After 25 years with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts during which he served Queen Elizabeth II and Susan Sarandon, butler Clarence McLeod has settled in Priddis, Alberta, as the general manager of the Azuridge Estate Hotel, and our great inspiration at The American Butler School.
There comes a time in every would-be butler’s life where they realize their welcoming presence exceeds normalcy.
For Clarence McLeod, it came early on in his hospitality career. When a guest at Toronto’s Royal York hotel started a conversation about his vineyard, McLeod knew there was only one thing to do: fly in some of the winery’s grapes for the patron to enjoy with his breakfast.
Raised in Jamaica by a grandmother who he affectionately refers to as “the queen of hospitality,” McLeod, now general manager of the Azuridge Estate Hotel in the foothills of Calgary, was always helping her plan parties and Sunday night dinners, or entertaining guests. While he first came to Canada for law school (he lasted less than a month at York’s prestigious Osgoode Hall), McLeod ended up in the University of Guelph’s hospitality program and went on to work with Fairmont Hotels for more than 25 years. McLeod is currently Canada’s only guilded butler, which is to say he was trained by the Queen of England’s butler (in advance of her Golden Jubilee visit to Canada) and is part of the Guild of Professional English Butlers—where Buckingham Palace goes when they’re in need of staff.
Questions and answers…
Scrunch, roll, fold or stuff?
All of the above. For trained butlers, it’s about interweaving. You fold trousers along the seam and place them in your case, with the legs hanging over. Roll everything that you can, and place on the pant leg.Shirts go on top; then the legs are folded over. Everything stays tight, and the seam will be there when you land.
How do you size up another butler?
First I look at the way he or she has shined my shoes. There should be just a hint of sheen at the tips and at the back. Under the light, they should sparkle like a pin. And I can tell by the pocket square if a butler thinks outside the box.
Any favourite memories from the Queen’s 2002 Jubilee visit?
I suggested we give her a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear, but my general manager thought it was too personal. But we did it, and she loved it. Then we had to get one for all her team members, including her hairdresser, who looked exactly like Rod Stewart, and have it on their pillows by the time they landed in Toronto, so that came back to haunt me.
What are some faux pas you notice on the job?
Besides cellphones at dinner, outdated assumptions. If two men are checking in, don’t assume they want two beds. Give them the option. Offering an alternative is the best way to handle scenarios like that.
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