Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Canada's Favourite Butler Charles MacPherson: Gift Ideas For Every Holiday Host and Hostess

I thought you might like to know about this great presentation that I am doing next week.

November-21-12, First Canadian Place Gallery
12:15 PM,1:15 PM

Mind your manners! Canada’s favourite butler and a popular guest on The Marilyn Denis Show, Charles MacPherson will share advice on how to be a gracious guest – from when to arrive at a dinner party to presenting the hostess with a gift. He’ll be showcasing his “Top 10” hostess gifts of the season. The best part? You’ll be able to find all of his gift suggestions right here, in stores in First Canadian Place and the Exchange Tower. Charles will also address the tradition of sending out thank-you notes – when to send, who to send them to and what to write – and, of course, the merits of sending a handwritten versus an email thank-you.

Presented in association with the stores in First Canadian Place and the Exchange

Monday, November 12, 2012

Praise for The Butler Speaks

I just thought you might be interested in what people are saying about our book to be released April 2013 by Random House.  What a list of great company below, I am truly honoured, Thank you!!

Praise for The Butler Speaks
Charles MacPherson

“Charles the Butler taught me to truly understand what luxury is. He alone deserves the fifth highly coveted luxury hotel star.” —Oliver Cremont, Former Head Butler, Fouquet’s Barrier Hotel, Paris

“All warmth and charm, Charles takes the stuffiness out of butlering. When Charles the Butler speaks, I listen! He presents the ‘old school’ lessons of etiquette, entertaining and housekeeping in a way that everyone can learn. I am proud he is a Master Trainer at my school.” ­—Pamela Eyring, President, The Protocol School of Washington

“Charles has been my go-to resource for nearly a decade now. His expertise, elegance, and thoughtful tips are an unbeatable combination. I am thrilled that he is sharing his in-depth knowledge with the public in this handy resource." —Benjamen Douglas, Former Household Manager to Morgan Freeman and Myrna Colley-Lee

“One of my favourite guests, Charles the Butler gives great advice on managing your life, loving laundry and pursuing good manners.” —Marilyn Denis, host of The Marilyn Denis show

“The Butler Speaks is your definitive guide to the art of living well, delivered with the wit, charm, style—and simple common sense—that you have come to expect from Charles’ columns in Metro. Keep it handy and you’ll never misstep!” —Charlotte Empey, Editor-in-Chief, Metro English Canada

“In a world where impersonal technology increasingly drives human interaction, Charles MacPherson reminds us just how powerful and dynamic the personal touch can be in our daily lives and how attention to even the smallest of details can give us an edge—whether we live in small studio apartment or entertain in mansions; whether we wish to connect with a few or impress hundreds. The Butler Speaks is a must-have resource, from the corporate executive to the recent university graduate and everyone in between.” —Chris Young, President, Protocol & Diplomacy International, Protocol Officers Association

“Not everyone needs, wants or can afford a butler, but anyone who takes pride in their home and in entertaining their family and friends will find within these pages the tips and tricks that a professional butler uses to define the ultimate standards of a privately staffed house.” —John Robertson, butler to their graces the Duke and Duchess of Northumblerland, Alnwick Castle

Friday, November 9, 2012

Butler’s party favours

 Charles MacPherson, Special to National Post

For some people, entertaining is a pleasure while for others it is nothing more than a stressful obligation. It’s made even more difficult if you’re designing a space for entertaining in a new luxury condo.

Where to begin? My good friend, Doug Remple, who is a real estate agent, once taught me that when you are buying a new space, “never purchase or plan for the one extreme time of the year.”

This means, if you entertain your entire family of 36 only at Christmas, don’t purchase a home that can seat 36 people perfectly on Dec. 25 because the rest of the year your dining room will feel like a vacant cavernous airplane hangar. There are always ways to deal with those once-a-year occasions to avoid this costly empty space.

Ask yourself how you like to entertain. Do you like to hold formal sit-down dinner parties, casual buffets where people mingle and eat off their laps all over the apartment or are you a cocktail party kind of person? Do you like six or eight people over for an intimate occasion that you personally cook, or does a large crowd with a caterer and wait staff suit your needs? And most important, how often do you like to entertain?

Some families entertain yearly for a specific holiday or birthday, so in these circumstances instead of having a large inventory of dinnerware and space you rarely use, a rental company can supply you with all you will need. This includes tables, chairs, linens, dishes and even candles and napkin rings. This allows you to set up the table in part of a large living room and/or convert the library or great room into a dining room for an evening that will flow perfectly.

Some clients I know who love cooking and entertaining use this as an opportunity to build their dream kitchen. I remember one family in particular that had their caterer/chef Simon Kattar of Toronto’s à la Carte Kitchen design the layout and specify the equipment so that large restaurant pots and pans and cooking trays could all fit in their oven and fridge, thus making catering at the new condominium a breeze. This was a brilliant move on everyone’s part.

Quite interestingly, I had a New York client who loved pizza so much that he had an authentic pizza oven installed in his kitchen and would hire the local pizza boy to come to his Tribeca condo and make professional pies all night for his guests. These ideas are what luxury living should be all about.

The other side of the coin are those who can’t stand cooking. In fact, they will do everything in their power to avoid it.

Moving into a luxury condominium presents the perfect opportunity for change. Luxury condominiums often have a party room that is ideal for entertaining with a caterer and allows you to keep all of the mess out of your personal space, while still entertaining within your building. Some people will invite guests over to view their new apartment and then move to the party room for cocktails, and dinner — truly a perfect solution.

There are additional options to consider when moving into a luxury condominium. Perhaps this is the time that you may wish to stop entertaining the whole family and pass the torch to one of your children and let them take responsibility.

As well, many fine hotels and restaurants are open with special menus for Christmas and other holidays where you can take the entire gang for the dining portion of the holiday. I know many couples who invite guests to their apartment for cocktails and then walk to a nearby restaurant. This is one of the advantages of living downtown.

The next logical question is how much space do you really need? From the butler’s perspective, there are some great little formulas that help you calculate the exact amount of space needed for entertaining and how many guests will comfortably fit within an area.

Cocktail parties in an empty party room require a minimum of six square feet per person, and goes to 10 square feet per person with a stationary bar, and as soon as you have furniture such as couches, coffee tables and such, count a minimum of 12 square feet per person to allow guests to be comfortable and mingle.

‘Sit-down dinners will need an average of 18 square feet per person to accommodate the average dinning table and chairs; 20 square feet per person leaves enough room for people to move around. These formulas are tried and true; there is nothing worse than a space that is too full, making your guests feel uncomfortable.

A few additional formulas that will also help you: The average 60-inch round rental table holds eight formally and 10 as a maximum squeezed in elbow to elbow. The average eight-foot-long and 36-inch wide rental table seats six comfortably and eight as a maximum.

Finally, when entertaining, think about the building and how its amenities can improve your guests’ experience. Is there a doorman and does he require your guest list? If yes, this would allow him and the valet (if included) to greet your guests and allow them entry into your building without having to call and announce each guest individually.

Also consider the number of guest-parking spaces and whether or not you need to advise people of a nearby parking lot.

Entertaining with style, whether you are the consummate or reluctant host/hostess should be a joyful experience, and planning big-picture details as well as the small will help you relax during the event.

Butlers - very good, sir

Newly rich people like old English traditions.  It’ll cost them

A good butler keeps things calm PAOLO GABRIELE was Pope Benedict XVI’s butler. But he breached his trade’s cardinal rule: discretion. On October 6th a Vatican court found him guilty of aggravated theft, after he leaked documents to a journalist (though a pardon is thought to be pending). Despite a trickle of scandals involving talkative ex-butlers, demand is soaring. So is the complexity of the job. A birthday in Venezuela organised by Anthony Seddon-Holland, a British soldier-turned-butler, involved three planeloads of guests and security, and booking an entire hotel, plus rock band and film stars.
Bespoke Bureau, a London agency, has placed 345 butlers this year—twice as many as in all of 2011. The five-week training courses Mr Seddon-Holland runs at his Guild of British Butlers, which he set up in 2007, are booked until 2013. Demand increases by around a fifth every year. He is considering launching new courses in New York and sees Latin America as a potentially “monstrous” market.

Hollywood films and the success of television shows like “Downton Abbey” that depict butlers as discreet, resourceful and quintessentially English have helped. Britain’s class system is a factor too, especially for customers from republican countries such as Russia and China where the newly rich hanker after old aristocratic glitz. Clients are paying for British traditions, hierarchy and experience, Ms Vestin Rahmani says. Below the surface, the skills are closer to those of a manager than a servant: for an (unnamed) Russian oligarch, Mr Seddon-Holland managed properties on several continents and organised 60 permanent staff.

A world-class butler can earn up to £150,000 ($240,000) plus bonus, separate living accommodation and all expenses. If a wealthy client finds you indispensable, Mr Seddon-Holland says, a butler can “demand almost anything” to stay put.

Employers may need some help in learning to make the most of their expensive new toy. Rick Fink of the Butler-Valet School in Oxfordshire encourages employers to take his £8,000 four-week course too: that helps them avoid misunderstandings about port (passed only to the left, regardless of rank) and the vital semantic differences between a formal dessert (fruit, nuts and sweets) and pudding (a course cooked by the chef). Just like their butlers, employers ought to get everything right.

The print edition of this article wrongly said that Mr Gabriele was convicted by an Italian court. It was of course a Vatican one. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Butler Speaks - The Book!

It is with great pleasure and huge excitement that I continue to announce the soon to be released book The Butler Speaks.  I have spent several years compiling the information for this book and I think you will find it both most interesting and more importantly useful.
Pre-orders on sale are now available on and the link is below to help you find the page.  The book is being released April 23, 2013. 

I will happily share with you how the book is progressing over the next 5 months, as currently we are working with the Art Department on the inside layouts, it is so exciting to see this all come together!

More to follow as it develops.

Pre-order the book here!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Helping Yourself To A Friend's Refrigerator

Dear Charles the Butler:
When I go to my best friend home I never hesitate to go into their refrigerator and help myself to get something to drink.  My husband says that this is absolutely not done and is rude and I must stop doing this.  I grew up in a big family where this was normal, what do you think?

Well I’m sorry to say, I am definitely on your husband’s side on this one.  A best friend who you see all of the time is one thing, but going into their refrigerator and just helping yourself if plane wrong.  What if you eat something they are preparing for dinner later that night?  What if you eat something that is a left over that they are saving for a midnight snack?  Even though my mother has never said no to me, and I haven’t lived at home for the past 25 years, I still always ask if she minds if I can have something (food or beverage) from her refrigerator.  For me it’s just a position of politeness and making sure my mom isn’t saving it for anything.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Graceful Words of Wisdom From an Expert on Etiquette


As fate would have it, Letitia Baldrige died on the same day that Hurricane Sandy made a bullseye of our corner of the globe. She might have had some thoughts on how people should behave during and after the storm. She had them for other crises, so why not this one?
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

Ms. Baldrige, who was 86, was best known as a leading authority on etiquette, a subject that often lends itself to parody and even ridicule. But etiquette for her meant a good deal more than knowing which fork to use at a formal dinner or whether it is proper to haul out the straw fedora before Memorial Day. Her core concern was good manners, which she saw as nothing more than common sense, with a dash of kindness stirred in.

On that basis, I turned to her at times for rulings on acceptable behavior in a rapidly changing, digitalized, gizmo-centric world where thank you is reduced to tnx and please to pls. She was not stuffy, just reasonable.

One such moment dealt with disaster, specifically on the Staten Island Ferry. This was in 1998, and it was a theoretical exercise. A true horror, the crash of the ferry Andrew J. Barberi, which killed 11 people and injured dozens of others, did not occur until five years later.

In early 1998, about half a year after fares were eliminated on the ferry, some Staten Islanders suspected they were being taken for a ride, even if it was now free. Service had begun to fray, they complained. To make matters worse, the then-popular film “Titanic” inspired a magazine article on how the ferries did not have enough lifeboats and rafts should any of them sink. While no weepy Leonardo-and-Kate moment seemed likely in New York Harbor, the news did not sit well with regular ferry passengers.

That led to a question about disaster etiquette, one that could easily have applied to rescue efforts during Hurricane Sandy: Does the old tradition of women and children first still hold? Or is “get outta my way” the prevailing ethos?

“Children always must be saved first,” Ms. Baldrige said firmly. But women? Not so fast. At 6 feet 1 inch tall, she expected no special consideration. “Whoever is strong and healthy can help the ones who aren’t,” she said.

Fair enough.

Sometime later, the use and abuse of first names arose. There was a blossoming trend, in full flourish today, of identifying a proposed law by a first name, usually that of a victim who was a woman or a child, like Megan or Jenna or Elisa. It gave the legislation an emotional wallop, and made challengers look like ogres.

Ms. Baldrige was not comfortable with this. But she verged on apoplexy when it came to people — pretty much everyone by now — who phone or e-mail total strangers and instantly address them by their first names as if they were old buddies. (Public-relations practitioners, take heed.) To her, a false concept of democratic equality was in play.

“It is bad, bad, bad,” she told me. In case you missed her point, it’s really bad. “It destroys deference,” she said. “It destroys authority. It destroys respect.”

She was no more taken with technological features like caller ID, which enabled you to tell even before picking up the phone who was on the other end. Do you start, as many do, with an all-knowing, “How’s it going, pal?” Or do you play out a time-tested ritual and let the other person identify himself first?

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ms. Baldrige preferred a traditional approach. “Be very nondescript,” she advised. “Less is more. The less information we give out, the better.”

She felt in general that technology was changing us faster than was healthy: “For every step forward in electronic communications we’ve taken two steps back in humanity. People know how to use a computer and answering machines but have forgotten how to connect with one another. Our society is unraveling. We’re too self-obsessed.”

That was said to a reporter for The New York Times in 1992 — long before smartphones, iPods and other devices, wondrous though they may be, turned many people into social zombies, unable to sustain a conversation for more than 30 seconds without refocusing on the screen.

Too bad Ms. Baldrige died before there was a chance to ask her about the enduring effects of these innovations, or about offenders like smartphone users who stop at the top of subway stairs, blocking everyone else while they check their messages.

But we do know, to get back to the Staten Island Ferry, what she thought of some riders who, even as the fare was being eliminated, grumbled about the service they were already certain would deteriorate.

They were handed a gift. And the correct thing to do on such an occasion, she said, is to offer two simple words: thank you. Certainly not tnx. Just thank you.