I'm frequently asked if my job as butler requires any kind of formal culinary training. As a matter of fact I do find myself in the kitchen quite frequently. On Chef's two days off I myself have to prepare the evening meal - usually just a pasta dish or casserole which the Mister and Missus can heat up later in the evening, whenever they decide they're hungry.
And there's often some last-minute cocktail party popping up and no time to run out for hors d'oeuvres. So I have to throw something together in a flash. When this happens, I always remember the advice of famous Washington DC hostess Sally Quinn in her book The Party. Says Quinn, "Food doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be good."
So when I got in a bind one evening without anything at all to serve, I thought about Quinn and sliced up a few frozen micro-waved corn dogs, stuck a frilly toothpick in each slice, and served it with a dip of expensive deli mustard. Presented on a sterling-silver platter along with designer cocktail napkins, it was a hit and not one slice was left.
But as for formal culinary training - no, none to speak of except one course in college. Which was by default. The unfortunate thing about going to college is that both the courses and the resulting homework can seriously distract from a person's social life and parties. In this tricky situation, somethings got to give, right? My grades were barely passing, but high enough to keep from being thrown out of school.
A buddy at the time who was in similar distress suggested we take some really easy classes to bring up our grade point averages. So one of the choices was a cooking class in the Home Economics department. Huge mistake! We were late the very first day, the only two males in the class. And the instructor said when we walked in, "It seems we have two thorns among the roses this semester."
It turned out to be mostly a baking class, and neither one of us really got the hang of it, especially when it came to souffles. And on the mid-term exam our cream puffs came out of the oven without the puff! So we packed them with cream, and they looked more-or-less ok. But when the instructor picked them up she made a comment about how heavy they were. Needless to say our grade point averages did not come up that semester.
My employers (out of undisguised self interest) have offered to send me to cooking classes, if I wish. But recalling my humiliation in college, I've been reluctant to do this. However, I've bought a few books, starting with Cooking for Dummies and have begun a serious flirtation with the idea of possibly someday learning how to cook. How's that for commitment?
Obviously the more skills you have the better if you want to work in household service. Traditionally my job as butler mostly involves taking care of the silver and the wine cellar, perhaps serving at table and receiving guests at the front door. But it never hurts to have some skills in the kitchen - especially if you have an unreliable party-animal Chef whom you intensely hate. So we'll see. I'd rather learn form a book than go off to some kind of nutty classes.
Thanks for stopping by tonight,