Butler training

Turtle Bay, Mauritius and a Wondrous Botanical Gardens just up the Road

A long flight from San Francisco through New York to Dubai and finally, after 54 hours (courtesy of a 19-hour layover in Dubai airport), I arrive in Mauritius, a largish island on the southeastern side of the African continent. A drive clear across the island to The Grand Mauritian, a new Starwood property on the beach in Turtle Bay, is accompanied by the driver taking the tour-guide-element of his job description most seriously, down to the ethnic ownership of each strip mall we pass.

My suite overlooks the Southern Indian Ocean and a nature reserve, a stone throw from the excellent restaurants (the Executive Chef, Stephane Brallet, I had met at One & Only Ocean Club in Nassau, where I had enjoyed his creativity...a small universe is hospitality).

The training goes very well in a villa on the beach, with three single-hatted butlers and several others who would pitch in when the demand grew. Most were Mauritian, so I came to appreciate that their ready smile dissolves even the most ardent expression of dissatisfaction. Take the case of the housekeeper at turndown. I returned to my suite from dinner one evening to find the door open and the housekeeping executive inspecting my room. I asked if he would mind closing the door so the mossies (Australian for mosquitoes) would not enjoy their dinner at my expense overnight. He immediately acted but before he could close the door fully, the housekeeper came in, leaving the door open. I repeated my request to him, explaining why. He, however, just stood there, nodding and smiling. In case there might be a language issue, I repeated my request and explanation, and his smile widened, his nods deepened, and he still stood rooted to the spot. At this point, I repeated my request and explanation, not in anger or loudly, but with more intensity, in case he might be on drugs and not quite tracking with the real world. I am afraid his smile broadened even more, if such be possible, and his continued lack of motion resulted in my accelerating past him and closing the door myself. Curious, I asked him if he had understood my request, He nodded, big smile: “Yes, sir, you wanted me to close the door so the mosquitoes would not come in.” It takes a lot to flabbergast me but I was so surprised, that I shook my head and left it at that, instead of asking, as I wish later I had, why he had not then done as requested. But one thing is certain: his smile and space were so open and friendly that any enmity I might have felt never saw the light of day.

Check out the botanical garden if you want to see flora on a large scale

For most trainers, the real pleasure or return is in hearing of the wins of the students: “Thank you very much for your effort and the gift you are giving to us, by sharing your wisdom and experience. Your personal example and attitude are among the strongest tools to demonstrate the meaning of a butler concept, making the person comfortable, relaxed, pampered, and respected. Other than the knowledge every one of us received, you were able to put us together into a team, which usually is a hard won battle. I wish I could spend more time together, so we can learn. Would be great if we can do some refreshing sessions in future…I look forward to the future adventures in the butler’s field.” B.

“I really appreciate the dedicated assistance received in order to clarify the difficult words I could not understand in my past studies. The training was really effective, especially as we learned an operation, we drilled it, e.g. wake-up service, communication skills. It is good that the trainers gave us positive feedback about our performance and skills.” S

This student kept falling asleep even though he had slept enough at night and the classes were not that boring! We resolved it by asking him to list all the words he had encountered in his earlier hospitality studies, and when he had presented us with a long list, we cleared up each word, one at a time and with each one saw him become brighter, a cloud of cross-eyed confusion lifting from his face. After that, he did not fall asleep any more. Magic, but part of the study skills we give our students.