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Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

PART 42: DINNER SERVICE

It is encouraging that the way I was taught to provide plated and butler service [presenting food on the left for guests to help themselves] in 1986 is exactly the way it was done in 1823 and exactly the way it is being taught by the Institute (and probably other butler schools) in 2020. Butlers always serve from the left with their left hand, it being «very improper to serve from the right» unless «at some particular time you will find it necessary to set it down with your right, on the right side.» No explanation is given by the author as to why, but in our training we do explain why this is the case, even though waiters around the world, even in fine-dining restaurants, serve and clear from the right and are absolutely certain of the rightness of their ways (usually based on «That is the way we have always done it,» too).

When providing butler service, they would provide one spoon for each different type of vegetable, for instance, if more than one was on the serving platter or in the bowl.

When serving sauce or gravy in a sauce boat, the double-lipped spoon was always placed in the bowl.

When lifting the tops off serving bowls or cloches, the butlers always immediately turned the lid upright while still above the bowl, so that any condensation fell into the bowl, not onto the tablecloth or guest.

The butler always brought to the table, or removed from it, any smaller items (not plates or serving bowls) on a waiter (tray).

One service style the butlers employed, which we do not today, is to bring a full plate in the left hand, remove the dirty plate with the right hand, and then place the full plate with the left—the style of the days being that the guests ate at their own speed and the butler kept them supplied with seconds [a second helping of a dish] if desired.

When pouring drinks, the butler held the foot of the glass between index finger and thumb, not by the top of the glass. For porter (beer), he poured it in a stream if a frothy head was desired. Drinks were served individually by the butler, on demand, and he brought the drink on a waiter [tray] to the left of the person, who took it, drank it, and placed it back on the waiter—the butler moving forward again to present the tray for the guest to place it. The butler returned the glass to the sideboard and was responsible for keeping tabs of whose glass was whose. The butler was not permitted to put a different type of drink into the same glass for that guest.

Something else that was taboo («filthy») when one had run out of a particular item, was to pour the dregs from various glasses into a new glass and presenting it to a guest. If anything had run out or was needed, the butler would send a footman or other junior to fetch it, because he never wanted to leave the guests unattended in the dining room.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk).

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Categorías
Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

PART 41: DINNER SERVICE

When the host was carving, the butler always placed the head of a fish, rabbit, and roasting pig pointing to the left of the carver, and for all birds, pointing to the right—unless it were stuffed, in which case most carvers, being right handed, preferred the head pointing to the left, etc.—with different instructions given for other cuts of venison, mutton, and hams. In all, it was a matter of knowing the carver’s preference and accommodating that. Another point of detail: Carving boards often had channels and depressions to collect jus, and the collection point needed to be on the right side, for right-handed carvers.

When holding plates for the carver to place cuts on, the butler needed to hold the plate next to and level with or slightly lower than the carving plate, holding them in the left hand from the left side.

The technique for holding plates so that the thumb was not on top with the food, was to have the thumb along the edge, as we do today; but instead of using the meaty part of the thumb along the edge, too, counterbalancing the fingers underneath, they would curl the index finger in a bit, and the other three fingers curled so their tips were against the base of the thumb (similar to the shape one creates when pretending one’s hand is a gun), and so secure the plate between thumb on the side and index finger underneath. Both methods work, but a combination might be even better: Curling the index finger fully so that its tip is touching the meaty part of the thumb and using the other three fingers in the center of the plate to support the weight.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk).

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.