A Picasso lithograph hanging in The Starkey Mansion
Our emotions are running high and contradictions in our everyday work life keep us off-center. We look for ways to feel that we still have good relationships, and we work diligently to stay safe, yet don’t fully believe what we are being told by the media, and fearful reactions make us wonder what we are doing. I occasionally contemplate where I would go if our country continued in this mode. This is not a pleasant experience. Is there going to be a future that’s worth my investment in it?
I’m getting many calls from Grads asking me for guidance. One family’s expectations were off the chart when they decided to vacate the city at once, wanting the vacant summer 6,000-square-foot home cleaned and readied in one day, along with preparing meals for the weekend. Another client kept a Grad at bay for 60 days without pay waiting for the state to be safe before she could return to work. Another Grad had to listen and support her Principal as she spilled her heart out over her constant fears of death.
The world has indeed changed, and with it, we are not our normal selves. We feel isolated, frightened when we allow ourselves to go there, overwhelmed, depressed, and unable to find comfort with our normal workouts, hobbies, friends, or family dinners and events. Our book clubs are not meeting; the wine tastings have been cancelled, my long-planned vacation has been cancelled, the news is always angry, negative and politically divisive.
I tell my Graduates to have faith. If you have no faith, find something to believe in to focus your attention. Get in touch with how you are feeling and what changes you would make in your personal life to create a more fulfilling experience when given the chance. I started reading best-selling books I have been putting off. Call members of your family or old friends you’ve not spoken to in a while; I certainly have. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve also baked some bread (check out my favorite bread recipe) and have started listening to opera, one of my favorite pastimes. Xavier, my husband, is hard at work building a pizza oven in our back garden! Clean something; that’s proven to be an actively healing process for both your body and your soul. Keep busy, work hard, and be mindful and conscious of what you are doing.
This will pass sooner or later. I can only think it will have many silver linings if only one takes the time to look. Be good to yourself and genuine with your employers; they are likely having a more difficult time than you are. Continue to know you will be taken care of…the universe has very deep pockets. I am thinking of you, your well-being, and your continued success!
We are extending a warm invitation for our Starkey Weekend Retreat this October. We will be hosting a first-come, first-served intimate gathering of 20 Graduates at The Starkey Mansion. Come to connect, rejuvenate and be inspired!
It’s hard to work in this profession alone. Come to work through the challenges and celebrate the wonderful opportunities you share with your fellow Service Hearts.
Our first gathering last fall was so well-received that we want to keep serving our Graduates to grow in their professions in the safe, luxurious environment of The Starkey Mansion.
Relax with our morning yoga/meditation sessions, or book a massage with our private masseuse. We will also be offering four relevant and fun workshops designed to serve you in thriving in your roles as Household/Estate Managers.
Come prepared to share your stories, enjoy your friendships and restore the art of Private Service.
Date: Oct. 2-4, 2020
Location: The Starkey Mansion, 1350 Logan St. Denver, CO 80203
Cost: $800 (Continental breakfasts, lunches and afternoon refreshments included; dinners excluded)
Accommodation: The Starkey Mansion’s pleasant and relaxing rooms are available at an additional cost on a first-come, first-served basis. Please book a room here. We’re also happy to recommend other hotels and Airbnbs nearby.
Reserve Your Spot Today!
Starkey Director of Education Xavier Medicin and David Strait pose at The Starkey Mansion
Serving foreign dignitaries and military generals doesn’t come without a certain amount of pressure, according to recent Starkey graduate David Strait.
“My most stressful moment as an Enlisted Aide was the first dinner I ever did,” Mr. Strait said. “I did not fully understand the timing of everything. I ended up having dinner served about a half hour to 45 minutes late.”
That blunder happened over 300 dinners ago. And Mr. Strait, the self-proclaimed “king of prep,” has never served dinner late since.
He’ll take that discipline and skill he’s cultivated over his career to serve in the position he accepted as a Household Manager/Chef for a highly successful couple with the intent of making a difference in their world.
“Mr. Strait, former Sergeant in the U.S. Army, is one of our honored Enlisted Aides who served his general and graduated from the Starkey Household Management program with the intent of finding a couple much like the generals he has served in the past to serve,” Mrs. Starkey said. “Mr. Strait, through his many years in service, grew his management abilities, his culinary abilities, and his people smarts to be a very good leader.”
Mr. Strait assumed his role as Household Manager at the 16,000-square-foot property this spring. Mr. Strait’s role includes culinary and security duties, as well as the supervision of a housekeeper and a ranch hand. The entire property, located outside of Phoenix, is 250 acres.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge, this being the largest house I’ve ever worked in,” Mr. Strait said. “Definitely taking charge of a full-time staff is all very exciting and something I’m looking forward to.”
Mr. Strait, originally from Billings, Mont., joined the Army in 2005, where he kept busy serving meals to 2,000 soldiers per day at Fort Hood, Texas. Mass-producing food at those kinds of volumes was challenging for Strait, who loves culinary creativity.
“You can’t play with the food. You can’t put your heart and soul into it,” he said.
Mr. Strait’s superiors recognized the maturity and mentality he had and recommended he become an Enlisted Aide, the military equivalent to a Household Manager. He went on to serve seven different general officers both in Washington, D.C. and Fort Hood, Texas.
“My love for the culinary arts didn’t develop until I became an Enlisted Aide in 2010,” he said, adding that he worked for an executive chef who taught him everything from classical French cooking, to presentation, to proper food cutting technique.
Over the course of Mr. Strait’s Enlisted Aide career, he has hosted more than 300 formal dinner events for the distinguished guests of his military officers. It was at these events that Mr. Strait started mastering his culinary crowd-pleasers, such as his spinach and mushroom beef tenderloin roulade with white wine truffle sauce, as well as his bacon-wrapped chestnuts with Worcestershire caramel sauce.
He’s gathered many accolades along the way, including two gold medals and a silver and a bronze medal at the 37th Annual Culinary Competition at Fort Lee. One of the gold medals was for Mr. Strait’s 5’6” chocolate sculpture of a Texas Ranger cowboy that weighed 600 pounds.
Mr. Strait completed his Starkey courses during the fall of 2019 at The Starkey Mansion, and says the tools he gained will help him immensely in his new role as a Household Manager/Chef. During his training, Mrs. Starkey began to see clearly who the perfect employer would be for him.
“When I first became an Enlisted Aide, I heard about the Starkey program. I told myself, ‘I’m going to become a Starkey graduate,'” Mr. Strait said. “That’s what I told myself over 10 years ago.”
For more information about Starkey's current course offerings, check out our current 2020 course schedule, or email Xavier Medicin, Starkey's Director of Education, at email@example.com.
Position: Estate Manager
Location: Annapolis Maryland.
Busy couple with multiple homes with large extended family seek the support of certified Starkey Graduate to manage multiple locations. High military standards of cleaning, appropriate etiquette, vendor management, and excellent communication for a highly experienced Graduate. Excellent salary, live near Annapolis.
As a child growing up in Southern California in the ‘60s, I was exposed to responsibility at an early age. My mother’s parents were born in New Jersey and Kentucky. The Kentucky clan moved in the 1920s to the west and ultimately to Los Angeles. Both sides of her family are of Scottish and Irish descent that we have traced back to Betsy Ross who sewed and designed the American Flag. My Dad’s roots are thought to be traced to a Dutch heritage, but possible Algonquin Indian as well. My Dad enlisted in the Air Force in the early ‘40s. After the war he moved to Los Angeles to work for Lockheed and to meet my Mother. I was raised in Burbank, Los Angeles with my two other siblings.
At an early age, my mom became quite ill and almost died, so I had to grow up quickly. My brother, sister and I took over the household chores and yard care, with our father overseeing our tasks. I have some great memories of my mom and grandmother teaching me cooking and my father teaching me grilling techniques on the weekends. I gravitated toward cooking soon developed an artistic food passion.
I moved to Aspen in 1983, married Cheryl Schuss, and now we have three grown children. Food was my gateway into a career in service. When I became an Executive Chef, I began to develop my taste for wine, specializing in French wine (Futures) and some Italian wines. That grew into a position managing events and the conference center in Snowmass, Colorado. I know fine housekeeping and I am squeaky clean in my housekeeping practices, as well as in the kitchens where I work. I prefer to be hands-on as a style and especially in the care of a private home.
I live by these words: So as you think, you create your destiny. My Lutheran upbringing has heavily influenced the way I think and act to this day. There was not a time that my Father was not involved in some way with our church. When the church asked me to be an elder at a young age, I tell people it was only because I knew the doctrine so well.
I look at ethics as a way of life, and I try my best to live and work according to my ethics ingrained in me from childhood, including my committed work ethic. My favorite word is persistence, because persistence solves problems. I believe in respecting one another and being sensitive toward their beliefs without compromising yourself. Integrity is an important aspect, coupled with the gentle honesty that I taught to my children. It’s also important to admit mistakes quickly.
I find it most satisfying when I execute successful Service. My nature is nurturing and leadership-driven. If my staff does not succeed I look at how I trained them first to see where I might have communicated incorrectly. I have spent many years in staff management; my ultimate goal is to support my staff to succeed, because it then makes me successful.
- Trained in the patented Starkey Service Management Model
- Trained in hotel and restaurant management
- Skilled with leading teams of staff and vendors
- 30 years of experience in HR, including payroll, scheduling, hiring and training
- 30 years of experience managing employees, vendors and setting up contracts
- Excellent office organizational skills, including filing, budget management and more
- Knowledgeable with Word, Excel and Outlook
- Skilled with developing and maintaining employee manuals and benefits
- Creates household manuals using Starkey HQ software
- Skilled with managing purchasing, budgeting and monitoring quality control of food and wine for restaurants, catering companies and in the private home
- Certified by the American Chefs Federation
- Trained and certified in nutritional food preparation and cooking
- Trained under famed French chef Madeleine Kaman at Beringer Vineyards, learning classical cuisine and fine wines
- Trained under White House pastry chef Albert Kumin and learned baking, confection and breads
- Expert at food and wine pairing
- Capable of cooking many different styles: light, organic, classical, southwestern, Asian, Mediterranean, French, vegetarian, gluten free and lactose intolerant
- Familiar with composing menus and multi-course dining experiences for two to 5,000 guests
- Conducted personal catering for celebrities Seal and Heidi Klum, Felicity Huffman and Bill Macy
- Trained in the Starkey Household Service Management Model
- Experienced with caring for and cleaning fine art, china, crystal and silver
- Experienced with sanitation management in commercial and exhibition kitchens
- Develops detailed daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cleaning manuals and trains housekeeping staff in correct housekeeping practices
- Experienced in using organic and environmentally safe cleaning products
- Updated environmental health certification in 2008
- Capable of planning and executing casual events as well as formal, mirrored service events
- Organizes special events from planning stages to execution
- Experienced bartender and expert at pairing food and wine
- Experienced managing catering company and consulting on event etiquette
- Coordinates remote location events and high-end estate events, including wine tasting and charity events for affluent clientele
- Familiar with cellar and fine wine management: Bordeaux, Burgundy and Cult wines
- Executes themed parties, cocktail receptions, 14-course meals and comfort food events
- Experienced managing conference center and serving between 50 to 5,000 guests
Top 5 Standards:
Will go anywhere for the right position; prefers East Coast
My first memories of cooking and service happened in childhood. I remember making dinner with my older brother for our parents when I was only 5 and taking such pride in it. I also recall the magic of my grandfather’s club: napkin folds, polished silver, and professional service. I paid attention to the right way to set a table and found myself frustrated with my little brother, who would put everything in the wrong place. In my family, each child cooked one night a week, and I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn to cook. I loved it when we had overnight guests and I could make breakfast. Making others feel taken care of made me feel good.
One of my first cooking jobs was at a rustic Massachusetts arts retreat, where, at 20 years old, I ran the kitchen. There is nothing like having 160 people completely dependent on you week in and week out to feed them. There is also nothing like getting it wrong. Learning to avoid problems in the first place is good; knowing how to solve them is equally as important. Working at Pinewoods taught me an acute awareness for the needs of others. My experiences there are the foundation of who I am professionally, and I continue to serve the facility as board member.
I attended the Culinary Institute of America, which led to positions in world-class restaurants and hotels. On my first day on the job at La Grenouille, the last of the old guard “Grande Dames” of New York City, every waiter stopped, introduced himself and shook my hand. I had never experienced such civility in the workplace, and it is a model that I have aspired to ever since. La Grenouille has been justifiably awarded a James Beard Award for service. Fantastic service flowed from how the staff was treated and how the staff treated each other.
After working at The Jefferson, a luxury hotel in downtown Washington, DC, I moved into private service, initially as a chef, but then growing into a Household Manager. The first family I worked for was that of Kenneth Feld, the owner of Feld Entertainment. It was an exciting home to serve, as the family frequently entertained guests, and I wore both hats as chef and formal server. They loved being surprised and were excited by new things, and I grew tremendously.
Eventually, I would go to work for Julian and Elizabeth Eisenstein, both retired professors. I spent four and half years with them. I then attended Starkey International Institute for Household Management to fine-tune my Household Management skills. I returned to the Eisensteins fulltime several years later when they were in their 90s. They needed someone they trusted, and this job became the most profound work I have ever had. When they passed away, I continued to work for the estate, managing the complexities of closing the home. There was mutual respect between us, something that is crucial for any service relationship.
I love cuisine and I love Household Management, and my career has exemplified my passion for both. My management skills stem from a lifetime of serving others and a belief that bringing happiness to others matters. I am the go-to person within a home, paying attention to every minute detail and exceeding my Principals’ expectations. I look forward to taking the depth of my knowledge to my next employers.
My top Service Standards are Administrative, Housekeeping, Culinary, Entertaining and Elder Care.
- Trained in the patented Starkey Service Management model
- Familiar with the use of PC and Mac operating systems
- Comfortable with Microsoft Office Suite, use of Starkey Proprietary Software for Household Management, ChefTec (a culinary inventory system) and Focus (a hotel and restaurant POS/management tool)
- Manages schedules, calendars and household budgets for Principals and staff
- Strong experience managing staff of up to 25
- Capable of all HR duties associated with staff, including hiring, firing, training and managing time-off requests
- Knowledgeable with bidding and supervising vendors and subcontractors
- Handles payroll for staff and outside vendors/subcontractors
- Takes regular, detailed inventories and works to control household and culinary costs
- Trains staff in administrative systems
- Writes daily task sheets and punch lists
- Capable of zoning a home for cleaning and creating task sheets
- Cares for high-end antiques, artwork, and other collectibles and valuable items
- Knowledgeable of specific cleaning and laundry products and their appropriate use
- Experienced with commercial level sanitation
- Cares for silver and high-end dishes and silverware
- Trained Culinary Chef and honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America
- Organize culinary events of any size, from intimate small gatherings to large parties
- Expert on a variety of diets, including but in no way limited to vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, low-carb and farm-to-table
- Comfortable cooking in the wide panoply of cuisines, from American barbecue, to fine dining French, to vegetarian Indian
- Substantial experience with food/wine and food/craft beer pairings
- Substantial experience working in some of the world’s leading restaurants
- Expert at creating weekly menus based on Principals’ requests, as well as shopping, inventory control and budgeting menus
- Experienced managing up to 20 people in the kitchen for restaurants or catering events
- Trained in American plated, Banquet, French, Russian and English styles of service
- Coordinates and executes formal and informal entertaining events
- Works with vendors for major events, including caterers and musicians
- Experienced caterer capable of managing wait staff of any size event
- Creates a desired ambiance in the home, based on a Principal’s Standards
- Comfortable creating floral arrangements
- Management of regular community events for up to 400; managed team of volunteers
- Experience dealing with the chronically ill and end-of-life care for elderly Principals suffering from cancer, anorexia, mental health, broken femurs, high blood pressure and stroke
- Experience managing schedules of doctors and nurses
- Experience in emergency situations with the elderly
- Supervision of and assisting 24/7 health care workers, including doctors, hospice workers, physical therapist, massage therapist and other vendors
- Natural affinity to the elderly and able to clearly communicate with elderly guests or Principals
In our continued commitment to excellence for our students and Graduates serving our clients, we’ve noted a shortcoming that we intend to fix.
Over the past 30 years, our Graduates have often entered households where veteran Housekeepers held the keys to the fine Housekeeping secrets in the home. They completed the cleaning with such excellence that Starkey Household Managers did not need to focus on it. They had other priorities.
Gradually, the tradition became that Housekeepers were the Housekeeping experts, and Household/Estate Managers took that knowledge for granted. Slowly, Housekeeping knowledge has dissipated to the point where the knowledge has all but disappeared, leaving Principals with seemingly high and unrealistic standards.
Well, it’s my belief that Principals’ standards are not too high.
It’s that Housekeeping as an expertise has all but disappeared. We recently taught a class of young men and women in their ‘20s and ‘30s serving multiple Principals. Their homes were disorganized and dirty. They were stuffing sheets and towels into closets and using products inappropriate for surfaces. They saw ironing as superfluous. The staff had no training and no understanding of what was possible in keeping a fine home.
When I look at Housekeepers today, I see a few serious issues. They are only concerned with surface cleaning and are unfamiliar with what deep cleaning really entails. They don’t see the detail behind, underneath or above; it’s harder for them to look at their work from different perspectives and angles, especially from the Principals’ perspective (do they lay on the bed to see what the ceiling looks like? The Principal will surely see any issues when they do). In addition, they don’t perform tasks systematically; they don’t have a written system for accomplishing zones and task sheets in the home.
I’m also seeing a lack of knowledge when it comes to cleaning products. Housekeepers today have a harder time understanding what or how to use cleaning products and tools, whether it’s polishing silver or cleaning wood floors or tile.
Why would they know these things? Parents who both work generally don’t have the time or energy to teach their children how to clean well. Likewise, they wouldn’t have learned it in their school curriculum or from supervisors who also have no knowledge of this obscure and seemingly unnecessary skill set themselves.
Fine Housekeeping has become a lost and forgotten art. Principals are desperate to find staff members who are capable of properly cleaning a home. In addition, the students we are training or trying to place all like to say they know about Fine Housekeeping, but when asked to show us, they don't know as much as they think they know. Household and Estate Managers have no choice but to now make Housekeeping a priority.
You may have heard me say, “Addition and Subtraction is to Accounting as Housekeeping is to Household Management.”
If you really don’t know it, you’re not fully knowledgeable of upholding your Principal’s lifestyle.
My clients are consistently sharing, “Why is it that no one but me understands what real housekeeping looks like in a home?” They are correct. It’s a lost tradition that must re-emerge in 2020.
Starkey is offering Housekeeping courses both in clients’ homes and here at the Starkey Mansion.
Contact us for our 40-hour Housekeeping curriculum and upcoming course dates. Or ask about setting a date for Starkey to come to your Principal’s home to help educate staff about Fine Housekeeping.
As recently as 10 years ago, old veteran Estate Managers were still available. These were highly skilled individuals with advanced Maintenance and Property and Grounds expertise. Their knowledge of the interior of homes was minimal, other than the management of vendors. For the most part, this is no longer the case. Today’s Principals want Estate Managers to know it all: the management of homes, inside and out. This includes Housekeeping, not just Maintenance and Property and Grounds. As there are also few veteran Housekeepers available in the market today, this presents a challenge.
We are talking about developed professionals in Private Service with deep knowledge in:
- Administrative skills including HR management
- Fine Housekeeping
- High-end Entertaining
- Maintenance, including remodeling projects and smart home technology
- Groundskeeping, including both hard and soft scapes and plantings
This is a sophisticated position, as are the varied duties, and qualified individuals are few and far between.
Why is this? I have read that several veteran Estate Manager professionals are not able to find quality positions. Why is this?
Principals in today’s world are often brand new at hiring for their homes and don’t know what or why certain tasks are needed. They are looking for answers from their highly paid Estate Managers for what needs to be done in each standard.
Veteran Estate Managers are used to well-trained Housekeepers and support staff to back them up. They are expecting a defined structure within homes, but they rarely find it.
Estate Managers find chaos, crisis mode and negativity among staff when interviewing.
Well-positioned structure and clearly defined position descriptions are not developed, and if they are, they are often not functional.
The result is that the Principal’s overwhelming expectations of immediate results are just not doable.
Fixing these industry challenges will take leaders with real understanding of daily operations. Today’s Estate Managers need a customized system that they are able to set up in new homes. Taking Starkey’s Service Management System’s class will be an invaluable beginning.
Principals need to be educated by agents who represent candidates from the beginning. These agents need to share what is possible from each potential candidate, what their full capabilities are. They have to know how long it takes to grow staff to be able to deliver expectations. Agents also need to be formally educated in Private Service.
The days of agents throwing out potential candidate resumes with no real knowledge of who they are or what they know is no longer functional.
Service must be positioned to be successful. Similar to a business plan, candidates must be able to develop and customize a service plan for the family and their service expectations.
Household Service is a highly sophisticated process of people management. Development of functional position descriptions. Day in the Life plans that can be shared with principals. Housekeeping plans cooperatively put in place with the housekeeping staff with written and time-oriented Zones and Task Sheets. Training of staff performing these tasks. Menu development fine-tuned with the Principals. Daily calendars. HR knowledge, and so much much more.
Estate Managers are expected to manage everything, often in multiple homes.
This is a big deal! Did I mention also supporting unique belief systems, religions, cultures, unique priorities, security and diverse ages within homes?
Service must really be positioned to be successful. High-end Estate Managers and those growing their skills must be represented by someone who also knows Private Service, and knows what each candidate is worth financially, not just what is offered. Candidates must be uniquely positioned to be successful.
Life connectors and mutual frames of reference must also be taken into consideration. Styles of Service must be matched. This is likely the most unknown aspect of Private Service and successful placement. Service has indeed become an expertise... and so is our ability to place successful candidates.
Starkey is now almost 40 years old, providing real education and successful placement of 95 percent of our graduates. Please contact us today to learn more.
Starkey International is now almost 40 years strong. We have created service terminology for private homes, patented a service manage system unique for private homes, written 18 textbooks and placed 95 percent of our Graduates.
We invite all those in private service to get educated. Grow our profession by growing your knowledge.
Employers prefer educated professionals in today’s market.
Happy New Year!
Placement techniques in our Private Service profession have changed dramatically in the last few years.
- New employers do not understand your value other than for cooking and cleaning.
- Employees who are not Starkey Graduates do not have the language to communicate their value and what Household Management really can be.
- Those seeking positions do not understand what the right style of position is for them.
- Employers do not understand how to choose the right candidate for them.
To ensure long-term success, Placement in Private Service has become a highly sophisticated matching process. All Starkey Graduates (we have a 95 percent placement rate) are represented by Starkey after training.
In 40 years, we’ve learned what works for our high-net-worth Clientele, and know what is individually correct for our Graduates!
“Service must be positioned to be successful!”
Contact Starkey at 303-832-5510.
Hiring a Household or Estate Manager is a tricky process these days. It's hard to find a qualified person who fits into your lifestyle, and turnover is very expensive! There are no required certifications to enter the profession except the ones you as an employer might request. This means your potential candidate may be a great organizer or chef, but they may be completely ignorant when it comes to actual Household Management.
Starkey only places those who have been Starkey educated because our Graduates stand out from the crowd. They understand appropriate etiquette and household protocols. They take privacy seriously, and they have the knowledge of best practices and management tools specifically for homes. Our graduates understand various lifestyles, beliefs, and attitudes and have creditable knowledge when it comes to performing tasks. Service is a very unique relationship. How does a client really know what their candidate will bring to the table?
Our industry is growing and needs more trained professionals.
Browse our course offerings to send your current Household Manager for Starkey training.