How to Throw a Party Fit for a Queen
Canada’s only guilded butler gives us a few tips on entertaining.
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.
So you too can throw a party fit for royalty, McLeod shared a few of his top tips:
Tip #1: Setting the perfect dinner table.
While you’re always going to start with the basics (knife, fork, plate, napkin and water glass), your menu will ultimately dictate your tablescape (and it’s your tablescape’s additional details that will dictate the tone of your party). “For fine dining, the colour of your napkin and something as simple as your chosen fold will dictate the atmosphere you’re creating,” says McLeod. So don’t forget the bread plate and butterknives if you’re planning anything fancy.
Tip #2: Dinner party seating etiquette.
“One of the things that people underestimate is the power of a great guest list,” says McLeod. So know your guests’ personalities and know who you’re sitting beside each other. If someone’s quiet, consider seating them with someone talkative. McLeod also believes heads of tables are a thing of the past: not only are they outdated, but without them conversation flows that much better and the serving staff is more likely to remember to serve the host last.
Tip #3: Adding a touch of luxury.
Colour accents and the perfect lighting will get you a couple bonus points. Something as simple as a lobster boil on the beach will go down in the books if you take the time to bring in some impressive string lights and add a splash of colour to your rollups.