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By Maria Visconti

I

Service

f the word ‘butler’ brings to mind images of men tucked away in pantries polishing the silver, then you are unaware - as much as I was before meeting Colin Bryan - of the big sea-change this profession is undergoing. Although the traditional roles of running estates for the asset rich and time-poor are still the norm, today’s butlers are also being head-hunted by top class international hotels, embassies and luxury yacht owners. Yes, the butler is still in charge of the estate, the staff, the car and the dog - and might also be ironing the perfect shirt or packing the suitcases - but he or she can also be found at private jet dealers, closing a sale for their employers or selecting the right model of a luxury car to suit. They form a formidable army moving discreetly in and out of their employer’s private lives with ease and aplomb. They attend to the needs and whims of a demanding clientelle and think nothing of organising a silver service dinner smack in the middle of the Arabian dunes or a gala event at a foreign embassy. But who are they and, more to the point, how do individuals or institutions go about securing their services? Australian Colin Bryan is now in charge of the butler service at the Evason Hideaway in Thailand after being formerly employed by one of Australia’s richest men. His story is unique, although by no means atypical. He trained as a scientist and was a big-time corporation executive for many years. When the company he worked for was divested he admits, “I was a little jaded and wanted a complete change away from the conventional corporate life. I looked into career possibilities where age would not be a drawback and where I could still be involved with people and an interesting lifestyle.” He decided to re-train at The International Academy of Butlers, in The Netherlands. Why there? “It was the best place to go,” says Colin. “I did a lot of research on the subject.” After paying a sobering twenty thousand dollars in fees and attending eight weeks of training, Mr Bryan graduated with honours. The gruelling livein course is not for the faint hearted. “It requires stamina, passion and genuine commitment,” recounts Colin. Although the accommodation and living conditions are luxurious - the school operates out of a 14th Century castle near Zutphen and provides students with their own school butler to

“Students are taught all the traditional responsibilities of a butler but also attend courses offered by luxury car importers to learn about their maintenance and also take courses in wine appreciation, antique care, cigar sampling, security issues and other relevant subjects.” counsel them and ferry them about - the aspiring butlers adhere to the ‘butler’s 24-hours’ concept and so can be called at any hour of the night to do a task. “Students are taught all the traditional responsibilities of a butler but also attend courses offered by luxury car importers to learn about their maintenance and also take courses in wine appreciation, antique care, cigar sampling, security issues and other relevant subjects.” The Academy students hail from as diverse backgrounds as it can be imagined: the military, hospitality, accounting and corporate. Thirty per cent are female. Mr Bryan says his class mates are now employed in the service of a Connecticut family, a German industrialist, the British Embassy in Washington D.C. and international hotels such as the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Evason Hideaway. I catch Robert Wennekes, founder of the Academy, just as he returns from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There he headed a task force deployed to set up the Butler’s Department at the new Qasr Al Sharq Hotel. After seven weeks on the job he declares assuredly and convincingly that the “property is a palace and shall be run as a palace.” I believe him. He prides himself on his personalised services and likes nothing better than when a client hands him a “Wish List”. Mr Wennekes now delivers a custom-made butler to suit the specific needs of any client, from a luxury yacht to an embassy or Sultan’s palace. Colin Bryan enthuses about his new career and says “I enjoy the change and feel that too often people are not willing to take the gamble to do what they want to do”. For more information on The International Butler Academy check out www.butlerschool.com

Right: Colin Bryan

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