#185 C‚sar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier The Hotelier and The Chef

Summary Notes


In "Ritz & Escoffier," Luke Barr chronicles the revolutionary partnership between Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, who transformed the luxury hotel and dining experience at London's Savoy. Ritz, a Swiss hotelier, and Escoffier, a French chef, were both fired from the Savoy amidst allegations of financial improprieties, but they went on to establish their own legacy. Ritz's obsession with perfection led to the creation of the Hotel Ritz in Paris, setting a new standard for elegance and comfort, while Escoffier penned a seminal cookbook that became a professional culinary staple. Their influence extended beyond their lifetimes, with Ritz's name becoming synonymous with luxury and Escoffier's techniques shaping modern cooking. Despite Ritz's tragic end due to a nervous breakdown, their contributions to hospitality endure, encapsulated in the Ritz-Carlton brand and the term 'ritzy'.

Summary Notes

Ritz's Reaction to Dismissal from the Savoy

  • Ritz felt furious, not humiliated, by his dismissal.
  • He believed his actions were for the Savoy's betterment, including signing checks and extending credit.
  • Ritz was confident that those given credit would pay their bills.
  • His independence and involvement in outside projects were agreed upon in his contract.
  • Richard's accusation that Ritz and Escafier behaved like owners, not servants, deeply insulted Ritz.

"Ritz was not humiliated. He was furious. After all he'd done for the Savoy, this was his thanks, to be cast out under a cloud of suspicion and false allegations. It was outrageous."

This quote reflects Ritz's emotional response to his dismissal from the Savoy, feeling unjustly accused and dismissed despite his contributions.

The Power of Books and Linking Ideas

  • Books are seen as the original links, connecting ideas, people, and inspiration.
  • Speaker A was inspired by a sentence about Cesar Ritz in another book.
  • This inspiration led to the discovery of the book "Ritz and Escafier" by Luke Barr.

"This is an example of something, an idea that you and I talk about all the time, which is that books are the original links."

Speaker A emphasizes the importance of books in providing connections and knowledge that can lead to new discoveries.

Cesar Ritz's Background and Business Philosophy

  • Ritz, in his late thirties, was exploring opportunities in London.
  • He already owned hotels and was being recruited for a new project.
  • Ritz understood the transformative impact of express trains on European travel and his hotel business.
  • His meticulous attention to client preferences was a key to his success.
  • Ritz's showmanship and innovative marketing strategies, such as lavish brochures and electric lights, attracted attention.

"The dapper young Swiss hotelier was effortlessly multilingual and never forgot a name or a face."

This quote highlights Ritz's interpersonal skills and attention to detail, which contributed to his reputation in the hospitality industry.

The Importance of Innovation and Customer Experience

  • Richard D'Oyly Carte, who fired Ritz, initially recruited him for his expertise.
  • Ritz's decision to join the Savoy in London changed his life's trajectory.
  • Richard identified a gap in the London hotel market, which had mediocre food and service.
  • Ritz's commitment to quality and understanding of the hotel business set him apart.
  • Ritz and his wife, who was integral to his success, recognized the potential in London for attracting wealthy clientele.

"The fact that he doesn't know what he's getting into. He hasn't the least idea how much work and care, how much imagination and effort go into the proper running of a hotel."

This quote from Ritz reflects his recognition of the effort required to run a successful hotel, a concept he felt Richard did not fully grasp.

Entrepreneurial Emotional Roller Coaster

  • Richard experienced a mix of euphoria and terror in the entrepreneurial journey.
  • He enjoyed the pressure and challenge of putting on a show, despite the risks.
  • The emotional experience of entrepreneurship is likened to a roller coaster, with highs and lows.

"The truth was, Richard enjoyed the pressure, the rush of putting on a show. It was exhilarating so we use the word euphoria."

This quote captures the thrill and panic that entrepreneurs like Richard feel when launching new ventures.

Ritz's Observations of London and the Savoy's Potential

  • London was the largest and richest city at the time, with a population eager for luxury services.
  • The Savoy's grand opening was a critical moment for Richard and Ritz.
  • Innovations like electricity and elevators in hotels were new and frightening to customers.
  • Richard's elimination of extraneous charges at the hotel aimed to improve customer experience.
  • Ritz recognized the importance of London's wealth and the opportunity it presented.

"London was a metropolis of five and a half million people, more than twice the population of Paris, the next biggest city in Europe."

This quote reflects Ritz's impression of London's size and affluence, which influenced his decision to work there and the potential for success.

Early Life and Background of Ritz

  • Ritz was not born into luxury but created his place in a world of privilege against all odds.
  • He came from a small Swiss village and left home at twelve to become a self-made man.
  • Ritz possessed a critical eye for detail and a strong ambition that drove his success.

"Ritz had not been born to this life. Raised in a tiny village, population 123, in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, he was the last of eleven children and had left home at the age of twelve."

The quote emphasizes Ritz's humble beginnings and the significant personal journey he undertook to achieve success in the luxury hotel industry.

Ritz's Critical Eye and Understanding of Luxury

  • Ritz identified the potential of the Savoy Hotel in London but also recognized its shortcomings.
  • He saw issues with the kitchen's organization and service speed, which did not align with his vision for a luxury hotel experience.
  • Ritz believed in the importance of speed and efficiency in business operations, as exemplified by other successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs.

"Rich could see that the kitchen would not live up to Richard's grand ambition for the place. It was not organized properly. Service was slow."

This quote highlights Ritz's ability to spot operational inefficiencies, which he understood would hinder the hotel's success.

Ritz and Escapier's Partnership

  • Ritz's success was partly due to his partnership with the chef Auguste Escoffier.
  • They had a lasting friendship and controlled their respective domains within the hotel business.
  • Both Ritz and Escoffier started their careers with humble beginnings and rose to fame through hard work and innovation.

"Ritz is technically the senior partner, but they both have control of their domains and they have a partnership and a friendship that lasts their entire lives."

The quote illustrates the strong professional relationship and mutual respect between Ritz and Escoffier, which contributed to their success.

Escoffier's Culinary Innovations

  • Escoffier was known for his creativity in the kitchen, inventing new dishes and reimagining classics.
  • He authored a famous culinary book that is still in use over a century later, emphasizing the importance of understanding and building upon fundamentals.

"Escapier had dazzled guests with his cooking, inventing new dishes and finding new ways of presenting classics."

This quote shows Escoffier's impact on the culinary world and his role in the success of their luxury hotels.

Ritz's Observations and Advice

  • Ritz, while consulting for the Savoy, identified flaws but offered advice politely without overstepping his role.
  • He had the insight to know what needed fixing but was careful not to antagonize existing staff or management.

"He was not there to direct and organize the staff, but to offer advice, which he did politely."

The quote reveals Ritz's tactful approach to consulting, balancing his critical insights with respect for the existing hotel staff.

Ritz's Ambitions and Independence

  • Ritz valued his independence and was reluctant to give it up after becoming a hotel owner himself.
  • He turned down a job offer at the Savoy because he did not want to lose the autonomy he had worked hard to achieve.

"Ritz had spent years working for others and was now finally a hotel owner himself."

This quote underscores Ritz's desire for entrepreneurial independence and control over his own ventures.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Insecurities

  • Despite his success, Ritz experienced insecurities and imposter syndrome, particularly regarding his peasant background and lack of formal education.
  • He learned from observing his customers and emulated their behavior to elevate his social standing.

"Rich was proud. He was also full of what Marie, that's his wife, thought were silly insecurities about his peasant family background and about his lack of education."

The quote highlights the internal struggles Ritz faced, even as he achieved great success, and how his wife played a supportive role.

Encouragement vs. Discouragement

  • Ritz and other successful individuals often faced discouragement from others who doubted their potential.
  • The narrative emphasizes the importance of betting on oneself and not being swayed by the negative opinions of others.

"When people tell you that you can't do something, what they're really saying is, they can't do it."

This quote reflects the speaker's belief in the power of self-belief and perseverance in the face of skepticism from others.

Ritz and Escoffier's Complementary Skills

  • Ritz and Escoffier had different temperaments but shared a common background and work ethic.
  • Their partnership was a blend of Ritz's outgoing, ambitious nature and Escoffier's methodical, precise approach to cooking.

"Ritz was outgoing, debonaire and excitable. Why? Escapier was cerebral and methodical."

The quote contrasts the personalities of Ritz and Escoffier, showing how their differences complemented each other and led to a successful collaboration.

Escoffier's Kitchen Reforms

  • Escoffier revolutionized the kitchen environment by implementing order and discipline, which was a stark contrast to the chaotic kitchens of the past.
  • His reforms required a high level of self-confidence to challenge and change longstanding practices.

"Escapier had been working in kitchen since he was 13 and had always despised the uncivilized cacophony and abuse they seemed to foster."

This quote provides insight into Escoffier's motivations for reorganizing the kitchen, aiming to create a more civilized and efficient work environment.

Ascafia's Talent and Ethos for Professional Kitchens

  • Ascafia was uneducated but discovered a talent for cooking, which he approached as both science and art.
  • Over the past decade, Ascafia reorganized restaurant kitchens to his exacting specifications, modernizing division of labor and specialization.
  • Ascafia established a new professional kitchen ethos based on respect for chefs, ingredients, and the artistry of cooking.
  • He aimed to change the kitchen environment from the traditional European model, focusing on calm, cooperation, and serenity.

"Ascafia was not an educated man, but he had quickly discovered that he had a real talent for cooking, which he saw as both a science and an art."

This quote highlights Ascafia's natural aptitude for cooking despite his lack of formal education, emphasizing the importance of talent and passion over traditional schooling in certain professions.

"He had instituted a rational, modern division of labor and a level of specialization that went far beyond."

Ascafia revolutionized kitchen operations by implementing a systematic approach to work distribution and specialization, which was a significant departure from the traditional kitchen setup.

"This is how. And so he talks about he's changed. This is a punchline that he had changed."

Speaker A reflects on the transformative impact Ascafia had on kitchen culture by introducing a new standard of conduct and organization, underlining the pivotal role of change agents in any industry.

"The rush hour in kitchen is not a time for a rush of words. Slow, methodical, calm and quiet is how he does his work."

Ascafia's philosophy for kitchen management during busy periods emphasizes the need for a composed and systematic approach rather than chaos and noise, suggesting that a calm environment leads to better performance and results.

Ascafia's Standards for Cleanliness and Professionalism

  • Ascafia emphasized the importance of cleanliness and professional appearance for his kitchen staff.
  • He required chefs to wear perfectly white uniforms at the start of each day and to change into proper attire when leaving the restaurant.
  • Ascafia banned vulgar language, shouting, and alcohol consumption in the kitchen, breaking from long-standing traditions.
  • He felt a protective sense of responsibility for his staff, whom he viewed as his people.

"I want all your uniforms to be perfectly white at the beginning of each day."

Ascafia's insistence on pristine uniforms symbolizes his commitment to professionalism and sets a standard for how his staff should regard their roles and the kitchen environment.

"We are professionals. We will present ourselves professionally."

This quote encapsulates Ascafia's belief in the professionalism of chefs, asserting that their outward appearance should reflect their competence and the respect they have for their craft.

Bill Walsh's Philosophy and Its Parallel to Ascafia's Approach

  • Bill Walsh, featured in a podcast episode, believed in acting like champions before becoming champions, focusing on doing the little things right.
  • Walsh's ethos, detailed in "The Score Takes Care of Itself," influenced many modern entrepreneurs and emphasized fundamentals and attention to detail.
  • Ascafia's approach to kitchen management and staff conduct mirrors Walsh's philosophy, highlighting the universal applicability of these principles across different fields.

"Bill Walsh, I think it was what, founders number episode 106, something like that. It's the score takes care of itself."

Speaker A recalls the episode where Bill Walsh's principles were discussed, drawing a parallel between Walsh's philosophy and Ascafia's methods, indicating the importance of consistent, quality actions in achieving success.

"Champions act like champions before they're champions, and that if you do the little things right, the score will take care of itself."

This quote explains Walsh's belief that success is a result of consistent attention to detail and proper conduct, even before actual achievements are made, a concept that Ascafia also embodied in his kitchen reforms.

Escafier's Simplification of Cuisine and Systematic Record Keeping

  • Escafier simplified his food, reducing unnecessary ornamentation, inedible decorations, and excessive sauces.
  • He believed in the principle of simplicity and applied this to his culinary creations.
  • Escafier also implemented systematic record-keeping organized by customer name, enabling personalized and perfect meals for regular guests.
  • His artistic background influenced his approach to cooking, as he initially aspired to be a sculptor before being forced into the culinary profession.

"Above all, make it simple."

Escafier's motto reflects his dedication to simplicity in cooking, suggesting that complexity does not equate to quality and that there is elegance in simplicity.

"Bloom where you are planted."

Speaker A uses this phrase to summarize Escafier's career trajectory, indicating that despite his initial reluctance to enter the culinary field, he excelled by applying his artistic sensibilities to his work.

The Importance of Quickness and Efficiency

  • Ritz emphasized the importance of quickness to his staff, aligning with Jeff Bezos's idea that being slow is expensive.
  • The history of entrepreneurship shows a consistent focus on efficiency and the avoidance of unnecessary complexity.

"This is Ritz. And the note of myself as being slow is expensive, for sure."

Speaker A references Ritz's focus on speed and efficiency, aligning with the broader entrepreneurial principle that time is a valuable resource and should not be wasted.

The Downfall of Partnership Over Petty Disputes

  • Richard's partnership with his comic opera creators ended over a trivial dispute about who should pay for a new carpet.
  • This incident is a cautionary tale about how small grievances can escalate and damage professional relationships and reputations.

"Gilbert went to court to sue Richard, who would not bend on the question of expenses of the carpet."

This quote illustrates how a minor disagreement over financial responsibilities led to a legal battle, highlighting the potential for small issues to cause significant rifts in partnerships.

Ritz's Overwhelming Schedule and Desire for Independence

  • Ritz managed a demanding schedule, running multiple hotels and restaurants across different countries.
  • Despite his success and happiness, Ritz felt overworked and contemplated selling his smaller hotels to focus on larger projects.
  • Ritz struggled with imposter syndrome due to his lack of formal education and felt insecure about his background.
  • He aimed to maintain his independence and not be solely an employee, aspiring to own hotels in major cities.

"Ritz had never been happier. He had also never been more frantic. He was managing three hotels, two restaurants, and three countries."

This quote captures the dichotomy of Ritz's situation, where his career success brought both joy and overwhelming stress due to the extensive responsibilities he shouldered.

"Thank God he will have small hands. He said to Marie. He has inherited his hands from you, not me. He will not suffer as I have because of peasant hands."

Ritz's concern over his son's physical traits reflects his own insecurities about his humble origins and the fear that they could impact his son's future, illustrating the personal challenges he faced despite his professional accomplishments.

Ritz's Ambition and Expansion Leading to His Firing

  • Ritz's ambition and independence led to tension with the Savoy's board of directors.
  • His involvement in kickbacks and under-deliveries with suppliers ultimately resulted in his dismissal from the Savoy.
  • Despite this setback, Ritz's drive to own his hotels and expand his brand was undeterred.

"Ritz's outsized ambition, his insistence on his independence, was always bound to cause trouble, blurring the line between loyalty and self-interest."

This quote underscores the conflict between Ritz's personal goals and his obligations to his employer, foreshadowing the eventual clash that would lead to his departure from the Savoy.

Anonymous Note and Corruption at the Savoy

  • Richard's wife, Helen, receives an anonymous note exposing corruption at the Savoy Hotel.
  • The note accuses Escoffier of taking kickbacks on food orders.
  • Ritz is unaware of the private investigation and audit by the Savoy board of directors.

"The most damning charge in the entire letter was that Escoffier was taking kickbacks on all the food orders coming into the Savoy."

The quote highlights the gravity of the accusation against Escoffier and its potential impact on his and Ritz's careers.

Ritz's Ambition and Hotel Plans

  • Ritz plans to build luxury hotels, including the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
  • His dream is to open a hotel in Paris, starting as a waiter and aspiring to create a luxury accommodation.
  • Ritz debates the audacity of naming the hotel after himself.

"The very idea of a hotel called Ritz filled him with pride and trepidation to bring such attention to himself."

This quote captures Ritz's mixed emotions about using his own name for the hotel, reflecting both pride and self-consciousness.

Escoffier's Culinary Ambitions

  • Escoffier plans to write a cookbook, which would influence chefs for a century.
  • He organizes his recipes systematically for the book.
  • The cookbook is intended as a professional tool and a memoir.

"Every one of his culinary inventions stood upon the foundations of his training."

The quote emphasizes the importance of foundational skills and respect for the past in Escoffier's approach to innovation and his cookbook.

Financial Misconduct Revealed

  • The audit at the Savoy reveals kickbacks and under-deliveries.
  • Ritz's entertaining of financial backers is seen as egregious by Richard.
  • Escoffier and Ritz are dismissed from the Savoy.

"You have been dismissed from the service of the hotel for, among other serious reasons, gross negligence and breaches of duty and mismanagement."

This quote is the formal notice of dismissal, which marks a pivotal moment in Ritz and Escoffier's careers, leading to their departure from the Savoy.

Ritz's Customer Relationship Philosophy

  • Ritz believes in controlling the relationship with customers directly.
  • The Prince of Wales cancels his engagement with the Savoy in favor of Ritz.
  • Ritz's name becomes synonymous with quality in hospitality.

"Where Ritz goes, I go."

This quote from the Prince of Wales serves as a powerful endorsement and illustrates the value of personal branding and customer loyalty.

The Design of Hotel Ritz

  • Ritz envisions the Hotel Ritz as a luxurious home.
  • Attention to detail is paramount, with a focus on guest comfort and aesthetics.
  • Ritz is a perfectionist, ensuring every aspect of the hotel is superlative.

"Ritz was a perfectionist and determined that every detail be just right."

This quote underscores Ritz's meticulous nature and his commitment to excellence in the creation of the Hotel Ritz.

Escoffier's Cookbook and Philosophy

  • Escoffier's cookbook is designed as a practical tool for chefs.
  • The book is a reflection of his culinary philosophy and a testament to his career.
  • Escoffier's approach combines innovation with respect for tradition.

"It would contain his recipes, but also encompass his philosophy of cooking."

The quote conveys the dual purpose of Escoffier's cookbook, serving as both a recipe collection and a statement of his culinary beliefs.

Ritz's Obsession and Mental Health

  • Ritz's dedication to perfection takes a toll on his mental health.
  • He experiences self-doubt and melancholy despite his accomplishments.
  • Ritz suffers a nervous breakdown and never fully recovers.

"Ritz receded into a twilight of melancholy, brought low at age 53 by mental illness and exhaustion."

This quote describes the tragic decline in Ritz's mental health, highlighting the potential cost of extreme perfectionism and stress.

The Legacy of Ritz and Escoffier

  • The Ritz and Escoffier partnership revolutionizes luxury hospitality.
  • Their influence extends beyond their lifetimes, with Ritz's name entering the lexicon.
  • The Ritz Carlton brand emerges as a symbol of luxury.

"Ritz would have been amused and astounded to hear the title of the new Fitzgerald story published in 1922. A diamond as big as the Ritz."

This quote reflects on the enduring legacy of Ritz's name and its association with opulence, as recognized in popular culture.

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