Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Being a butler - More than meets the eye

Published:Sunday | October 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Christopher Jones chose to tread off the beaten path to be a butler, defying some myths attached to the profession
Christopher Jones says he loves what he does and shows his award and his trainer’s certificate.
Christopher Jones
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What do Iron Man and Batman have in common? Yes, we know they are superheroes in their own right, but in their 'normal' persona, the lives of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne would be in disarray if Jarvis and Alfred Pennyworth weren't ensuring that all back-end work was taken care of.

Critical lifelines of these superheroes - Jarvis, who has since evolved from a human to artificial intelligence, augmented reality avatar J.A.R.V.I.S., while Pennyworth exudes the traditional persona - butlers are, in essence, superheroes. they don't wear the cape though.

Away from the augmented reality, Christopher Jones grew up idolising Geoffrey, the Banks family's cynical, sarcastic butler from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Working in the hospitality sector, Jones said that he was encouraged to become a butler when he was working in the Sandal's group and his superiors found his persona a best fit for that role.

That was 20 years ago, Jones is a Professional and Certified Butler from The Guild of Professional English Butlers and The Federation of International Butlers and has served the who's who. Jones is currently employed at the residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica.

"I saw it as an opportunity to do something new," Jones said. "The training helped me expand my skill set, and learn best practices in hospitality," he said.

The role of a butler, he said, is to be in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry, ensuring clockwork precision and meticulousness of service, as well as ensuring that the hosts and the guests are comfortable and taken care of.

"Some butlers," he said, "also have charge of the entire household, overlook housekeeping services, ensuring that the house is in pristine order at all times."

It is a niche profession catering to a niche audience and often the who's who. that is the glam side of being a butler, one might think, but it is much more than what is on the surface.

"Being a butler is a lot of hard work," Jones said. "One cannot shy away from that, and very critically, one needs to go beyond the call of duty."

But, he said, there are not many people in this profession, which could be the result of a perceived mental block - the word 'butler' to most comes across as being a glorified 'helper'.

"There is a mindset that needs to change," Jones said. "A butler is certainly not a helper, but it is more detailed. it is more of managerial role."

Also, Jones said, the training needs to be on a wider scale.

The profession, he says, is open to all. the key is to have the right mindset, attitude, and the ability to work beyond the 9 to 5 mindset.

"You need to be very meticulous. you should know how to fold a shirt or fold the jacket," Jones said. "What one needs is refinement, which also helps in the overall development of one's personality.

"Anyone who has passed high school can consider being a butler," Jones said. apart from training on the requisite skillsets, they would require to have a food handler's certificate," he said. "As a butler, you need to have knowledge of housekeeping, front office, and valet service."

He said that it can take anywhere between eight months to a year. the jobs of a butler are not often advertised. they are more word of mouth. those who choose to train as butlers can expand their scope of employability. they can find jobs in villas, high-end hotel suites, look at job opportunities overseas and even on cruise ships.

One of the certificates that is awarded, Jones said, is for The Federation of International Butlers, based in Colorado, United States, of which he is a member. He has been awarded first Butler Service Living Legend Award. he is also a certified trainer.

"Upon completing the certification course, each student is awarded a lapel pin based on knowledge, performance, contribution to the art, and years of industrial experience," Jones said. "Additionally, each student is awarded full membership of the organisation.

"I don't want to transition without leaving a legacy," he said. "I would love to train youngsters to look at being a butler as a career choice."

But, he said, it takes a lot of discipline, honesty, and passion to be on your toes 24/7. Looking back, Jones said, the journey has been rewarding, replete with challenges, and he wishes more youngsters would look beyond the confines of the preconceived mindset.

He is hopeful and says that God will always help find a solution, and he continues to serve with a smile.

amitabh.sharma@hotmail.com