What it means to be a 21st century butler

Vincent Vermeulen - 5th July 2017

Since the start of my butlerschool, people have asked me many times: what does a butler do? Our profession must be a mythical one to a lot of people.

I explain then that the days of Downton Abbey and Remains of the day are long gone. The spirit, certain old techniques and the love for beautiful items remain however.

What has changed is the people we work for. Why? Because the world has changed. As a butler in this century you no longer get by with only skills such as serving, ironing and bowing. Don’t get me wrong, you have to master the bowels of our profession but many tasks have been added to our list in recent years.

Principals of 2017 are moving around, travelling, looking for the latest food trends in the best restaurants in the world. Eleven madison park is not an address, Alinea is not an new paragraph. No, they are the best restaurants in the world. Your employers socialise at the most exclusive events or they simply enjoy the little things in privacy.

Our very hands on approach needs to be complemented with knowledge and lifestyle taste. We have to know and follow trends. Know the designers, foodies and master florist artists. The new principals are very keen on having all these factors come together magically.

A Christmas in London is the sum of many endeavours. The Harrods hamper, a dish cooked by Ashley Palmer-Watts and a floral arrangement by Neill Strain. The days of butlers making centrepieces are gone.

As Sir Ken Robinson stated: we are supposed to educate our children for a career in the next 50 years and we have no clue as how the world will look like in 5 years.

Therefor I take the liberty of stating that we need to start training butlers in a different way. A new way. This is what School for Butlers and Hospitality has been doing. Steering away from conservative trainings. Look what is out there. We shouldn’t be focusing too much on what the job really is, we should pay more attention as how the world has changed for the people we are working for, and adapt.

21st century butlers should understand the new language. The lady principal goes shopping in the new Sophia Webster sneakers surrounded by Banksy street art and plating organic food in Piet Stockmans plates. Names that go around in todays high net worth society. The past will always be there too support the new.

The new butler should be a people manager, leading teams, just like a CEO. Running households with a team of 10 people will not work if you only have been trained in ironing newspapers and carrying trays. Psychology and leadership are the new standard.

As a final thought, it’s time to reinvent this profession. Yes, a butler can be in denim. Yes a butler can wear a designer watch. The main purpose of our job should be anticipating every possible wish of our employer but we can do it in a little style and in a new way…

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