Robert Wennekes - Founder & CEO
Mr. (Prof.) Wennekes (1958) began working as a butler for an American billionaire in his early twenties. Later he moved to Austria and became the head butler for one of the country's most prominent families. His final position as executive head butler was at the American Embassy in Germany where he received an official framed certificate from the US White House for "Outstanding Service." In 1999, he established The International Butler Academy. Despite his official retirement in 2019, Mr. Wennekes remains actively involved in overseeing TIBA's international development and, as a part-time trainer, continues to share his extensive knowledge with students of The International Butler Academy.
Niels Deijkers - Managing Director
Of course Niels Deijkers is a graduate of The International Butler Academy. Of course he graduated at the top of his class (with one of the highest scores ever.) Of course, he knows what every student is going through. Mr. Deijkers is responsible for our students' well-being and is a leading example of what it means to be a true professional. He leads The Academy with a strong but fair hand. For the Academy, Mr. Deijkers is an outstanding manager. For the students, he is an excellent trainer, a reliable counselor, and someone they can trust and rely on.
Karen Xiao - International Training Director
Ms. Karen Xiao graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Sichuan University and a master’s degree in international management from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. She graduated from The International Butler Academy in 2016. Subsequently, she was offered and accepted a position with our Academy as Training Director at The International Butler Academy in Chengdu, China. Today Ms. Xiao is responsible for The International Butler Academy's international training assignments at our school in The Netherlands, where she also teaches event management.
Benjamin Umansky - Executive Head Chef
Benjamin Umansky is the Academy's Executive Chef. He brings a wealth of experience from the world of fine dining. Coming from the United States, he is a culinary enthusiast dedicated to elevating the culinary knowledge of our students. His expertise lies in crafting delectable dishes and imparting valuable insights into the intricacies of modern culinary arts. With a passion for excellence, Mr. Umansky actively engages with students and staff, sharing his culinary journey and fostering a dynamic learning environment. He instills essential skills and knowledge in practical kitchen sessions and theoretical lessons.
Tamar Kersemaekers - Assistant Executive Head Chef
Ms. Kersemaekers is a chef, culinary trainer, and business owner. She cooks for the students and staff and loves to share her experience and passion for the culinary industry. She imparts basic but essential knowledge of modern foods. These preferences can be based on medical or religious requirements and other dietary food trends. Ms. Kersemaekers provides active masterclasses in the professional Butler Academy kitchen as well as some theory lessons in the classroom.
Melchior van der Meulen - Corporate Director
Melchior van der Meulen is a highly experienced butler, gentleman's Gentleman, and valet with more than 25 years of experience in the private service profession. He knows his business like no other. At The International Butler Academy, Mr. Van der Meulen is responsible for teaching butling plus valeting in its many varied facets. Because of his tremendous experience, Mr. van der Meulen uses real-life settings in his hands-on training, something the students value tremendously.
Gordon Munro - Education Director
Mr. Munro is a trained private butler, and a 15-year experienced golf club manager. His real passion, however, is the theater, and it is this passion that links him to our Academy. As a trainer, Mr. Munro is specialized in training body language and expression, butler etiquette and protocol, rhythm, speech, and service situations. Through drama classes and body language training, he brings the students a wealth of knowledge about posture, decorum, style, and grace, all pillars of the private service profession.
Zoey Zhao - Finance Director
Ms. Zhao is originally from China, where she has been working for The International Butler Academy in the beautiful city of Chengdu (Sichuan Province) since 2016. In China, her responsibilities included training operation manager and chief translator. Zoey Zhao moved to TIBA The Netherlands in early 2021 to become our Finance Director. Because of her love for training (and for our students), she has become an important part of the training staff. She enjoys teaching our students about Chinese culture and customs, including Chinese tea service.
Olaf Eman - Hospitality Operations Director
Mr. Eman is responsible for a creative and proven training system within private properties, hotels, cruise ships, and private yachts. He is passionate about role-play training and group assignments as training and education tools to inspire people to be aware of the changes and transformations within the service industry. Mr. Eman studied Hotel Management in Germany and The Netherlands and graduated with Distinction from The International Butler Academy. He has sailed worldwide with various River Cruise Yachts and ocean Cruise vessels.
Anoesjka Imambaks - Recruitment Director
Ms.Imambaks is responsible for recruitment and the Academy's International Internship programs. She finds it very satisfying to assist TIBA graduates in securing a rewarding position. Ms. Imambaks works closely with the graduates once they are finished at TIBA. She also teaches housekeeping and cleaning, cleaning techniques, using (eco-) cleaning products, cleaning tools, cleaning schedules, and safe and healthy work methods. These are some of the essential parts of managing large households.
Peter Steijvers - Art & Culture Trainer
Guest trainer Mr. Peter Steijvers graduated from the Conservatorium of Maastricht in 1977. He became the lead trainer for Oboe at the Conservatorium Maastricht. After a teaching career of over 30 years, Mr. Steijvers became Chair of various Committees and Head of the Chamber Music Department. Mr. Steijvers' life has been one wholly dedicated to Art & Culture, specifically music in all its forms. He teaches students the importance of Art & Culture in daily life, with theory in the morning and a fun-filled cultural afternoon in Maastricht.
Christianne Rousseau - Interior Designer
Guest trainer Ms. Christianne Rousseau has for the past 13 years specialized in high-end fabrics, interior design, and styling. She works with the most beautiful materials and combines them into stunning designs for private customers and luxury hotels at her Maastricht studio. Ms. Rousseau calls herself more of an Atmosphere Creator than an Interior Designer. A house requires a good atmosphere because that's exactly what a home needs. Ms. Rousseau is very passionate about her work and is always thrilled to share her passion with our students.
Ron Pieters - Cheese & Wine Master
Guest trainer Mr. Ron Pieters speaks about cheese tasting very much like a sommelier speaks of wine tasting. He says it is very similar. Mr. Pieters explains that when you taste cheese, you use your eyes, nose, and mouth. He has great knowledge about cheese (and wine!), but it is his fun personality and down-to-earth philosophy that our students appreciate most of all. They simply adore him. They spend one full evening with him. Mr. Pieters' cheese tasting is all about experimenting and learning. And learning about cheese and wine, you will. He has been a TIBA trainer for more than 15 years.
Mirjam Ackermans and Myriam Nelissen
Mirjam Ackermans and Myriam Nelissen are professional and licensed sports instructors and personal trainers. The two young ladies spend a few hours each week with the students in our in-house gymnasium, teaching them about the importance and the dos and don'ts of fitness and, of course, also exercising with them. The two ladies are firm believers, as are we, that a healthy body will give a healthy mind. Interested students may use our gymnasium's professional equipment as much as they want while staying with us.
Herman van der Meij - Diageo Ambassador
Guest trainer Mr. Herman van der Meij is a Prestige & Scotch Brand Ambassador at Diageo Benelux, the most prominent spirits producer in the world and owner of brands like Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Gordon's, Baileys, and Tanqueray. In 2013 the Scotch whisky industry awarded him with the title " Keeper of the Quaich" which is a prestigious title for those who made outstanding contributions to the promotion of Scotch whisky. Mr. van der Meij has spent over 35 years working as a whisky connoisseur and collector in the spirits business.