To some, working on a private estate may seem something out of date, ‘Downton Abbey’ esk and generally something from the past. However, this booming industry is far from it. With more and more individuals training and working towards this luxurious hospitality life style, I thought it would be a good idea to write a short piece about what is actually involved in some of the key roles responsible for running such prestigious estates. This ‘Day in the Life’ blog will explore the kinds of roles available to you, the day to day chores involved and how it could lead you into a full and fruitful career.
Estates can vary in size from just a few acres to hundreds, therefore roles and responsibilities can vary massively. For the sake of this blog I am going to discuss a 35-acre state with 1 Estate Manager, 1 House Manager, 1 Chef, 1 Butler, 1 Housekeeper and a Gardener.
Let’s begin with the bread and butter holding the whole place together. The Estate Manager is pretty much what it says on the tin. However, unless you have Private Household experience, you are unlikely to land yourself this important role. The Principal (the owner/head of the house) needs someone who knows the industry and understands the importance of the smooth running of his/her properties and land.
The role is full on, hands on and often Estate Managers are on call 24/7 however once you have found the right job, this is often a career with longevity, benefits and very substantial pay packet. Some of the day to day activities include: hiring staff, liaising with the House Manager, sourcing and discussing with contractors, administrative tasks including budgeting and planning events and functions.
As you can probably tell this is an extremely wide-ranging and diverse role and although it’s extremely hard work it’s unlikely to ever get boring. Each day is different and if you are looking for a challenge to spice up your career maybe this one is for you.
Household managers are usually responsible for planning, organizing and coordinating events, assisting the Estate Manager where necessary. Managing household calendars and schedules, ensuring appointments are met, keeping on top of the house maintenance, arranging extra help where necessary, paying household bills and completing any other administrative tasks.
Also, in this instance the management of the other members of staff is key. From creating rotas to ensuring that tasks are prioritised and completed to the highest of standards. Again, this is a very varied role. It requires high class organisational skills, the ability to multi task and of course people skills.
Private Chefs have total control of their kitchen. Sometimes you will have a sous chef alongside you but more often than not the kitchen is yours. Taking charge of menu planning, sourcing of quality ingredients, grocery shopping and catering for the whole house, this is your time to shine!
Usually you will be catering breakfast lunch and dinner for all members in the home, including children (packed lunches may be part of your role too), and all staff. It’s a great role for someone with passion and a thirst to experiment, you will often be required to cater large dinner parties with the need to impress. Sometimes you will have to cater events, fluctuating from canape receptions, to BBQs and sit-down meals. However, you must remember that you are not catering for just anyone. Often the Principal and their family have specific needs and requirements that are not to be taken lightly. This is a prestigious role in a competitive industry so you must be able to adapt your style and techniques should you need to.
According to the Butlers Guild the Butler is ‘Chief servant of the house.’ The role of the Butler often depends strongly on the formality of the household. Generally, the Butler will assist in the smooth running of the residence however unlike the House Manager this is often on a much more personal level to the Principal. Often the Butler’s role will include (but is definitely not limited to) maintenance jobs around the property, serving food and drink, hosting, assisting with event planning, wine cellar organisation, wardrobe management, greeting and chauffeuring. The role can often involve traveling the world with the Principal, not everyone’s cup of tea but many see this as a huge perk.
In some smaller households, there is no need for a House Manager, the Butler simply mimics the House Manager. Alternatively, in a larger household there could be whole team of Butlers with different responsibilities (e.g. dining room Butler, Pantry Butler etc.).
As a Private Housekeeper, you are expected to complete all basic cleaning duties including vacuuming, dusting, mopping, surface cleaning, ensuring all bathrooms are immaculate, making sure all other areas of the home are clean, neat and tidy. In addition to this, other tasks include taking care for household pets, polishing the silverware (sometimes a task for a Butler). Washing dishes and assisting the chef with cleaning the kitchen to high hygiene standards. You may also be expected to run errands, for example going to the dry cleaners and grocery shopping. It is often the Housekeepers responsibility to organise laundry and purchase cleaning products within budget. Occasionally when events are taking place at the residence, temporary housekeepers will be bought in to assist.
Some households have a specific nanny to take care of the children, but often if the children are at school age, the Housekeeper would assist in this department. Helping them dress in the morning, making sure they have breakfast and generally ensuring they have everything they need.
Last but not least the Gardener. This role doesn’t need much explanation, many private residences have a large amount of woodland grounds which means a full-time job for a very experienced and capable gardener. The role often includes outdoor maintenance including pools, tennis courts, gold courses. It’s a year-round task ensuring the grounds are respectable, colourful and in line with the Principals likes. You will need to be able to work alone and manage your own time while liaising with the Estate Manager regarding external contractors.
These roles are all instrumental in the smooth running of a Private Estate. Often these are ‘live-in’ roles which mean no bills and an easy commute! Experience is key when it comes to Private Households, starting from the bottom and working your way up. There are many different avenues you can come from, spending a season as a Chalet Host or Yacht Steward are both great paths to begin your Private Household carer and here at Silver Swan we can assist. We are specialists in Luxury Chalet, Villa, Yacht and Private Household recruitment. If you are unsure about where you could fit in, get in touch, with our wealth of knowledge and experience we will be able to help guide you into your new career.