The butler is the chief of staff in numerous elegant and rich households around the world. Most butlers are male, but more recently there are female butlers as well. A butler is usually responsible for several other staff members below him, although this depends on the size of the household. He may supervise other domestic workers, including the housekeeper, the cook and the chauffeur.
The butler is often involved in daily family activity, planning events and making the home atmosphere calm and clean. He may serve meals, answer the door for guests and perform “delicate tasks” for the households. Butlers are most often private employees who work for one family only. However, there are those work in hotels and resorts, serving guests their meals, taking care of their clothes and luggage, providing them with room service and helping them plan exciting day trips.
The word butler, first used in English during the 12th century, comes from an Old French word meaning cup bearer and which has the same root as bottle. The origin of the word reflects the fact that the original function of a butler was to serve as the chief officer in charge of wine. (One of the officers of the pharaoh in Genesis is called the butler in most translations, but there are some that use the term cup bearer. The original Hebrew word משקה means to give someone drink.) As another aside, the Virgin Mary was given the appellation la boteilliere because she dispensed the Cup of Mercy.
Most of those who want to become butlers attend a butler school, which will help train them for work in either private or public settings. Some butler classes may be done completely online. Several important character qualities are required of a butler, including honesty, discretion and calmness of attitude. A butler must be well acquainted with wines and household and business etiquette. He cannot afford to get into trouble with the law because any spots on his record could get him fired from his job. Individuals who become butlers find themselves in a vital managerial role in whatever household, hotel or resort chooses to employee them.
What is taught at butler school
Butler schools exist throughout the world. Some of the most prestigious among them are not American, and although this article was written primarily for an American audience, they are still worth mentioning here. The International Butler Academy (TIBA), in the Netherlands, is “the finest butler service training institute in the world” and many of highest-rated hotels and resort centers have turned to them for staff training and recruitment. The South African Butler Academy (SABA) combines traditional and modern methods of teaching how to enhance households and hotels.
Among institutions in the United States, one of the best is the American Butler School in Winter Garden, Florida, just west of downtown Orlando. Its main building, the Britt Mansion, is a large, stately and beautiful place, with an imposing entrance, pastel yellow bricks and yellow-green shudders. The staff here are more than knowledgeable in their field: They are experts. Their training program is for those who either wish to go into the career of a butler or already have such a career but desire to enhance their skills in the hopes of being able to perform more responsible tasks and get paid better.
Courses at the American Butler School are arranged on four levels:
Under Butler (Butler “Boot Camp”): Those who are new to the art of bultering begin at this level, where they learn basic skills such as performing food and beverage services in the household, taking care of pets, planning special events, taking care of their employers’ wardrobes and communicating effectively with VIPs.
Butler: On this next level the recruits learn about special event execution, resource management, social correspondence, social and business protocols, and advanced skills in valeting and VIP communication. They are also taught how to appreciate fine food, wine, liquor and cigars!
Estate Manager: Next students begin to receive training in skills that also form part of the job of an accountant or a business manager, such as human resources management, asset management, budgeting and cash flow. Courses at the Estate Manager level also cover international protocol, travel planning and execution, bespoke clothing, fine arts, antiques and collectibles, and how to work with legal, tax and other professionals and with house decorators and builders.
Resort Butler: Finally, at the highest level, even more advanced skills in international protocol and VIP communication are covered, as are the standards of behavior expected when one is in the presence of royalty, performing emergency clothing repairs, packing and unpacking their employees’s belongings when traveling, working with private staff and the so-called art of invisibility
Classes are provided for both adults and children. For the latter there are courses with such comical names as Elbows off the Table (how to make your mother proud) and When and How to Interact in Adult Social Events, while adults can enroll in Dining like a Diplomat, Butler Tips for Household Maintenance and Packing Like a Pro – How to Carry Less, Yet Look Better.
Finally, the American Butler School provides private home curricula whereby classes are specially designed to fit the requirements of the particular household in which the trainees work. Such design involves consultation between the staff and the head of that household.