The pinnacle of culinary excellence is arguably a meal prepared at the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. This institution is to food what Juilliard is to music. The world’s greatest chefs come here to learn their profession. Meals are prepared and served in one of several restaurants open to the public. Food presentation is much like the unveiling of a masterpiece or the premier of a magnificent symphony. Every morsel is a carnival for taste buds. Sight, sound, smell, and taste have all been put on steroids for the customer experience.

My wife and I were privileged for have lunch at the CIA in late June with friends who lived nearby. Our waiter was serving us the day before her graduation and move to Philadelphia to work at the Four Seasons restaurant. One of our party ordered lamb chops. Our waiter smiled and said with authority and warmth, “Our chef recommends the lamb chops be served medium rare.” Then, she added a magical question:

“Do you have a different opinion?”

When Horst Schultz, the founder and president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, spoke the title of this blog post— “elegance without warmth is arrogance”—his intent was to promote a warm, egalitarian atmosphere in the midst of his hotel properties with obvious elegance, sophistication and class. Walk in the lobby of any Ritz-Carlton and you wonder if you are in the entrance of a great castle. Employees sound like highly refined butlers. Schultz amplified the theme of egalitarianism with the hotel’s mantra, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Dining at the Culinary Institute of America can easily be laced with superiority and authority. Who would dare challenge the opinion of an esteemed chef at this august academic setting?

But, the CIA is eager for its graduates to respect their guest as well as the meal they prepare or serve. That blend creates a patron of culinary arts who raves about the experience as well as the savory banquet. It signals a devotion to a partnership.

What can you do to ramp up the elegance of your customer experience while enhancing customers’ experience of being respected and admired?


Looking for another reason why elegance in your customer service experience is important? Then, see this Sept. 20, 2016, blog post: Why Not Add Elegance?