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

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, 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 years ago,  we moved from quarterly issues of the Modern Butlers’ Journal to monthly ones, because the quarterlies were becoming overly long. It is now at the point where there is so much to discuss that we almost have to move to a weekly issue. We won’t, of course, but hopefully you will not be put off by the length of this issue and find something of interest in the articles and posts below. We are always happy to hear from anyone who has anything to say or contribute, expound upon, or simply rant about frumiously (fuming & furious).

Letters to the Editor

I am an acting student working on a butler character living in NYC during the 1880s. Would it be possible to arrange an interview with an experienced butler who is well-versed in butler history?  WV

Ed: I recommend you read “What the Butler Saw”, a book written by ES Turner and published by Penguin. It covers the time period, and even a NY segment.

…and from our most recent Correspondence/On-line Course graduate:

I received my certificate yesterday. To say am happy is  an understatement—I am filled with joy and most proud to have been able to complete the process against all odds.

I sincerely want to thank the Executive Director for refusing to let me drop out and for not giving up on me in the face of the diverse challenges I encountered.

Thank you to Mr. Vargas for seeing me through the program. I appreciate his keen eye to details and help to keep me focused.

I also want to thank Mr. Frank Mitchell, my original tutor, who, to my mind, is the most patient and wonderful tutor who saw me through the dark years of my studies —I am blessed to have had him teach me the excellent art of service.

Above all,  my thanks to Professor Steven Ferry in founding this prestigious Institute—I expect to study further with you. MW

Ed: Kudos to you for persisting through all the barriers that life threw in your way and completing your education despite it all.

I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your book—it has really helped me come to terms with the fact that I am a butler. I love the dedication and checklists, too: Daily, weekly, and monthly inspections, checklists, and scheduled preventative-maintenance are what makes us look like superstars. I worked for the same family as an Estate Manager for eight years, managing a five-thousand sq. ft. house on three acres of land. I left on good terms, wrote up a decent household manual, and helped train my replacement. Twelve years later, I received a call from the same family, now living in Florida—not far from my residence—and their man was leaving. So I have the post back. Thanks so much for creating this text book. I wish you much success in the future. NS

Butlers in the Media

The Chairman was interviewed on Fox TV in Boston and featured in an article in The Boston Globe.

An article or two on the butler service that will be available on Etihad Airways at the very end of this year. The butler element will be limited, surprisingly, but it is at least a start for the profession in commercial airlines and (no pun intended) we can only move up from there.

The robot butler concept continues to grow, with one that has been programmed to learn how to load a dishwasher and otherwise pick up delicate items: it hasn’t picked anything up yet, but they have worked out how it can learn to do so. This capacity is part of the third generation of these robots, just so we have a clear idea of where our robot confreres rate their skills currently.

Even though we keep beating the drum about how no matter can ever have life programmed into it, the robot boffins keep making claims that sound as hollow as medical claims for the latest (untested) wonder drugs. A robot with a “heart” will soon be coming to a Sprint store near you. Pepper, as this robot is to be called, can according to the web site, “converse with you, recognize and react to your emotions, move and live autonomously…translate what state you are in using his knowledge of universal emotions (joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness) and his ability to analyze your facial expression, body language and the words you use. He will guess your mood, and will even adapt to it.” Hmm, no mean achievement, to be sure, and certainly priced to sell (roughly $1,500 US). But quite apart from the complete lack of understanding of emotions (if they have only five response patterns, then they are missing out on an awful lot of emotions that real people have), the fact is that a programmed response has as much genuineness and interest and caring expressed as the most disengaged service provider that ever blew off guests and clients. Short-term novelty value: high—real service and relationship value—zip. No amount of programming can turn a robot into a live, caring individual.

A professor of robotics in England sets the record straight, thankfully, for those who are increasingly concerned about robots taking over their jobs; as does a robot designer (who funnily enough has also built a robot that can unload a dishwasher: we suppose unloading dishwashers is high on the honey-do list for those who are fed up to the back teeth with performing this chore).

And for the definitive statement on the subject, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s article, Ask Jeeves, is certainly on the right side of the whole issue.

And finally, for the latest use of the word “butler” in the commercial world: Travel Butler. It actually is not as bad as it seems, being a software application that provides a checklist of items to pack for those without butlers based on the anticipated weather at the intended destination. Checklists are very important, and certainly when preparing to travel.

Butler Training

LanghamBoston Graduation

In the photograph: some of the trainees and their managers at The Langham, Boston, where training for In-Room Dining (called Private Kitchen) was completed recently. Management recognized that butler style service would be an upgrade to the normal levels of service offered by high-end hotels around the world. We did not realize that The Langham, London was the first luxury hotel in Europe—pre-dating the Ritzes and Savoys of the world—and The Langham, Boston is certainly cut from the same cloth, all the way down to their English Afternoon Teas, which frankly, are better than anything on offer even in London.

And while on the subject of historical tidbits, we came across this interesting article concerning the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, and the leading lights who visited or even called it home over the decades.

Baron Shortt

Executive Protection & Security

by Baron James Shortt

Mind Your Monkeys

We were asked to escort a group of Russian businessmen on a ten-day meeting/vacation trip to Bali. We had our local people scout the hotel and the resorts at which they would be staying, and made runs to and from the airport, as well as checking for other means of travel such as ferries and a private helicopter.

When we arrived, large air-conditioned vehicles were waiting for the men and their families. As there are only one or two roads leaving the airport, I am sure the motorcades—large and small—were noticed by the locals.

All was tranquil for the first five days. The tranquility was broken during dinner on the fifth day: The conversation drifted from work back to their families and how the family members were doing. One of the wives mentioned that she had her beach wallet stolen; it contained no credit cards or ID, but a fair amount of cash—about 1,000 Euros, as well as a lot of coins and her tweezers. Another wife mentioned that she, too, had been a victim on the beach and her sunglasses, hotel keys and coins were missing. After a few minutes, what had appeared to be random losses grew into what began to look like a crime-wave of epic proportions on the beach. When the husbands asked why their spouses and children had not been more careful, the rueful response was that they, the spouses and children, had been careful—actually, very careful—and they had seen no one at all near their belongings!

A widespread domestic battle began to brew. On the one hand were the spouses and children swearing they had been careful and on the other hand, the hard-driving executives, certain their family members were being lazy and inattentive. As the noise became louder and louder, a waiter pulled me to the side and provided an important clue.

“Sir, these guests may have be careful — they were looking for people, but they were not looking for monkeys. You see, several of the local gangs use monkeys to steal items from tourists. The monkeys are very smart and well trained, but even being well-trained, they also like to steal shiny things. That is why earrings, keys, metal sunglasses, and tweezers are often amongst the missing items. If the monkeys are caught, their handlers apologize on behalf of the “bad monkey” and return the items.” The waiter added that the many large cars arriving at the airport earlier that week had signaled to the local gangs that many rich people had arrived at this location, prompting gang members to bring in their monkeys.

I thanked the waiter and then waded into the growing domestic spat. I did my best to agree with both sides and tried to explain the monkey thieves. At first it was a bit hard: it was as though the term “monkey” was vernacular for a certain type of person. But I assured them that they were victims of serial simian heists and that a zipped bag is not a deterrent for a trained monkey burglar.

The men grew very quiet and began to speak to each other in their own language. After twenty minutes, they began to laugh and backslap each other. These are mentally and physically tough men who know how to get their way in business and in life. They were obviously up to something, but when I asked, they refused to share.

The next day, all of the men abandoned their meetings and went with their families to the beach and parks, the very places where their spouses had lost items to the monkeys. They asked specifically to be left alone, but they assured me they would be in groups and would be safe. So we did a loose deployment of graymen near and on the beaches, ready to deploy as a response team as opposed to one-on-one coverage. Little by little, the clients came back to the hotel carrying small bags or similar. By about 2 pm, I was called to the conference room to speak with the clients. They had something they wished to share with me. It seems my industrious charges had trapped a number of the thieving monkeys, and then stuffed the trap cages into rollaway bags and brought them back to the hotel. They had monkey-napped the thieves!

My first reaction was convulsive laughter, followed by a real fear of the poorly conceived plan. They told me they would be willing to trade the monkeys for the stolen items and wanted me to deliver the message to the monkey managers. It was just at this point that the resort manager came into the room to see if we needed anything, and for a well- tanned fellow he turned remarkably pale. The manager instantly knew where the monkeys had come from. He gave his guests an ultimatum: either the monkeys had to go or they would, and they had five minutes to make either one of those choices happen.

I was then pulled aside by the resort manager and informed that our charges had arrived at a solution that was guaranteed to create serious problems involving both the police and possible damages to the hotel by the monkey’s owners. It was very simple: these monkeys were expensive to buy and were like members of the family to their owners. The monkeys were not just a tool, but much-loved providers for their owners. The response would not be a response based on logic, but rather on the high emotions of someone who had lost a loved one. I asked the manager if he knew someone who could act as a go-between with the monkey managers to whom I could speak. He replied that yes, it was him, and what did I propose to say?

We discussed the issue and it quickly became clear that our charges were unwilling to release the monkeys unless they could claim a victory. On the other hand, the monkeys had to leave the hotel property now. But, the manager also suggested a meeting between one of the monkey managers and one of the charges. This was quickly arranged and 30 minutes later, one of our charges sat in a meeting room, surrounded by our security detail, the monkey manager, and the resort manager. The charge immediately released one monkey to the monkey manager and then said the rest would be released upon return of the stolen property. The monkey manager said nothing and left.

The next morning, we woke to find a series of tables set up in a room off the entryway to the resort. Spread out on the tables were all the stolen property and cash. The businessmen and their families selected what was theirs and left the rest on the tables. It appears the monkeys also stole a good deal from others, not just our charges. The Russian businessmen, true to their word, brought the monkeys back into town, tying to the collar of each monkey a small tube with 100 Euros in each, and set the monkeys free.

Later that afternoon, the resort manager had a large smile on his face. He told us that the incident was considered over and the thieves were impressed with the toughness and grace of the Russian businessmen. The manager also said that after this vacation was over, none of the Russians was to ever return to his resort.

There are about a dozen lessons in this, but the primary lesson is, you cannot plan for everything; and local knowledge, and the willingness to ask for it, can make a big difference.

Baron Shortt is the Executive Director of the IBA

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 8

by Amer Vargas 

Discovering Japanese Shochu

Today we are in Japan to find out about this distilled beverage that has increased its popularity in the last decade. “Shochu” comes from a Chinese word of similar pronunciation, meaning“burned liquor.”

Shochu & Awamori Shoch, photo by by Naotake Murayama
Shochu & Awamori Shoch, photo by by Naotake Murayama

The origin of shochu is unclear, but its production method is thought to have arrived from Persia in the 16th century, via Thailand and Okinawa, and from there to Kagoshima, where it was officially born. There is a written record of the existence of the drink in the Koriyama Hachiman shrine: two carpenters that had been working in the shrine made a graffiti in a wooden plank in the roof stating that “the high priest was so stingy, he never once gave us shochu to drink. What a nuisance!” This unexpected testimony was even dated: August the 11th, 1559.

Shochu production tools, photo by Karendotcom127
Shochu production tools, photo by Karendotcom127

During the production, shochu can be distilled one or more times, thereby differentiating the final drink. Multiply distilled shochu has a typical alcohol level of less than 36% and is produced out of non-germinated grains, sweet potato, potato and corn; it is not filtered through charcoal, achieves a 95% alcohol by volume at some stage, and is not fortified

Singly distilled shochu is does not exceed 45% alcohol and is commonly produced out of the fermentation of grain or potato and their koji (mold or fungus that produces a unique fermentation), or grain koji, or from the yeast remains of sake production. It can also be made out of the fermentation of rice koji and brown sugar, or grain or potato and their koji along with other ingredients.

After distillation comes the maturation process. During this stage, techniques vary depending on the storage containers and the location, both of which affect the character of the final drink. Maturation times range from one to three months for younger shochus. If it’s aged six months to three years, sharp flavors disappear and a mellow taste is achieved. Awamori shochu (made out of Thai rice as the main ingredient) can be aged more than ten years, being one of the few shochus that improve after such a long time.

Japanese Joka to make Hot Shochu, photo by DryPot
Japanese Joka to make Hot Shochu, photo by DryPot


There are different ways of enjoying shochu, not only according to personal taste, but also to the season of the year. Of course, it can be drunk neat with nothing added, or “on the rocks”, but tradition calls for it to be enjoyed mixed with water (room temperature or hot), in a proportion of about 70% shochu and 30% water. Other mixes involve oolong tea or fruit juice, or even a low-alcohol beer-flavored beverage known as hoppy.

Make your choice of how you want to enjoy it and…kanpai (cheers)!


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


DIRECTOR OF AMBASSADOR SERVICES is needed for one of the top hospitals in the world with locations in New York and Florida, more planned. The right individual will be responsible for managing the overall experience for VIP patients in all locations, from the initial point of contact through discharge and follow-up.  A Bachelor’s degree is required along with advanced training/education in hospitality management or experience as an estate manager/butler. For more information, see the full job description and contact directly the individual listed there.

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 6 of 20

Rose Maintenance

When surveying your employer’s estate, it is important to consider the maintenance schedule of the gardening team, and to create one if they do not already follow one.

Check the climate zone of the estate, as weather and climate will have a bearing on the type of roses that can be grown and how they are cared for.

Assume a warm and dry climate for this example below:

  • Spring and Fall: At least twice a year, pour one cup of Epsom salts on the ground and water well, so the salts dissolve fully into the soil.
  • Fertilizing—every 2-3 weeks:
    • Alternate between granulated fertilizer and fish emulsion fertilizer. Some people use “verma-culture tea” (liquids flowing from soil created by worms eating compostable materials) on the leaves to keep the aphids away. Alternatively, or in addition, you can buy lady bugs as a natural way to keep down the aphid population (concerns about buying the right type of lady bug are discussed in this blog).
    • Note: Never fertilize a plant that is either heat- or water-stressed.
    • Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer until new growth appears, then switch to a balanced (10-20-10) fertilizer.
Port Sunlight, photo by David Austin Roses
Port Sunlight, photo by David Austin Roses
  • Water—Roses, in general, require 1-2″ (inches) of water per week. If your water tends to be salty, use drip irrigation, as salt water may burn the leaves. If you use sprinklers, schedule them for the early morning hours.
    • Cut back on the volume of water applied during the winter months.
  • Soil—
    • Use 3-6″ of compost in sandy and loamy soils;
    • Clay soils require 3” of expanded shale and 3” of compost—although it is advisable to plant in raised beds that are at least 4” above the clay soil;
    • Mulch—year round, apply 3-5” of organic mulch (such as tree leaves, or branches that have been through a chipper) to minimize weeds between the rose bushes. Some people like to use a “living mulch,” which is a slow-release natural fertilizer.
      • Try to mulch and compost regularly, once every 4 months. In general, try not to use wood chips as part of the mulch;
      • Leave a ring around the actual rose bush at the drip line—where the water would naturally drip off the plant from the outer leaves and usually evident after a rain.
  • For tea roses, prune 6 weeks before bloom—i.e. January 25 – February 1 for late February blooms.
Tranquility, photo by David Austin Roses

If unsure of the soil type on your employer’s estate, review this map or download for iPhone and Android or PC.

Until next time, happy soil preparations!

by GJ dePillis

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at


Jeff HermanConsulting the Silver     Expert

by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Can one remove monograms?

A: Monograms on silver are part of the object’s history and should not be removed for this reason. Museums use monograms to help trace an object’s provenance. I have no reservations in removing machine engraving from mass-produced flatware. However, beautiful engraving is a work of art—an art form quickly disappearing. Sadly, most antique dealers indiscriminately remove monograms to make an object more salable. Having said this, though, such engravings can be removed if absolutely desired and if this is the case, it should be done by someone who is skilled—I would rather remove the monogram personally than have the object brought to someone without the necessary skills. Keep in mind that if a monogram is deeply engraved on the bottom of a thin tray, for example, the results of removing any monogram may not be desirable, for any weight placed on that area could possibly produce a dent.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at


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