The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, November, 2011

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, October, 2011

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 7, issue 10

 International Institute of Modern Butlers


Message from the Chairman

The struggle to stay on top of technology that constantly shifts the goal posts is not something our predecessors had to contend with too much. Not to say that change is wrong, or that having lots to do is wrong, but in the darker moments where the technology seems sufficiently confusing to be gaining the upper hand, it might help to remember that technology is not necessarily the superior beast one might conceive it. Take the email I received from Facebook, stating that an email Facebook had sent me, “was determined by the Spam Blocker to be spam based on a score of 7.4 where anything above 3.5 is spam.” Facebook included the full text of this shameless piece of spam for my viewing pleasure.

These emails between Facebook departments concerning myself as a perplexed bystander reminded me of a cartoon I found in an archive of Punch (a now-defunct English weekly focusing on humor and satire that became an institution in England between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries) and laughed over as a child way too many years ago, in a school library where the only sound usually heard was the ticking of the grandfather clock.

Please welcome Gretchen dePillis as a new contributor, and enjoy the strange mix of news and articles relating to our profession directly or indirectly.

I, personally, am coming to the end of a long training stint at the multiple-award-winning resort Soneva Gili in the Maldives, where the crush of the modern day world and its relentless problems has fallen away, to be replaced by azure waters, spotted eagle rays and juvenile sharks swimming through the private swimming pool under my water villa; and where technology has its place in the sidelines (guests are provided with their own wireless iPADs).

Housekeeping on the way to a villa just before a storm

 Steven Ferry

Letters to the Editor

“I miss the training we had in Singapore last year: I am still using the method that you taught me and because of the certification, I obtained a position as an assistant manager in the  company. Thank you so much for the guidance.” Regards, Aein Harryzan


“I watched your YOUTUBE presentation on shoe shining today and found it interesting and well presented. Even after twenty years of military service, it seems one can learn a trick or two on shining a shoe! Thank you for the video and the service you are still providing.” Brett Jarboe

“With all due respect to the writer and with admiration for his knowledge, in my opinion this platform is not the right venue for his article [on Fukushima Daiichi]. There are uncountable sources where this could have been published and I think that Modern Butlers is not one of them. Further articles of this range will force me to reconsider my subscription, and I urge you to stay on the course of informing professionals in our field about subjects related to the profession. Kind regards, EBS.”

Editor responds: Thank you for taking the time to write of your concern about the subject matter of the latest article. I understand your desire for articles and items relating solely to matters of immediate interest to butlers.
You may be familiar with The Remains of the Day, the movie of the butler who works for a Nazi sympathizer. This brilliant (novel and) film examines the isolation of the butler totally focused on service versus his social responsibilities and how they impact his employer (and himself). In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, we have a situation that has caused alarm and concern around the world, impacting employers, their families, and butlers and employees alike to one degree or another. As such, it is of concern to butlers.
This article was written principally, however, for the hospitality industry (in several of which organs the article was published/republished), and thus of interest to the many hospitality butlers who are members of the Institute.
While most of our articles, blogs, and newsletter items relate to matters of immediate interest to butlers, such as the series of articles on cars, wines, tea, etc., I don’t believe any organ is required or expected to stay narrowly focused on the technology of a profession, and not look at the bigger picture and how it may impact the profession. For instance, an article will be forthcoming at some point on the world economy. This does not relate directly to how to be a butler, the history of the profession, etc., but I think you may agree, it directly impacts butlers and their employers, employability, etc. I hope this makes sense for you. If not, and you decide to cancel your subscription, then we’ll be sorry to lose you, but will respect your decision.”


“Congratulations on publishing this article [on Fukushima Daiichi], which is far more out-reaching that we can imagine….” Francois Martin, GSM, Sunset Marquis Hotel.

Editor responds: “Glad you like the article, and yes, hopefully it will bring encouragement to those outside the Fukushima area who might have had their spirits dampened by the event.”


“I have an unusual question. I was just notified by the Christian Dior boutique in an outlet mall here in Southern California that the corporate office will close all outlet malls in the United States except for one in New York. As a result, there is an entire store of solicitous, knowledgeable staff looking for work starting in December. They confided in me that they would investigate being a personal assistant or any type of job in the luxury industry. Would you happen to know of something in Southern California so they wouldn’t have to relocate?” GP

Editor responds: “Good on you for wanting to help these individuals—what an unfortunate situation. Regrettably, the skill-sets of a retail professional do not match closely enough those required of a PA. They are definitely cousin to, but the likelihood of finding employ in a market where PAs are looking for work is not great. Not to say that good fits cannot be found, but we are not the right organization to assist as we are more focused on the butler side than PA, and do not have any PA requests on the books currently. Maybe the readership will have suggestions?”

Butlers in the News

Little graced the media pages and pixels this last month about butlers, but one charming articlein the Royal Scotsman introduced The Final Curtsey—a book by Margaret Rhodes, a cousin of the Queen of England—which details her life in stately staffed homes during the 20th Century.

Butlers in the Movies

Gretchen dePillis attended the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in Canada to sample some of the films being produced this year (9,995 titles and counting so far) and shared her thoughts with us. As it is often hard to know what a film is really like from the reviews in newspapers and online, we offer her comments on one film, Albert Nobbs, revolving around a butler figure. “This 2011 Irish release stars and was co-written by Glenn Close, who is  disguised as a male butler in 19th century Ireland. She encounters problems when faced with a handsome painter, who  arrives on the scene and captures the heart of ‘Albert.’  The film is based on a short story The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs by George Moore.  Other viewers seemed to like it, however, as the subject matter didn’t appeal to me, I didn’t watch it. I felt that a true butler or personal assistant should be honest and trustworthy: disguising oneself for twenty years contradicts that. If, however, you are interested in seeing the butling profession depicted on screen, then you may enjoy this 114 minute film.”

The Butler’s Guide to Tea

The last in the Tea Series will be presented in December: a piece on the elegant clippers, the most famous of which today is the Cutty Sark, even if others, such as the Thermopylae, were faster. Frank Mitchell was a wee bit too busy on assignment in Fregate Island Private to complete the writing in time for the deadline.

 Travel between continents in the 19th Century was best undertaken, for speed, by these Clipper ships, and at a price. Today, private jets cover in less than an hour what the Clippers, at their fastest clip, could manage in a whole day. Boeing has delivered 170 such jets and has 200 more on order, the top of the range being a 747-800 for $550 million, almost half of which would cover the design and construction of a state-of-the-art interior. The mechanics change, but the truths do not: those who can afford to, travel in style.

Notes from the Field

 By G.J. dePillis

I had the delightful opportunity to spend a day recently with Mr. James Tobin, a  Canadian butler residing in Toronto. Mr. Tobin is member of the International  Institute of Modern Butlers and graciously agreed to be interviewed for the Journal.


Mr. Tobin was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada and raised on a small island, called Oderin Island, off the coast of Newfoundland by his widowed mother and her parents until his mother remarried when he was 5 years of age. His family and the community eventually had to relocate, because the government didn’t provide the necessary assistance for such an isolated community.

Living in a lighthouse as a child helped shape his character, enjoying a simple life without material possessions. He was educated in a 2-room, 2-teacher school without electricity. Grades 1 through 5 sat on one side of the little schoolhouse, while grades 6 through 11 sat on the other side. The community itself only contained a couple of hundred families living off the land.

His childhood and education instilled in Mr. Tobin strong values of resourcefulness and dedication. At a young age, he learned to make the most of the resources that were available to him. He feels this provided him with a solid foundation for his present position as a butler/valet to a gentleman. A jovial man with a warm demeanor, Mr. Tobin told me: “I have learned that any dedicated person can use their natural talents, combined with formal schooling, to succeed.”

In his present position, Mr. Tobin was initially somewhat of a pioneer: his current principal was the first in his exclusive circle to employ a butler. Now that his friends see how happy he is with the services provided by Mr. Tobin, all of them want to employ a butler!

Wardrobe Management 

Our conversation touched upon wardrobe management. Of course, Mr. Tobin cares for the wardrobe of his principal, and he agreed to share some of his own best practices. When he was first engaged, he began by “de-cluttering” his principal’s wardrobe.  His principal placed his trust in him and agreed that for the first 60 days of his employment, he would wear only what Mr. Tobin selected.  This trial period proved successful and many items were pruned and donated to a deserving charity.  Since then, Mr. Tobin has packed for and planned wardrobes for his principal for numerous special occasions, as well as for travel.  He takes into consideration if his principal will be meeting people immediately after a flight, or if will he have time to change in a hotel room before the meeting. He considers such questions as:  will he be seated in the isle or near the window? How long will the flight be? How much tissue paper should be used when packing?  All these elements may seem like common sense, but as any good butler knows, common sense is often not so common — which is why being an expert butler is key to the successful presentation of his employer.

In Toronto, there are several refined men’s wear shops, such as H. Halpen, Esq. which provide men’s clothing with a European flair, including bespoke shirts (customers choosing color, collar type, regular or athletic trim fit, cuff style of button or French, and pockets or not).

The challenge of managing another’s wardrobe can be daunting.  While Mr. Tobin works mainly for his male employer, he also looks after the wardrobes of the females in the household.  He kindly shared a wardrobe tool, which he uses for the ladies in residence (see below).

For those who wish to incorporate some technology into their wardrobe management, Mr. Tobin recommends an application for the iPhone entitled Pocket Closet or TouchCloset and Stylish Girl. For those who have a computer, other wardrobe applications to investigate are Closet bank, Closet Couture, and HomyFads Clothing Organizer. Reviews can be found here.

Last but not least, Wardrobe Manager is a WiMax-enabled (25 times faster than broadband and known also as 802.16) wall-mountable display that uses RFID tags embedded in clothing to maintain a digital inventory and help track usage patterns for a specific wardrobe. Other technical product advancements in Wardrobe Management may appear on the market soon.

Mr. Tobin’s handy wardrobe management chart:

Blouse  Size
Sweater  Size
Skirt  Size
Dress  Size
Coat  Size
Glove  Size
Shoe  Size (R & L)
Hat  Size
Designer  A
Designer B
Designer C
Designer D
Designer E
Designer F
Designer H


Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, October, 2011

 Hangers & Hangers

  Part 3 of 3, by Amer Vargas

Although butlers generally don’t talk publicly about their preferences, this butler would like to act as a spokesman for his esteemed colleagues in this instance.

Wire and plastic hangers are excellent for drycleaners and for butlers that have to transport their bosses’ or clients’ articles from the dry cleaning establishment to the wardrobe, as they are light and easy to carry. This is especially true when you’re dealing with many items of clothing at the same time time. However, once the butler arrives home and in the area where these clothes are to be stored, such as the wardrobe or dressing room, he should immediately change the wire “transport” hangers to their “permanent” wooden counterparts.

Butlers like to use (as much as they can!) the best available tools. So the best choice, when you’re looking after clothing, is to use wooden suit hangers, always contoured and preferably padded. The reason is that wooden hangers are stiff and can hold a good amount of weight (such as a long, fine wool coat or a motorcyclist’s leather jacket), whilst plastic and wire hangers tend to break or loose their shape because of the weight of the garment. Also, contoured hangers keep “tops” (especially jackets) in better shape than flat hangers.

For “bottoms,” a butler would best choose hangers with clips or a clamp, as they allow a wider range of items to be hung – as opposed to the hanging bar or rod, which may create wrinkles in trousers especially when of a size greater than 34w, as the legs, when folded, generally measure more than the 16-18 inches of the bar of a standard size hanger, thus squashing the edges.

Conclusion Whenever a butler thinks quality hangers, his closets, or his employer’s closets, will be filled with wooden or padded hangers with clips or clamps.


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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



The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, October, 2011

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 7, issue 9

 International Institute of Modern Butlers

Message from the Chairman

 Sorry, we keep trying to keep these newsletters short, but there is too much to talk about. Hope you enjoy this  issue.
I read in the news of something untoward happening as a result of Hurricane Irene, to a Mr. Butler from  Tuxedo in New York. What stories names tell! We do not have to go out on a limb to divine how Mr. Butler’s  family acquired its name. There are only ninety names more popular in the United States than “Butler,” making  it a rather common name despite the relatively few butlers that have existed through the ages. “Smith” is the #1  name in the U.S. in terms of frequency, perhaps because there was a smith on every corner in times gone by—  compared with a garage/gas station and pharmacy today. Maybe in a few hundred years, the “Drug” or “Gas”  families will be the #1 names!


But actually, what caught my interest more was how the town of Tuxedo earned its name. Not Tuxedo Junction, but Tuxedo, a place that a hundred years ago was one of the popular summer getaways for New York society. It also housed and still houses a chimpanzee center, one of which is reported to have presented itself at City Hall wearing a tuxedo and swinging a bamboo cane. Dog shows, horse shows, balls, the place has quite a history, none of which I am making up.

In the case of the Tuxedo, the town was not named after the garment, but the garment after the town! In 1860, the British started to wear less formal evening wear when at less formal occasions in the country, preferring a smoking jacket made of materials similar to the formal tails. The Prince of Wales invited New York millionaire, James Potter, to his Norfolk hunting estate and recommended his Saville Row tailor. Mr. Potter went to London to be fitted and brought the dinner suit back home to Tuxedo Park Club, a newly established residential country club for New York’s elite, where the jacket soon proved popular and was exported more broadly to New York society when members would dine in the City and onlookers began to associate the jacket with the club’s name.

None of which tells us where the word “Tuxedo” comes from; only that it was borrowed to describe the garment no doubt every butler has in his closet.

For that, we have to reach into the Native American language, where, possibly because the Algonquian language was not preserved in writing, we find three possible derivations: The Wolf tribe living in that area of New York was called “tuksitby its foes, meaning “round foot” because they tended to fall to the ground in surrender rather too easily. The second, more charitable version, “p’tuksit, refers to the Algonquian word for “wolf” (an animal with round feet). And the third more prosaic possibility relates to the geography of the area, “p’tuck-sepo” referring to a “bend in a river.” The Tuxedo fell victim by 1922 to the tendency to shorten in the interests of speed, giving us the “Tux.”


We have just concluded the first part of the first phase of training for a cruise line in the Bahamas and Bermuda: never knew 6,000 sq. ft. «cabins» were available. Frank is taking a break (from his superior service training of economically disadvantaged youth in South Africa) to conduct a lengthier assignment in the Seychelles; Amer is concluding training of butlers in Morocco; and Steven is in the Maldives again, working on an exciting project in a luxury chain in the Maldives.  

Interesting Links & Media Coverage

News of the gyrations of the World Bank and other bankers as they try to prevent the implosion of the European and American economies and the economic system they have created rather extravagently based on fluff instead of real production, has been flanked by a few pieces in other media about the impact of the current economic policies on the poor and rich alike.

In Mass Marketing Goes Platinum, iconclast Jim Hightower wrote an article that confirms what Elite Traveler  has been crowing over somewhat gleefully  for at least three years without break: the mass affluent as a group of employers and spenders is no more. Advertising Age, the marketing industry’s top publication, says the richest 10% of households accounts for nearly half of all consumer spending today, and the very wealthiest of these should be targetted by advertizers: the rest—any household making less than $200,000 a year—are too poor to bother with.

To this, we can add an article entitled Economist’s Advice for the Unemployed: Become a Butler”   “According to The Economist  the planet’s wealthiest have tons of money but little time to enjoy themselves. That means a job that can’t be outsourced could trickle down to you.” Quoting Clive McGonigal’s Butler Bureau web site, the article says high salaries are waiting anyone who graduates from a butler school and “Once you have completed your training and perfected your faux British accent, a domestic staffing agency can help you find a home, since the global elite don’t bother with Craigslist…. Will we all end up working as servants on a rich person’s plantation?”

It makes interesting reading, but it is sadly lacking in research.

Of course, positions are still offered to those qualified, such as The Queen of England’s search for a trainee butler—pay not of the amounts touted in the above article, but £15,000 a year, plus free accommodation. The Queen requires someone who is “friendly, polite and of approachable disposition with the ability to be discreet and maintain confidentiality…an enthusiastic and dedicated individual, currently working within the catering and hospitality sector but looking for a new challenge.”

The job description goes on to explain: “This unique and professional role provides development and career progression opportunities for those willing to work at a number of Royal residences in the UK, where you will carry out a wide range of responsibilities from messenger and valeting duties to food and beverage service.” Duties include “the collection and delivery of tea/coffee trays, breakfast trays, and newspapers for Royal and Household purposes in an efficient and discreet manner…valeting of guests and members of the Royal Household invited to stay with the Royal Family, ensuring that clothes and uniforms are cared for to the highest standards…messenger duties when on duty at Privy Purse Door ensuring that all post, pouches, dispatch boxes and messages are delivered to Members of the Royal Family and employees in a timely manner.” September 19 was the deadline for that position.

Christopher Ely, a former Royal footman, is quoted in The Telegraph commenting on his life in service.

Lastly, a travel writer on highlighted seven luxury resorts where celebrities can go without threat of attack by paparrazzi. No argument with the resorts selected, but there are hundreds of others offering the same level of service and privacy.

Letters to the Editor

«Here’s a new breed of butler I had not heard of before: an emailed advertizement for the Aer Lingus Ancestry Package states: ‘Trace your roots with the help of a Genealogy Butler.’ Best regards,» Werner Leutert

«Firstly I have to congratulate and thank you for the updated and new version of the newsletter and website. Secondly, I have to apologise as I am feeling rather guilty not having done so before, but I took the time to review every link on you website properly and find it amazingly useful, knowledgeable and—well, I have been reading for almost two hours now. It is so comforting to be part of such a successful institute: makes me re-think my role in the industry and somehow I feel I need to become more involved—something inside me is kind of excited and wanting to move forward instead of moving on. Best Regards,» AJS 

The Butler’s Guide to Tea 

 by Frank Mitchell



High and Afternoon Teas

Now that we have our tea equipage sorted out and know how to  prepare a good pot, we need to plan our afternoon tea. On many assignments I have come across hotels serving  an afternoon tea, but promoting it as a high tea. Quite a few chefs that I have worked with in the past have liked  this term so much that I have been unable to dissuade them from using it to refer to an afternoon tea. On more than one occasion this has resulted in a guest complaint, so it is best to get it right.

High Tea is served at a dining table, literally the high table it is named for. Also called a ‘meat tea’, it is an early supper traditionally had by the working classes and should include hearty meat dishes served at a table set with a knife and fork. Clearly canapés do not ‘meat’ this requirement!

Low tea is the tea ‘invented’ by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford to alleviate the sinking feeling she experienced in the afternoon mid-way between lunch and a fashionably late dinner. Originally served in her boudoir, it is what we now know as afternoon tea and is called a low tea because it is usually served at a coffee table – a low table. Clearly it would not be comfortable to eat any meal from low table requiring the use of a knife and fork. For this reason the fare served at low tea is either finger-food, or is consumed with a cake fork. There are three forms, all named for the foods accompanying the tea.

Cream Tea is the most basic tea and is served with scones, jam and cream – traditionally whipped Devonshire cream.

Light Tea adds pastries to the fare of the cream tea with its scones, jam and cream.

Full Tea includes all the ingredients of the light tea, but adds savouries to the menu.

Just as dinner is served in courses, so tea may be served in courses and, as with dinner, the courses run from savoury to sweet.

All teas are appropriate for an afternoon tea, and as such there are no rules, but do bear in mind that not everyone appreciates the astringency of green tea. Of course one may offer one’s guest a choice and there is no reason you should serve the same tea with each course. In fact, it is far better to match the tea served with each course to the food in that course. A light afternoon tea such as Darjeeling is quite splendid with cucumber sandwiches, but might be overwhelmed by the fully flavoured meat dishes of a high tea. For these dishes one should rather consider Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Kenya tea.

Jane Pettigrew publishes a very useful tea and food pairing list in page 71 of her book “The Connoisseur’s Guide to Tea’. I cannot recommend this book more highly and would urge any butler to add it to their library.

 A few pointers and tips

Plan ahead and start your preparations well in advance. Tea should be a relaxed affair and should guests notice that you are rushed, it will almost certainly spoil the experience for them. Make sure there are no last-minute crises in the kitchen!

Probably because afternoon tea is attributed to the Duchess of Bedford, one is inclined to consider it a social event primarily for the ladies. This means that while the tea or coffee service used after dinner is quite formal, the appropriate tea service for the afternoon is usually decorated with flowers or soft pastel colours. Dainty embroidered napkins are called for and no tea table would be complete without a beautifully arranged bowl of flowers.

Whether male or female, the butler should always seek the permission of the lady of the house before pouring the tea. Bear in mind that it is actually her duty and that you may not take it upon yourself to serve without her permission. Lastly, serving at a low table can be a challenge – take care not to bump into anyone and always bend at the knee lest you unwittingly present your posterior to a guest.

Assist by passing out cups and plates, helping guests reach items and making sure that everyone has a fork and napkin. Then retire to the kitchen with both teapots to prepare for the next course.

Champagne—An English Product

By Wayne Fitzharris, International Guild of Butlers and Household Managers

As much as the French may be surprised to know, particularly the purveyors of the myth that Dom Perignon was the sole creator of champagne—the man who created the bubbles  in the bottle—thirty years before the French made their first sparkling wine and seventy years before  the first Champagne House was established in Champagne—the English were producing sparkling wines.

How come?

The British invented the toughened glass that allows the  secondary fermentation process to take place without the bottle exploding. A Christopher Merritt wrote a paper for the Royal Society entitled The Ordering of Wines which refers to the making of sparkling wines by English wine coopers as an  established practice. While they were doing so, according to written records, Dom Perignon was busy trying to  stop the wine fermenting in the bottle. That the French perfected the process for making champagne is still true and appreciated, but without the Brits, famous for their tea, not their wines (even though they have been growing them off and on since Roman times), the whole concept of sparkling wines would not have been possible.


 Hangers & hangers

  Part 2 of 3, by Amer Vargas

The standard hanger measures 16-18 inches in width. Its height can vary from 11 to 7 inches, measured from the top of  the hook to its “feet.” Plastic and wooden hangers can be flat or contoured so as to copy the shoulder-nape-opposite shoulder line of the body. Contoured hangers are very often padded, which means that the ends are wider so as to allow better support of the coat or jacket or other garment being stored on it.

Some examples of the most common hangers

The simple hanger is used to accommodate anything that is worn on the upper part of the body, such as shirts, blouses, waistcoats, coats, jackets, bathrobes and gowns. Sometimes they are provided with a notch designed to fit shoulder straps. Satin padded versions are generally reserved for ladies’ more delicate and intimate wear, such as light gowns, baby-doll pajamas and some articles of lingerie.

Horizontal-rod hangers are intended exclusively for trousers and some accessories (like ties), whilst clip hangers usually allow for the clips to slide sideways so as to better fit the hems of trousers or the waistband of skirts.

There are two types of clamp hangers: one is equipped with long clamping bars, whilst the other is equipped with short ones; the first is intended for skirts, whilst the second type is for trousers. These different clamp hangers are very commonly provided with non-slip grips made out of rubber, velvet, foam or plastic, to prevent clothing from slipping out of the clamp and falling.

Suit hangers are one of the best choices for all kind of wardrobes, as the possibility of hanging a top and a bottom on one hanger means you’re making the best use of wardrobe space. Besides, it is handier and tidier to have a suit (jacket and trousers) together on a single hanger than to keep it on separate hangers.

Other sorts of hangers are intended to hang several trousers at once, or several ties (or other similar accessories) or even shoes, although this last option might not be the best way of storing shoes, so take care when selecting such specialized hangers.



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


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, September, 2011

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 7, issue 8

 International Institute of Modern Butlers

Message from the Chairman

 Managed to dodge Hurricane Irene while on a cruise.

 Thanks to those who subscribed to the newsletter and who sent us their appreciation of the new format.

 I attended a conference on social media the other day and my goodness, it is a whole new world to  explore: the new web site and newsletter formats are just the beginning. 

 Apart from inviting you to join in the dialog on the blog  (contact the editor to be given «author» status),  I want to point out the brand new forum (that can be reached usually via the red button top right of the  home page). We used to have a mish-mash of a forum that grew over the years without any form and was impossible to navigate. The new one has five different categories and 28 subcategories, so you can more easily find the discussion you want to be part of.

We transferred all the old posts, retaining who said what and when, so you will find a mine of information already there. But more importantly, you can start the dialogue or find answers to questions, answer them, or just plain sound off. Talking of which, we have several moderators, including Werner Leutert for all things relating to hiring, John Robertson for all things etiquette; Frank Mitchell for a variety of subjects, and Amer Vargas for valet and chef issues.
Join in, it’s there for you!


 Living Life on the Avenue, the first upscale retirement community in the world to  incorporate butler-style service opened a couple of days ago in Toronto, Canada to great  fanfare and a single word from the General Manager (texted on the fly during the Grand Opening): «Awesome!» Congratulations and much success.



Interesting Links & Media Coverage

UN Seeking to Fix Slavery Conditions for Domestic Workers There are an estimated 100 million domestic workers in the world, and their lot is not much to write home about, generally, with the paychecks they send to support their families. To begin to address the problem, delegates at the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (representing unions, employers and governments), voted 396 to 16 for a non-binding Convention on Domestic Workers to lay out how domestics should be treated in UN member countries.

While we are spoiled in the West, and certainly in the butler field (we do not encounter outright sexual or other battery, false imprisonment, and slavery; half the domestic workers in the world do not even have one day off),  there are issues even in the US most of which boil down to a lack of consideration for fellow human beings. The UN can’t address that, but at least creating a framework for employers to follow and greater redress for employees, will go some way towards a better operating climate for domestic employees around the world.

Another Effort at Robot Butlers

It’s certainly fun and challenging to work out how to create a house where a robot can serve the tea. Relevant questions: would employers like to live in such a house? Would they prefer to be served by a robot rather than a live human? Would a Beef Wellington taste better cooked by a robot than a chef? Robots have their faults, no doubt, and certain advantages, but do anything other than robots prefer them for company?


  The Fallen Idol, The Failed Butler

Always a pleasure to discover a new (old) film featuring a butler —

but we don’t recommend you follow in his footsteps. 

Letters to the Editor

We heard from an avid reader in the path of Hurricane Irene just before it hit: «With regard to emergency preparation, all I had to do was to turn to the household bible, Butlers and Household Managers. It’s really the only book in the world that one needs! A stunning work.  I am never without it now.» (NG)

Editor’s Note: Not exactly the application we had anticipated, but very warming and encouraging to know our readership thinks outside the box!

Last month, we put out a call for more information on this query:  «I’m searching for a re-usable leather seating plan used in a home, replicating the table that features slots to slip a tiny card or paper in, with the guest’s name. I saw this type of table plan presentation at the Baronness de Rothschild’s château in Geneva: it was in leather, and placed on a table just outside the dining room with the tiny cards containing the guests name indicating where they were seated.»  S. Hedqvist

Editor: We suspect this seating plan was custom made, but if anyone knows where such an item may be available commercially, please contact us.

Thanks go to John Robertson, who had the answer:

«Table boards may be ordered from William & Son, 10 Mount Street, London. Cost could range anywhere from $500 to $1,000 depending on size, etc.  They do a beautiful job, will emboss with the family crest and so forth. I don’t know anywhere that still stocks them (Harrods used to).»

 A New Resource for Personal Assistants

Not everyone has what it takes to be a Personal Assistant, but if you answer “yes” to more than three of the following questions, you may already possess some of the inherent skills of successful Personal Assistants.

  1.       Are you the event planner for your family and friends?
  2.       Do people say you are obsessive with details?
  3.       Is color-coding and organizing a friend’s closet your idea of a fun Saturday?
  4.       Do you alphabetize books by author and also by subject?
  5.       Is coordinating a complicated trip an exciting challenge?
  6.       Do you love when no two days are the same?
Intructor, Bonnie Low-Kramen

A Personal Assistant is charged with great responsibility and is the liaison to all contacts in an employer’s life.  He or she must hit the ground running when faced with almost any situation and do it with calm precision, informed discretion, and a positive attitude. As more and more busy celebrities and executives desire a more customized approach to their lives, high-paying positions for skilled, smart, and sharp Personal Assistants are increasingly available in the 2011 workplace.

Teaching a class about a profession that is often glamorized & misunderstood, former Personal Assistant and co-founder of the professional association, New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA), Bonnie Low-Kramen’s passion is to pull back the curtain to portray accurately the work of personal assistants.

When I began as a celebrity personal assistant for a famous actress 25 years ago, we didn’t  even know there was a name for what I was doing. There were no classes or books on the subject. What we did have were employer needs that needed to be met. So how did I know what to do? Trial and error—and I made many mistakes.  It doesn’t have to be like that anymore, and I am determined to be part of the solution.”

The author of the book Be the Ultimate Assistanta compendium of best practices, Ms. Kramen is also the curriculum developer and instructor for the new course Basic Skills for the Personal Assistant, available at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.

The 25-hour course, is designed provide students with the opportunity not only to learn the basics, but also to develop the mindset, confidence, and tools to succeed with the most demanding employer. Check out Basic Skills for the Personal Assistant.


Hangers & hangers

Part 1 of 3, by Amer Vargas

Maybe there are not as many types of hangers as there are wines or cheeses, but still, there is a wide choice that can be used in your own or someone else’s wardrobe. I hope these next few lines will shine some light on this rarely written-about subject, especially for those butlers who are new to the profession.

For anyone who might have dropped in recently on the way to another sector of the galaxy, a hanger is a device shaped somewhat like human shoulders, with a hook that allows the hanger to suspend clothes in the air and so be draped as they would when worn. Sometimes, the human-shoulders shape is omitted and instead the hook holds a horizontal rod to hang trousers, or a fine bar with clips for suspending skirts or pants, or a clamping device that may be used to hold skirts or pants instead of the clips.The best hangers are those that combine the human-shoulders shape with the horizontal rod, the clips or the clamping device, allowing the user to store a suit, for example, on the same hanger. Other types of hangers also allow one to hang multiple ties, cravates, foulards,* scarves, or belts.

Regardless of the type of hanger, its aim is always the same: to accommodate hanging the item for which it is intended so as to prevent wrinkles.

Hangers are typically made of metal wire, wood, plastic, or are fabric-covered. In this era of “organic” whatever, we have even seen the birth of organic clothes hangers made, for instance, of bamboo cane.

* A tie or handkerchief made of  silk or silk and cotton, typically having a printed pattern. 


 The Butler’s Guide to Tea 

   by Frank Mitchell

Making the Perfect Cup of Tea

Now that we have all our tea-making equipment, let’s take a look at the correct method for making Ceylon tea. The following is the accepted method for brewing Orthodox Black Teas (as preferred in the UK), confirmed as correct by myself when visitng Sri Lankan tea factories.

These rules do not apply to all teas or tisanes. Oolong Teas, Green Teas and some China Black Teas take cooler water. Jane Pettigrew’s excellent The Connoisseur’s Guide to Tea gives a very comprehensive list of brewing temperatures for various teas


Start by pre-heating two teapots – fill them with hot water or place them in a low oven. You will also need the following:

LEMON Do not use toothpicks for serving lemon slices – this new trend seen in hotels is one of my personal pet peeves. Please serve lemon with a small cocktail fork or a pair of tongs.

MILK Do not serve cream with tea – it overwhelms the taste of the tea and should only be served with coffee.

SUGAR White or Demerara sugar, preferably in lumps and served with a pair of tongs. Offer honey as an alternative.

Experts maintain that sugar spoils the taste of tea and it may be worth weaning yourself off sugar if you are enjoying some of the finer teas available today. Bear in mind that tea is a healthy drink and it makes little sense to extol the virtues of the beverage if you are consuming it with refined carbohydrates!

WATER QUALITY A good pot of tea needs fresh water brought to the boil as quickly as possible. Water kept warm in an urn or drawn from a coffee machine boiler —let alone the hot-water tap (faucet)—should never be used for making tea. It has low oxygen levels and the dissolved salts and minerals will have been concentrated through evaporation.

Filter tap water before filling the kettle. Use spring water when making finer-flavoured or higher-priced teas. We experimented and found a significant improvement in the taste of fine Darjeeling made with Evian, compared to a control pot made with tap water.

Tea made from soft water or permanently hard water (CaSo4) results in a bright, clear infusion, while tea made with temporarily hard water (CaSo3) results in a dull and flat infusion that quickly develops a layer of scum on top. This effect can be reduced by adding sugar, although it is not recommended that tea be taken with sugar. Milk increases the amount of scum on the surface, although reduced-fat milk produces about half as much scum as full-fat milk. The best solution then is to pass temporarily hard water through a filter before filling the kettle.

TEA Store your tea in a cool, dry place and add it to the warmed teapot just before the kettle boils. Add one heaped teaspoon for each cup and ‘one for the pot’. This gives a slightly stronger pot of tea and allows you to serve each guest according to his or her taste.

DRAWING Pour rapidly boiling water over the leaves and draw for the correct length of time. A common mistake is to draw tea longer for a stronger pot of tea. This is incorrect and will result in ‘stewed (bitter) tea.’ Add more tea and draw it for the time stated on the tea tin/packet, no longer. Since colour infuses before taste, looking at the colour of tea in the pot will not tell you much. Good tea producers will change the drawing time from one batch to another, so consult the instructions each time you open a new tin or packet. Stir the tea twice while brewing, once halfway through and once again at the end, to ensure the water is able to access the leaves and draw out their flavor.

Strain the tea into the second heated teapot. Rinse out the first pot and refill it with boiled water. The two pots are taken out together so that those guests who do not like strong tea can dilute their cup with a drop of hot water.

High tea is probably one of the most misused and misunderstood terms in the hotel trade today. Next month we will look at the difference between high tea and the low teas and give you some tips for serving a memorable afternoon tea.


 That’s all for this month.

 See you next month.


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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