Strawberries By Plane, Rum Emergencies and Other Food Demands at Sea
A view of Arianna from above. Photo credit: Courtesy Owner Dovi Frances
According to a recent article in GQ, the demand for butlers has risen since 2010 when Downton Abbey premiered. “Thirty-five years ago, there were only a few hundred butlers left in Britain; today there are roughly 10,000, plus thousands more abroad,” writes David Katz. The butlers earn starting salaries of $40,000 to $60,000 for duties such as providing formal table service, securing any entertainment his boss might require, managing the household staff, and hiding hookers on mega-yachts. (You’ll have to read the GQ piece for the rest of that story.)
Katz details the kind of training required of butlers these days. So what’s required of yacht stewards, who are essentially butlers at sea?
Her bio on motor yacht Arianna’s website states that chief stewardess Katie Hearn (above, second from right) “is responsible for maintaining the interior of Arianna and attending to guests.” She told us that in yachting, at least, learning how best to do those things is more about hands-on work and less about formal training. “I started out on the bottom, learning from the chief stew,” she said. One captain—captains are usually in charge of hiring staff, not owners—along the way did require some courseship, so Hearn enrolled in a class at the American Yacht Institute in Fort Lauderdale: “We went over the basics of how to set a formal table, the basics about cleaning different surfaces, a little about flower arranging.” While that mandatory training is on the rise, says Hearn, she sticks by her claim that working is the best training.
“Attention to detail is the main aspect of being a butler or a chief stew,” she said. “We charter, and every guest wants something different. If someone likes his coffee with two sugars, we learn that quickly; we don’t even have to ask how he wants it the second day.”
As far as food requests go, “If they want it, they want it, and we will fly it in if we need to.” Here are some of the more difficult tasks Hearn has, very gracefully, completed.
* “We were in the Bahamas for a charter. They were Russian guests, and they liked to see lots of food all presented on the table—like 6 to 10 full platters. And so we ran out [of food]. Halfway through the trip, we had stuff sea-planed in. We were in the middle of nowhere, and had to be reached.”