How to Train Your Butler


“A ‘great’ butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman and through the latter, to serving humanity.” So runs the thinking of Stevens, the protagonist of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novelĀ The Remains of the Day. The subtlety and difficulty of service were portrayed with inimitable skill in the book and later with equal power by Anthony Hopkins in the role of Stevens in the film adaptation.

Butlers are both cultural touchstones and oddities to American audiences, which associate them with British aristocracy. The elegant mystery that surrounds them is, of course, another skill — a facet of the discretion that Robert Wennekes, head of the International Butler Academy, says all high-level staff must possess if they are to succeed. Wennekes is, by dint of his position and his own years spent working at the head of large domestic staffs, likely the foremost practical authority on these questions. Wennekes began life as a restaurateur but found his true calling as a butler and then as a teacher and trainer. From getting into the business to ascending the rungs of the profession, Wennekes lays it all out. He also explains why becoming a butler is a great career choice and gives a tour around the shifting demand economics driving the business side of service, including a truly astonishing statistic coming from the Chinese government about their country’s internal butler demand. (Here’s a hint: it’s very good, sir.)

So whether you are in the market for your own personal Jeeves or thinking of making a career change to one involving a lot more evening dress, Wennekes has something to say. And given the tastes and general tone of the Trump presidency, it’s clear that the would needs a touch of class desperately.