time with friends and loved ones.  Other areas that are often neglected are our health, physically and emotionally, planning for our future, and our passions or interests.

By spending fifteen minutes to one hour in the morning every single day, working on various aspects of our selves and our lives, we can make a profound difference in our performance. This is not about accomplishing all of our tasks and goals each day. It is about the process of taking this time for ourselves so as to shape our well being for the day. By carving out this time for ourselves before we get to work, we will hopefully not be thinking about our own lives and be distracted while at work. By taking care of our selves in these ways, we build self-esteem. Anyone can learn and develop the skills for our jobs. Yet, what sets us apart from others is what comes from inside and that is influenced by how we take care of ourselves. So we need to make some effort to cultivate ourselves and attend to our own lives each day.

Recent Graduates

Mrs. Ferry has spent the past six weeks training the butlers at the unique Soneva Fushi Resort in the Maldives. As the first luxury hotel in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi set new standards when it introduced butler service to the island nation seventeen years ago. The current team has now been trained to Institute standards, and is well set to take their butler service to a whole new level.

The photos below show the two groups of happy graduates – congratulations to them all!

Soneva Fushi, Group One (at an informal celebration)

Soneva Fushi, Group Two (also an informal celebration)

Cigars, Part VI

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

Wrapper Colours

Now that we have an idea of how cigars are produced, we can move on to some of the considerations that should be taken into account when confronted with the bewildering profusion of cigars on offer at a tobacconist. Even the most helpful dealer will find it easier to serve you when you know the basics.

For now, let’s assume the cigars are from a reputable dealer, have been stored properly and are free of tobacco beetle. All of these will be covered in detail when we come to the part about storing our own cigars. Since the rules are the same, there is no need to repeat them here.

As we have said, the cigar wrapper (outer leaf, not packaging) is the most visually obvious element to a cigar. While the best leaves are used for wrappers, the quality of the tobacco leaf used for the wrapper will still tell us something about the quality of the whole cigar.

Cigar wrappers come in many shades, varying from light to dark. In all but the very cheapest cigars, these differences arise from the various ways in which the leaf is handled after harvesting, rather than through artificial colouring. While some wrapper colours have more than one name, there are basically 7 main shades and only three words you need remember; Claro, Colorado, and Maduro. Essentially, Claro is light, Colorado is medium and Maduro is dark.

So how do we go from 3 colour names to 7 shades? By making combinations of these words. Colorado-Claro, is a shade between Claro and Colorado, just as Colorado-Maduro is a shade between Colorado and Maduro. To describe the very lightest and darkest shades, we simply repeat the names: Claro-Claro (or double-Claro) and Maduro-Maduro. However, the cigar industry likes to complicate matters, so Claro-Claro is also known as Candella, Colorado-Claro is most often called Natural, and Maduro-Maduro is almost always called Oscuro.

Having fun yet? Claro is also known as American Market Selection (AMS). These leaves are picked immature and dried quickly, retaining a pale green hue from the chlorophyll, from where we derive its fourth name: Jade. These wrappers are no longer as popular as they once were and are now quite rare.

English Market Selection (EMS) leaves are usually Natural or Colorado-Claro wrappers, but can be anything from Claro-Claro to Maduro. They tend to have more flavour than AMS wrappers and cost more because they take longer to produce. In addition, EMS wrappers come with a unique number so that you can trace them back to their source.

Spanish Market Selection may be either Maduro or Oscuro and are among the darkest wrappers, also often being sweet.

Here is a good picture of the 7 major wrapper colours. Observant readers may notice something interesting on the cigar band of the Camacho: It is labelled ‘Triple Maduro.’ Unlike Double-Claro, this is not yet another wrapper colour, but refers to the fact that the wrapper, filler, and binder all consist of Maduro. Camacho was the first brand to bring such a cigar to market and it has received good reviews.

So how do these colours come about? We have already discussed how Claro-Claro is made. As mentioned previously, Colorado-Claro is also called natural, which in itself speaks volumes. Generally, the lighter colours are from shade-grown tobacco, while darker colours are achieved by heating and cooling the tobacco in an enclosed space, so the oils that escape during heating can retreat back into the leaf during cooling. For darker wrappers, this process may be repeated several times.

Wrapper leaves from various parts of the globe are also associated with certain colours due to the traditions surrounding the production of tobacco in those regions. Mexican tobacco is grown in full, hot sun and is usually very dark. Cameroonian wrapper is known for a singular texture, called ‘tooth,’ and commands a high price.

A common misconception is that the wrapper colour is an indication of the strength of the cigar. A wrapper constitutes less than 10% of the tobacco in the cigar and it is entirely possible that a dark wrapper can be paired with mild filler leaf. By mixing various tobaccos, the roller can achieve a complex smoke, as long as the constituent parts are in balance and the flavours complement one another. This is part of the art of fine cigar manufacturing. While there is a tendency by some manufacturers to align the strength of a cigar with the visual representation given by the wrapper, it is best not to make any assumptions.

Good tobacconists are enthusiastic about their products and provided they have the time, are usually a good source of information. Don’t be a ‘tyre-kicker,’ make a few purchases to show your support, and you should soon have access to a wealth of advice and anecdote.

Next month we will look at some of the many cigar shapes and sizes, and also why they exist.




The 2012 DEMA Convention will  be held in Los Angeles from September 28-30 and is designed, through workshops and privileged information shared by our speakers & educators, to advance the professional development and resources of all attendees. Speakers will include Teresa Leigh, Charles MacPherson, Bob King, Bonnie Low Kramen, Vickie Sokol Evans, Elise Lewis, David Gonzalez, Katie Vaughn, Marta Perrone, Donna Shannon and many others.

Breakout sessions will occur throughout the convention on subjects such as:

  • Conflict resolution with the family
  • Agency etiquette & rules of engagement
  • Handling divorces/life changes/tragedies with the family
  • Work agreements: manager vs. hourly employee
  • Resume construction
  • Reading body language
  • Home Automation & Smart Home Technology
  • Garment care 101 & beyond
  • Employer & employee boundaries
  • Family office interaction & communication with principals
  • Establishing structure & boundaries with the family office
  • Managing off-the-books employees and the consequences
  • What are you liable for as a private service employee?
  • Contract negotiation & best practices (employment & vendor)
  • Interviewing best practices
  • Proper care of luxury linens
  • Career fair, with too many agencies participating to list

For only $185.00, this is the must attend event for anyone who is either in the private service industry or considering entering. To learn more about the Convention and how to register go to

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part VIII

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

One of the most famous regions in the world for wine production is Bordeaux, in the southwest of France. It is also one of the largest—if not the largest—areas to produce so much appreciated libation, no doubt as a result of almost 2,000 years of experience.

The region obtains its name from the city of Bordeaux and faces the Atlantic Ocean. The wine production spreads 100 km (60 miles) around the city located in the biggest estuary in Europe fed by three rivers: the Gironde, and its two tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne, which create the ideal setting for growing vineyards and making wine.

Bordeaux is itself divided into three different sub-regions: “the right bank,” situated on the right side of the Dordogne river, in the northern parts of the regions, around the city of Libourne; “Entre-deux-mers” (meaning between two waters is the “island” surrounded by the Dordogne and the Garonne rivers; “the left bank” is located on the left bank of the Garonne river and is where the city of Bordeaux lies.

The major reasons for the exceptional wines produced are the excellent environment and weather conditions: climate is Oceanic, with short and mild winters, hot summers, long autumns, and a high degree of constant humidity caused by the closeness to the ocean and the rivers. On the other hand, the soil is a mix of sand, clay and limestone, very rich in calcium, which ensures an adequate drainage of vineyard roots as well as an appropriate amount of minerals to feed them.

Bordeaux produces all sorts of wines, from regular table wine to be drunk young, to some of the finest (and most expensive) “brews” that mellow in the cellars (Châteaux) for many years and even decades.

Red Bordeaux accounts for almost 90% of wine production in the area. It is traditionally made from a blend of grapes, the most predominant varietals in Bordeaux being Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon; as for whites, Sémillon and Sauvignon are the most cultivated, followed by Muscadelle.

There are up to sixty Bordeaux appellations and the wine styles they represent are categorized into six broad families based on the sub-regions (for red wines) and the sweetness (for whites). Thus:

-Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Controllée [Controlled Origin Appellation]) are fruity red wines with hints of oak to be drunk young (in the case of the regular Bordeaux), and stronger oak tastes in the case of Bordeaux Supérieur.

-Côtes de Bordeaux is a red produced in the outskirts of the region and wines under this category offer an intermediate quality between basic Bordeaux wine and the highest Bordeaux, which makes its pricing moderate.

-Libourne or “Right Bank” wines are brews whose top quality Châteaux blend a 70% Merlot with a 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The most famous vintners in this area are Saint-Émilion and Pomerol and produce wines with a great fruit concentration and soft tannins.

Médoc Vineyard by Ph. Masfrand

-Red Graves, Médoc or “Left Bank” wines are typically made by blending 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot with 15% Cabernet Franc. The resulting drink is a full-bodied and very tannic wine.

-Bordeaux Blanc gathers all the dry white wines made throughout the region, often made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend dominated by S. Blanc and Sémillon, the resulting drink offer oak hints.

-Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc includes sweet white wines that are produced in several locations using Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.

Under these broad categories, wines can also be labelled under the sub-regions or even the Cháteau, in the case of the best of the best wines. For example, one can talk about a Sauternes, a Puillac, a Margaux or a Lussac-Saint Emilion; or one can talk about Premier (first) Grand Cru Classé, Déuxieme GCC (second)… up until Cinquième GCC (fifth) to mention the most appreciated (hence expensive) wines of Bordeaux. All Grand Crus Classés are related to the most important Châteaux and are best known by the name of the Château itself, as in the case of Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Cháteau Margaux.

These excellent wines are bottled in straight-sided and high-shouldered bottles with a pronounced punt at the base. The shoulders are also pretty straight, which helps to hold the sediment when old wines require decanting.

To enjoy white Bordeaux, the usual white wine glass best serves the drinker. For red Bordeaux, the ideal stemware involves the “Bordeaux glass” (not exclusively used for Bordeaux wines, but also for all rich and fully flavored wines). The Bordeaux glass involves a broad and tall bowl that helps develop all aromas and tastes to be enjoyed.

You have a lot to choose from in Bordeaux. Enjoy your choice and I invite you to follow us next month in our trip to Italy.

Sauternes, photo by Alexandre Moha

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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.


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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 6

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

I am afraid that the general message being promoted about our profession by the media right now is not the best.

Firstly, a book has just been published entitled, (groan)  The Butler Did It. I will not provide a link to it because it is basically tabloidal in nature. It may or may not be the truth, but some people have a habit of focusing on the salacious truths of life, to which rather too many others pay attention (while the majority of the profession, going about its business industriously and earnestly, receives scant attention).

The gist of the book, as I understand it, is that a member of the British Royal Family was one among several notables of the time involved in homosexual relationships with the butler, who also, it is said, happened to have murdered five people. This man was never trained as a butler, but brought into the profession it seems, as a sex toy.

There is no disputing the attraction of sexual sensations and uninhibited behaviour, but the Roman Empire went the same way and look where they are now. I make this historical analogy because, while we may well respect the wealthy, and particularly the royalty, we serve as professionals, we should neither hold them in awe nor allow our respect to be alloyed by the behaviour of some among them.  They are but human, flesh and blood, and while their positions, gained either by industry or inheritance, have their privileges, they also have their duties, the execution of which may not always be easy.

My point? If some amongst the British Royal family have misbehaved (or still may do), this neither makes less of the standards they, and those who have served them, have worked to achieve over the last millennium; and we should not allow books such as The Butler Did It  to undermine our perception of, and dedication to, those standards.

Secondly, the Pope’s butler has allegedly been busy poking through his employer’s  (organizational) papers and leaking them to the press. From the reports surfacing as the investigation continues, it seems he was spying on behalf of others in an effort to help his employer, as in the case of the French butler recently taken to court for recording his employer’s conversations.

As soon as butlers start to spy on their employers, they are not being butlers but spies. It is that simple. Butlers do not have anything about “spying on my employer” in their job description, no matter how well intended. Butlers are not vigilantes. In the final analysis, the Pope has been “particularly hurt by his butler, to whom he was close, whom he knew, loved and respected.”

The message? It’s time those already in our profession, and those coming into it, re-assert our standards in the public eye so that the vast majority of employers continue to have faith in our profession, and do not come to believe that all butlers are suspect. This was the take that Giovanni Lodigianni, our man (butler) in Italy, had on the situation, too. His words:  “I wrote to the Italian Butlers’ Association asking for some action be taken against the supposed butler if he is sentenced for theft, as this news is creating a huge damage to the profession at a time when work is completely lacking and we do not need a reputation of this kind.”

If you have any ideas how we, the vast majority of ethical butlers, can promote our standards, over and above the very welcome but fictional Downton Abbey, then please forward  your ideas so we can share them with other members of our community.

 Letters to the Editor

 Photo by Janos Feher

In answer to last month’s reader question about funeral etiquette: “There is no standard for sending a personal card or other written form of correspondence over and above the  signing of a Guest Book for a Funeral. Sending an individual communication is at the discretion of the individual and normally would come from either a close family member or personal friend.” R.B.A.


In response to Ms. Galbari’s response to a letter from an unappreciated butler: “Very interesting letter about the butler living with a very unreasonable principal.  I know how difficult this kind of situation is—I am living it.  I have looked inward to find a solution and Ms. Galbari’s response/comments while wise…well, sometimes you have to pull the plug on such ridiculousness.  I am hopeful I can stay through to experience my two-year mark, however, three people have quit in the last six months (which validates my persistence as well as perceptions).  I keep my head down and hope for the best, as I, too, am worried about my next employer’s reaction to my leaving too soon. Very good letter …it gives me hope. Thank you very much!” R.L.

Ed: In regards to that unappreciated butler, the sequel to the story is that he is just today on the market again, having left that less-than-ideal position. As a note to other butlers who find themselves on the market, the writing of a compelling resume/CV is an art that needs to be mastered. It can be difficult, when one has a varied career, to present a clear picture of why one is the right choice as someone’s butler.

The trick is to look at the resume from the perspective or through the eyes of the potential employer, to see what he would think: what questions he might have, what he might be looking for. The goal is not to write a complete life history of you as an individual, but to focus on presenting those things that the potential employer is looking for. So yes, you may have worked as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in Bophupetswana at some stage of your life, and doing so again may seem like a comfortable change from being unappreciated as a butler, but if you are serious about finding a job as a butler, do not make the objective of your job search “To find a position as an ESL teacher in Botswana or similar.” Take away lesson? If you want a job as a butler, then make the resume butler-centric. Not to say you hide information, but in any performance there is the lead actor, and there is the chorus in the background or even off-stage. Your trick is to direct the attention of the potential client to the facts that would most compel him to ask for an interview. What is the lead actor in your career track that would enthrall the audience?


I would love to hear from your readers on any bath rituals they have observed or practiced, and which they would most recommend. What kinds of oils, soaps, candles, music,  rituals? What helpful tips? What bathroom decor ideas? TC
Ed: Good idea, thank you—please write to the editor with your ideas for publication in the next MBJ

Butlers in the Media

Another resort gets it on providing butler service to their top-end guests.

Another story about poor treatment of loyal household staff. “All I wanted was to be treated fairly, with respect and dignity. During this period of time, the majority of employees at Buckhurst Park have left,” the employee has stated.

As a profession, we really need to offer workshops for employers, just as much as their staff. In this case, the employer was educated as an architect before she came into wealth  by marriage and was expected to understand human nature and the proper management of employees so as to bring out the best on them. This is not necessarily an innate skill nor something offered on the syllabus of architecture courses. The employer is as much a victim as the employee.

One of the Institute’s members in the news, receiving an award—congratulations.

The Pope’s butler commits the cardinal sin.


A luxury resort in the Maldives is looking for an Assistant Head Butler to help manage the forty butlers. 25K per annum, etc., no taxes. For more details, ask.

Cigars, Part IV

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

Handmade Cigars

Before the matured tobacco can be rolled into cigars, the spine of the leaf must be removed with a small blade worn on the thumb, splitting the leaf in two. The leaves are suspended in bunches or  stacked in neat piles called ‘books’ and processed together using a treadle-operated guillotine. From this point on, when we talk about ‘leaves’ we are actually talking about leaf halves.

Hand rolling a cigar is a difficult art to master, especially the complicated shapes of the figurados. The cigar roller, known as a ‘torcedor,’ needs just a few tools: chief among these is a broad, flat blade called a chaveta that is similar to one used in a kitchen to chop herbs, but without the handles on either side; he also uses a platform, which serves as both a working surface and chopping board; and  vegetable glue called pectin. Finally, cigar molds that are provided by the factory.

A handmade cigar consists of three parts; the filler, the binder and the outer leaf known as the wrapper. The torcedor begins by preparing the filler. The number of leaf-halves used will depend on the size of the cigar. These leaves may be from the same source, or may be a blend of different tobaccos to give a more complex flavour.

The leaves must be rolled carefully if the cigar is to draw and burn properly. One method involves stacking the leaves before rolling. Another method, said to originate in Cuba, is called ‘entubar’. In this method, each leaf is carefully folded before the filler is bunched together. The aim in each case is a balanced construction resulting in an even burn and a light draw.

The next leaf is the binder,  coarser in appearance than the wrapper and a very important part of the cigar’s construction: not only does it hold the filler together, determining the final shape and size of the cigar, it must also provide an even surface for the wrapper, free of bumps or hollows. Once the binder is on, the unfinished cigar is placed in a cedarwood mold to rest for 30 – 45 minutes. The mold fully encloses the cigar, except for the foot (the end you light).  This may protrude slightly and is trimmed flush with the side of the mold, so that all the cigars will be exactly the same length.

While the cigars are in the mold, the torcedor clears the platform and prepares the wrappers. These are the most expensive leaves, chosen with great care. As they will determine the final appearance of the cigar, they should not have any blemishes or tears. The torcedor selects the best part of the leaf and trims it into the correct shape to wrap the cigar. Unlike the binder which is placed over the filler longitudinally, the wrapper will be wound around the cigar in a spiral. Pectin is applied to the wrapper and the cigar removed from the mold and wrapped. This is said to be the most difficult part of cigar making. In factories where rollers work in teams, the task of wrapping the cigars is entrusted to the more experienced torcedors.

The next step is adding the cap, a circular piece of leaf which finishes off the head of the cigar and secures the wrapper leaf in place. This small disc of tobacco is most often cut out with a punch, though I have heard of torcedors cutting around a coin. From here, the cigar will go for inspection and final sorting before being boxed.

If the cigar is to have a band, it is added before the cigar is boxed: the cigar is placed on a wooden form with a mark indicating where the band is to be positioned so they form a neat line in the box. The band is affixed with the same pectin used to apply the wrapper. This is why it is important not to remove the band before smoking the cigar—doing so may tear the wrapper.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part VI

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

Champagne, Part III

Before inserting the cork onto a champagne bottle, vintners add what is called “licquéur d’expédition,” which is a bit of base wine (the product obtained after the first fermentation) plus a certain amount of sugar. The amount of sugar will determine the level of sweetness of the final product, always mentioned on the label as ‘doux’ (sweet) and then, in increasing dryness, ‘demi-sec’ (semi-dry), ‘sec’ (dry), ‘extra sec’ (extra dry), ‘brut’ (very dry), ‘extra brut’ (a bit drier than brut), and ‘brut nature’ (no additional sugar, bone dry).

Although it may not seem so, the shape of the cork starts completely cylindrical. A machine forces the cork into the bottle, making the end that remains outside the bottle swell as it is squeezed by the pressure from within the bottle below. Right afterwards, a metal cap is placed on the cork top and a wire cage secured to hold it in place—giving us the cork that we know today with its distinctive final shape.

The bottle is ready for the final stages, which involve labeling and finally decorating the top of the bottle with a thin, colored paper that covers everything from the cork and the wire cage to the shoulders of the bottle. Dressing the whole neck of Champagne bottles dates back to the times when disgorgement of the debris in the neck was done by hand: during this operation, very often a little of the wine would be lost, so the vintners couldn’t guarantee that every bottle would have the same amount of Champagne. The dressing therefore covered up the different levels in each bottle.

Other famous sparkling wines, like the Cava from Catalonia (Northeastern Spain) follow the Traditional Method. But there are also other ways of making look-alikes to Champagne: the Método Charmatt  is a process similar to the Champenoise, but makes the second fermentation in tightly closed, stainless steel tanks or vessels, instead of in a bottle. Many Italian Espumantes (fizzies) and the Soviet Champagne from the USSR era follow this system.

The Tranfer Method is also similar to the Champenoise, the difference being that the “licqueur d’expédition” is added after pouring all the Champagne bottles into a tank after the second fermentation, and then re-bottled; this method is very rarely used nowadays.

Lastly, there’s a system that involves adding CO2 to a wine by means of a carbonator—a carbon dioxide blower that injects the gas into the wine; this  process is also quite uncommon and is certainly not used for quality sparkling wines.

To finish, hold your glasses up to this bit of trivia: an average Champagne cork flies at 13 meters/second, around 50 km/h (30 miles/h), so either hold the cork properly, or aim it carefully!

We shall next discuss other excellent wines, but without moving from France. In the meantime, sip your Champagne and enjoy!

Care of Silver

 by Jeffrey Herman

Lacquering Silver

Mr. Jeffrey Herman concludes his article on silver tarnish and patina, and dealing with the lacquering of silver that one can encounter.

The trophy pictured below was coated with lacquer in an effort to prevent tarnishing. Over time, the lacquer yellowed and degraded, allowing tarnish to form underneath. Since this is a common occurrence, I prefer the use of archival micro-crystalline Renaissance wax, which won’t yellow or crack

Lacquered trophy tarnished

To remove the lacquer, I used Dumond Smart Strip, a 100% biodegradable, water-based paint stripper with no emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This gel-type stripper adheres to the surface to which it is applied. After approximately 18 hours, the still-wet stripper and loosened lacquer were removed with cotton balls. The surface was then rinsed with water.

Trophy being cleaned 

This image shows the cleaned trophy with the surface not yet polished. Two major dents were removed and the interior surfaces (which contained no lacquer) were cleaned and hand polished. The resulting surface required light machine polishing to remove all tarnish and micro-etching caused by the tarnish.

Below is the trophy with its final finish. The age of the piece is still evident with its patina of minute scratches and “dimples.” This is a better outcome than what often emerges from a mass-finishing service which may overpolish silver, removing this valuable patina and possibly damaging the crisp engraving.

 Mr. Herman is the owner of Jeffrey Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation located in West Warwick, RI. He can be contacted via email or by phone 1-800-339-0417. Or visit his website at

Please subscribe at the top right of this page to continue to receive these newsletters. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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, May, 2012

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 5

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

One of our colleagues in the profession is on trial because he took action to protect his employer and family, as he saw it. Details below, but I look forward to your comments on the subject. Any one of us could find ourselves in a similar situation in the future, so it would be good to learn from this situation, perhaps.

 Letters to the Editor

 Photo by Janos Feher

A quick question for which I have found no answers in etiquette literature about funerals: are we expected to write “Thank you” letters only in response to condolence letters, or to those who signed a funeral book as well? For the former there is no doubt the answer is yes, of course; but for the latter I am note sure if one is expected to write to them, especially if the individuals did not leave their address. GL

Ed: I am not aware of any formal statement on this matter, and it would be hard to create points of etiquette to cover every single eventuality in life: there has to be a point where common sense and application of basic concepts takes over. In this case, I would suggest that a “Thank you” is not required or expected for simply signing one’s name; but it would certainly be courteous to thank an individual for coming and sharing in the experience and homage if they chose to fill out their address—in a way signaling some further communication would not be amiss.


The following exchange with a butler in the Americas might be instructive for other butlers who sometimes feel that they are not in the ideal position and feel inclined to look elsewhere—often, a little patience will see things come out right.

I graduated from a Butler School a year ago and am finding my family a little stressful to work for, as the Mrs. is never happy with anything we (the staff) do. It gets you down when you put everything into a job only to have them ignored. I am thinking of leaving even though it’s not good to be at a job for only a year. Have you heard of other butlers in similar situations to mine?

Ed: Thank you for asking. Sorry to hear you have been experiencing what many other butlers have learned the hard way: to vet employers before working for them, just as they vet you. That is why we recommend at least a month and preferably a three-month trial period before moving in lock, stock, and barrel, committing to a relationship that may not work out either way. Of course, as with any relationship, it takes some give and take and tolerance to make it work, and there is always the possibility that a relationship could be made viable, even if not ideal. However, if the employer is never happy with anything done, even when it is very well done and according to her wishes, then you are better off ending the relationship, even if it will make future potential employers look askance at you, wondering if you are a job hopper. The alternative, as you say, is you will be gotten “down,” and it will be repeatedly until you stay down. Decisions, decisions, decisions, but to answer your question, yes, your situation is not unusual: this is Planet Earth, after all, where things do not always follow the ideal.

You will be pleased to know that I and the other student at the butler academy both had your book at our sides and used it to verify and supplement discussions, etc. Anyway, I am committed to giving two-months notice even though my contract says nothing about any notice being required:  I would like to know they have a suitable replacement lined up.

Ed: I am glad to hear the book was useful. Yes, that is enough notice, and it is good you would like to ensure there is someone to replace you. I wish you well wherever you end up.

I just spoke with my placement agency. They tell me the current house manager will be replaced at the end of the month.  The placement agency would like me to give this new leader a chance and see if it improves things within the house.  They also said four week notice would be brilliant.  This is not a problem for me.

Ed: On the new leader, is the problem something else, or is it the Mrs.? If it is the Mrs., then a new leader will run into the same issue. If it be the current leader, and he has made everything so bad that the Mrs. is quite correct to be upset at everything being done, then I could understand your being willing to continue. Just a thought about the inconsistencies.

The problem is with both, but I think the leader certainly does not help the current situation. I will see if Mrs. is more reasonable with a more organized leader in place. Thanks for you time and advise.


Thank you so much for your article. Yours are always worthy reading. MR, Magazine Editor

Butlers in the Media

Pascal Bonnefoy, the former butler of L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, has been charged with violating her privacy after he secretly recorded her conversations with advisers to prove they may have been manipulating his aged employer. He handed the information over to his employer’s daughter who was attempting to stop others from taking advantage of her mother.

Was he correct to have done this? It is a good example of a tricky, real-life situation with various angles to consider. Please feel free to write your thoughts.

One angle is that of ethics, and this is raised, also, in the matter of the upcoming movie, The Butler, about Eugene Allen, the White House butler between 1952 to 1986. Forest  Whitaker will portray him and Oprah Winfrey is apparently playing Mrs. Allen,  with Jane Fonda, Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, and John Cusack reportedly portraying various presidents and their wives. This much may not be so new, but the movie does include interplay with the butler’s son, who is an activist who is repeatedly arrested, and which does rub off on the butler toward the end of his life—even though, naturally, he is a conformist—when he makes a decision to fight (according to Forest Whitaker). This theme repeats one first broached in Remains of the Day, when fellow butler Mr. Benn questions Mr. Steven’s blind support for questionable activities on the part of his employer.


Butlers, Real and Unreal

The Jerusalem Post carries a story entitled “An Executive Butler” which describes an enterprising gentleman who runs a cleaning company and concierge service.

Similarly, Glenn Close’s excellent performance as a hotel waiter in Albert Nobb has the character still being described repeatedly in much of the media as “a butler.”

A good article on Sean Davoren, Head Butler at the Savoy in London.

Cigars, Part III

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

Harvesting & Processing Tobacco Part 2

For the next step in the process, the tobacco will typically travel to the factory where it will be rolled into cigars. Here the leaves are sorted according to how they will be used; small or broken leaves for the filler, large course leaves for the binder, and large fine (often shade-grown) leaves for the wrapper.

Tobacco leaf sorting equipment (photo: Words & Images)

Each type is collected into bunches of 10 -15 leaves called “hands” and placed together with similar leaves to ferment. The leaves may ferment in a wooden box or cask called a hogshead, or they may be moistened and stitched up in a burlap-covered bale. In the 18th century, hogsheads were popular for shipping, as the tobacco packed in the New World would ferment en-route to the cigar-making establishments in Europe.

Tobacco press and weighing equipment (photo: Words & Images)


For cigars rolled in the country of origin, fermentation took place in the cool cellars of the tobacco rolling factories. These cellars are still used for some Cuban brands today as the temperature inside remains fairly constant, making them ideal for the task.

The fermentation process must be closely watched. If fermentation is allowed to accelerate, the temperature in the bale will rise too high, damaging the tobacco. The bale will often be pulled open and inspected over the years – the leaves being turned over and moistened again if necessary. If the temperature and humidity is not controlled properly, the leaves will either rot or disintegrate.

Fermentation can take as little as six months, but for fine cigars it usually takes anything from two to five years. Of all the tobacco production processes, none has as much effect on the flavour, aroma and burning characteristics as the fermenting process.

Once the tobacco has been fermented, it is ready for rolling. The bales or hogsheads are broken up and the leaves separated. The spine of the leaf must be removed to allow the leaf to burn evenly. This can either be done with a treadle-operated machine, or by hand with a knife mounted on a thimble—a small cut being made near the tip of the leaf and the spine pulled down. The cut leaves are stacked in piles called books or pads and may even be wrapped up in bales for further fermentation.

When the leaves are ready finally for rolling into cigars, the bales will be broken up for the last time and the leaves steamed to restore lost humidity before they are sorted yet again.

Before the finished cigars are shipped, they will be sorted a few more times and graded—a process requiring great skill and experience (most visitors to cigar factories are not able to see any difference between the leaves in adjacent piles), thereby contributing to the quality and consistency of the final product. A fine, handmade cigar costs as much as it does in part because it will have been handled by as many as forty pairs of hands before the consumer ever smokes it.

Next month we look at an even more advanced skill, that of rolling the cigar.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part V

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

Champagne, Part II

So, what does “Méthode Champenoise” involve today? The starting point is the same as any wine making, that is, harvesting the best grapes at the right time after months of very attentive care, and taking them for pressing shortly thereafter. For Champagne, the harvest is carried out earlier than grapes for other kinds of wine, to take advantage of the low levels of sugar and the higher levels of acidity. Then, with regards to the pressing, in the case of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier it’s done without allowing the must to stay in contact with the skins, so that it doesn’t extract the color—except in the case of musts that are used to make pink Champagne. The first 2,050 liters out of 4000 kg of grapes is called cuvee and is the must that will produce better and more delicate wines, whilst the must after that, called taille (tail), produces coarser wines. Some vintners use only cuvées to produce their champagne, which assures a very high-quality libation.

Vary rarely, the musts are fermented in barrels, as stainless steel tanks allow a tighter control of the changes in the first fermentation that lasts around 15 days.

After the first fermentation, vintners decide whether to bottle the wine on their own or make a cuvée  (yes, like the first wine coming out of a batch of grapes), meaning blending the wine of one main varietals with other wines from the other main varietals, or with a very little percentage of a different grape.

From here on, the wine will age in the bottle after adding a little bit of rock sugar and a few grams of yeast. The bottle is topped with a crown cap and allowed to age no less than 15 months for non-vintage (wines from different years) or three years or more for vintage (wines from a particular, generally excellent, year).

What happens is that the yeasts will develop in the wine and so produce carbon dioxide. As the gas cannot escape, the C02 dissolves in the liquid and thus Champagne acquires its characteristic effervescent condition.

As Dom Pérignon improved, the bottles that hold Champagne (and generally speaking, any sparkling wine) are a bit thicker than the regular wine bottles, having a “dome” at the bottom called a “punt” that increases the strength of the bottle base to prevent it from exploding.
The second fermentation starts with the bottles lying horizontally, and during the ensuing, months, their position is changed until they finish vertical and upside down; at the same time, either mechanically or manually, the bottles are twisted so that the lees (remains of yeasts and sugars) accumulate in the neck of the bottle, forming a debris cap.

When the second fermentation has finished, the neck of the bottle is frozen in order to solidify this debris, the crown cap is removed, and the pressure inside the bottle forces out the debris.

Care of Silver

 by Jeffrey Herman

Silver Terminology


Tarnish on silver is a thin layer of mainly of black silver sulfide caused by the silver’s chemical reaction with sulfur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide in the air. Tarnish appears as a yellow, gray, or black film on objects, and the corrosion process slows as the silver sulfide layer thickens. Clean silver tarnishes more rapidly than tarnished silver.

For complete instructions on how to remove tarnish and enjoy using your silver with little or no care, please visit my Silver Care Guide. If you have questions not addressed on that page, please feel free to contact me.


In the decorative metals world, patina can mean:

(1) The fine scratches on an object that have developed over time from its handling and polishing;

(2) The natural darkening that occurs in the recesses of ornamental pieces and engraving; or

(3) An applied chemical used to color metal.

 The coffeepot pictured below was cleaned with Tarn-X, which removed the factory-applied coloring.

The next image illustrates how the restoration of the factory-applied blackening in the recesses makes the design “pop.”

Next month, Mr. Herman will discuss the lacquering of silver in an effort to prevent tarnishing, and how to remove that lacquer.

Mr. Herman is the owner of Jeffrey Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation located in West Warwick, RI. He can be contacted via email or by phone 1-800-339-0417. Or visit his website at

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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.




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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 4

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Last year, the Institute engaged in a first for the profession: the training of guest-facing staff of an upscale retirement community in the superior service skills of butlers. The staff are not butlers and do not provide all the services that a butler could in a private estate or even a hotel, but they know how to deliver the same solicitous level of caring service. The media picked up on it this year, validating the experiment carried on by the visionary owners and management of On the Avenue, in Toronto, Canada. This is just one project across various industries and walks of life where the Institute is engaged in its mission: the application of butler standards and expectations of service to all service industries. The target we’d like to approach next? How about government agencies, some of which excel and some of which leave much to be desired?

On a different note, the MBJ is available to anyone with something of interest or value to the profession, to share their information. Feel free to email your best efforts: the editor won’t bite, promise.

 Letters to the Editor

 Photo by Janos Feher

“I appreciate all you do for the profession!  I stumbled across and printed the article on Brand Butler a while back and am trying to relocate it so I can forward it to colleagues for use in an upcoming DEMA meeting in Greenwich. Can you send the link to relocate it? GW

Editor: Thank you. We have had the published articles on the profession (some thirty of them) placed in their own category again just recently: With the upgrade in design of the Modern Butlers web site last year, the articles, and the wealth of information they provided, were mixed in with blogs and Modern Butler Journals, so became hard to find. Sorry for the inconvenience.  You can find that article, as with all the published articles, at resources>published articles.

As an additional side note to the readership, the list now includes the latest article just published, What is Behind the Gyrations of the World Economy & Where is It Going?  One person expressed disappointment last year at finding an article not directly relating to the butler profession included in the MBJ—one that addressed the concern expressed by many at the time about Fukushima Daiichi, the radiation possibly impacting all life on earth from the Japanese nuclear reactor breakdowns.

As with the world economy article, both issues have some impact on butlers in private service and their employers, as well as butlers in hospitality and other sectors, and their colleagues and employers. By impact is meant having some bearing upon their ability to do their work effectively, not to mention their welfare.

The MBJ, therefore, will continue to carry such papers and articles very occasionally as a service to its membership. The next one being researched is our food and water supply and quality—something, we believe, most people will concede has some bearing upon a butler’s ability to provide his or her most traditional of services.


“I agree that quite a few butler academies copy and paste their materials. I saw this first in 2000 in [Ed: location deleted]. Some see the prices that can be charged for courses and think that, with little-to-no knowledge, they can make money by setting up an academy. There is a relatively new academy in the world that makes me crazy with its emails, Twitter, and Facebook outpourings. I asked where they acquired their experience and who had labelled them the best in the world, as was being claimed. No satisfactory answer was received, of course. Only clients give you such a label by inviting you again. It is disconcerting that such people are given assignments by principals who most of the time have no idea they are being shortchanged because they look to that person for guidance on what is a butler.” TW


“I am shocked but not surprised at the foreshortened butler training that is taking place, as covered in this most recent MBJ. I have witnessed or heard about this time and again (as have many other professionals, no doubt)—the perpetrators putting on a good dog-and-pony show that provides instant gratification until the unfortunate lack of change or improvement in the real world leaves the employer or manager back in the same unhappy position: needing to train their employees: this standard does create a negative impression and stigmatize the profession as a whole. AJS.


Scam Alert: One member asked for advice on a job offer from a Jefferson Hotel in the US—a curious move, given that he is in private service, but he is free to move in any direction he pleases and so, as he was unfamiliar with the US environment, felt some advice to be in order: “I have just received the attached job offer, if I may please ask for your opinion? I applied online a while ago and this is the response.” He had spotted already that hours were listed as Monday through Friday and additionally, web sites, email addresses, and area codes were inconsistent.

Editor: Too many things do not make sense, most particularly the use of language; the amount of time off (usual in the US is 2 weeks, not 2 months plus 20 days); and the requirements that the applicant arrange his visa through a specific office. 

To all private service and hospitality butlers outside the US hoping for a position, please see this link and steer clear of this scam.

Butlers in the Media

An interesting article in the Sunday Independent about domestic service in the UK, which seems representative of service in other countries (with [apologies for not including it in the last MBJ and] thanks toMr. Aris Chrisanthakopoulos, who brought it to our attention and is quoted in the article).

Forbes Travel Guide provides a short summary of three “unique” butler services in hotels: a fragrance butler  (which is new, although the person bringing the goodies to guests is not a butler); a waiter who presents tea as a “tea butler” (the photograph shows a well-presented tea service, but the service is far from unique); and a bath butler (not unique either, and the menu is not overly creative, but  the butler is delivering it and no doubt guests enjoy it).

In a wonderful example of the media having a firm idea of what they want to say and finding information to support it, come what may, a Bloomberg reporter ignored my information to publish the fiction that lady butlers are paid more than their male counterparts. How did they come to this conclusion? Bloomberg reviewed census data, where butlers, apparently, are placed in the same category as  house sitters and shoe shiners—where females earn $1.02 for every $1 their male counterparts earn and the average income is  $25,000 pa. While the main thrust of the article is fine—showing that in most professions, males are paid more than females—what makes the article illogical in respect to butlers is

a) the incorrect assumption that butlers are the same as shoe shiners and house sitters in terms of professional skills and salary ranges. Yes, they work to service others in a private capacity, but using the same level of logic, one could equally well combine the chairman of Goldman Sachs and his secretary into a single category of “finance” and reach a similarly illogical conclusion;

b) the idea that, because female shoe shiners (have you ever seen a female shoe shiner?) earn 2 cents more per shoe shine than men, female butlers earn more, too;

c) Omitted information: of the 38,210 people surveyed in this category, how many were butlers? 3? 300?

As I told the reporter, nobody knows whether male butlers are paid more than female butlers. As we all know, salaries are all over the map depending on the employer,  the duties demanded of the butler, the experience of the butler, the value to the employer of that particular butler, etc. The gender of the butler has no bearing on salary range. And as salary is only part of the entire package when room, board, transport, health insurance and bonuses are factored in, salary alone would be an incomplete measure.

Oh dear, another “The butler did it” reported in a variety of media. Whenever tired writers see the word “butler,” the rest of the phrase that should immediately be struck from what they are writing, inevitably makes its way into print anyway. In this case, however, there is the possibility that the butler did do it, and a jury has just decided as much. Of what was he found guilty? Helping hold his employer to ransom at syringe point and then fleeing with nary a penny but apparently leaving behind enough clues to make sure he was caught.

Do we have to cringe, as a professional body? Yes, but it would be instructive to consider whether the butler was ever trained as one and what other qualifications he might have had to lay claim to such a title. As far as can be determined using the information available in the media, the butler worked for the victim for only a few months in 2006  before being fired for crashing one of the employer’s vehicles while using it on an unauthorized personal trip. Prior to this position as “butler,” he held chauffeur and personal assistant positions for three New York families. Judging from his background and his ethic level, it seems his hiring as a butler was the result of the willingness by agencies and employers to take on butlers based on experience in similar lines of work, and without any training for the position—as logical as hiring a trainee accountant to work as a lawyer because they are both professional services required to deal with business and government requirements.

The home invasion was not just a case of a bad apple, but also a flawed system that we, the various professions involved in private service, can do something about to better serve our clientele.

The wonders of technology: there is now a car butler in your iPhone.

by Wayne Fitzharris of Global Search International

To update all readers of the Modern Butlers’ Journal on the last MBJ post on The Butler movie being directed by Lee Daniels, you will be pleased to know that more progress is being made in the casting: It has been reported that Jane Fonda will play Nancy Reagan, and Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo may also be in the cast.

Mr. Allen began his career in 1952, when segregation laws were still in place, working his way up from the pantry to waiter to Maitre D’ and finally to White House butler, serving under eight Presidents before retiring in 1986.

Reportedly, First Lady Nancy Reagan came looking for Eugene in the kitchen one day: She wanted to remind him about the upcoming state dinner for then German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen told her he was well ahead in the planning and had already picked out the china. She replied that he would not be working that night: “You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.”

Few butlers there are who can make such a claim.


We have noticed a definite increase in requests for butlers in private estates, as well as head butlers, from various parts of the world. If you are in, or anticipate being in, the job market again, and we do not have your resume/CV or a recent copy, feel free to e-mail  it with a statement of your position and location goals, and salary requirements.

Alternatively, if you have experience in hospitality, catering, or customer service, then the Queen of England is looking for a footman to provide a range of services, from messenger and valeting duties to food and beverage service to members of the Royal Family and their guests. Live-in, 15,000 GBP—meager salary but an excellent opportunity to learn the ropes (including training and apprenticeship) and launch yourself in this new profession while serving a notable family.

Casting call for any Brits living in, or able to work in, the US, who would like to audition for a TV series on the day-to-day life of a British household staff working with an American family. The New York-based production company specializes in documentaries  and (non-gutter) reality television. Positions available: housekeeper; chauffeur, nanny, and PA/Secretary—the last three needing to be in their 20s and 30s. Email if interested.

Cigars, Part II

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

Harvesting & Processing Tobacco Part 1

The traditional tobacco harvest is somewhat unusual in that, rather than bringing the harvest in all at once as with other crops, the leaves are harvested in phases. Called ‘priming’, the plants are primed in thirds or fifths, meaning that there will be either three or five harvests to complete the process.

The plant is harvested from the bottom up as the leaves nearest the bottom start turning brown first. In this way, eac successive priming moves up the plant until the final priming removes the leaves at the top.

The leaves may be plucked with a rapid downward motion, or may be cut off with a small hatchet. The leaves are very large, and there will typically be 18 useable leaves spread over five primings. From bottom to top, these primings are referred to as Volado, Seco, Viso, Ligero, and Corona. These areas of the plant are defined and named as they have special significance to cigar makers. Some parts of the plant produce leaves that are stronger in flavour, while others are weaker. All are used in different ways – they may become cigar filler, binders, or wrappers.

This method of harvesting is obviously very labour intensive and is only used where labour costs are low, or when making premium handmade cigars. The alternative is whole-stalk harvesting, where the entire plant is simply cut off at the base.

Tobacco drying, photo by Words & Images

Once the leaves have been harvested, they must be dried slowly to prevent rot. The process is called “curing” and takes from 25 to 45 days. The leaves may be tied in bunches and suspended from horizontal poles, or they may be pierced and strung up to dry. During curing, the fresh, bright green leaves turn brown and develop their distinctive aroma as the chlorophyll slowly breaks down and is replaced by carotene. By varying the curing process, the colour of the final leaf can be manipulated.

Tobacco drying shed Windsor, CT. Photo by Words & Images

In warm climates, air drying takes place in well ventilated barns with slatted sides. The temperature inside can be controlled by opening or closing wide doors, following the passage of the sun across the sky. An alternative, called flue curing, is used in cooler climates. Here the barn is heated but care must be taken to prevent the leaves drying out too quickly. Sawdust or hardwood may also be burnt in the barn to aid drying and impart flavour. These curing barns are often located alongside the very fields in which the tobacco is grown.

Let’s Talk about Wine, Part V

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

Champagne bottle by Creative Tools

In the current article, we deal with the production of the most famous of alcoholic drinks, the king of wines, Champagne.

To start with, Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. The drink acquired its name from the region in the North-East of France where it is produced. Any wine made under the same conditions, with the same ingredients and following the same procedure has no right to call itself Champagne if it is not grown in this region; instead, it’s called sparkling wine, with the right to show on the label that it has followed the same procedure. What’s so special about Champagne, the region? Both its climate and its soil: temperature and humidity are ideal for growing the particular grapes to make the desired drink, and the soil is very rich in chalk and very absorbent, allowing the vines to obtain just the right amount of water needed to prevent them from drying out or drowning.

Champagne is made of 3 different grape varietals mainly, that can be used singly or mixed in different percentages. Other varietals are sometimes used to give the drink different hints of flavor.

Chardonay by Pete Markham. Chardonnay is the only white grape used, giving Champagne its freshness and flower notes;
Pinot Meunier by Konk Niffe. Pinot Meunier is a small red grape with very dark skin but very clear must, giving a little acidity to the drink;
Pinot Noir by N. Murayama. Pinot Noir is a slightly larger red grape that adds full acidity, body and structure.

Pinot Noir is the kind of grape that improves with aging, so it’s presence is especially important in Champagnes to be aged for several years.

If the Champagne is made of 100% Chardonnay, it’s called Blanc de Blancs (white of whites), and if it’s 100% Pinot Noir, Noir de Noirs (black of blacks), due to the color of the grape skin used.

Champagne is made using the “Méthode Champenoise” or “Méthode Traditionnel.” Legend has it that Champagne was fine-tuned by a Benedictine monk called Dom Pérignon in the second half of 17th century (yes, the same famous Champagne brand).

In the beginning of the 17th century, many wine producers from the area started to bottle their white wines before the fermentation had finished in order to preserve the aromas. As a result, bubbles where produced (without them initially realizing it) and vintners started to worry and call that drink the “devil’s wine,” as bottles suddenly exploded or the cork simply popped out. Dom Pérignon introduced some changes that would lead to the creation of the exquisite libation we enjoy nowadays: he was the first one to choose the grapes carefully to make the best wines in the area, and took care of the devil by holding the cork with a stiff metal staple and bottling the drink in thicker glass bottles (made available courtesy of advances in the manufacture of glass bottles by the British, who were actually the first to make sparkling wines—but that is a different story).

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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.