When is that the Ritz name did not always

When one hears the word “ritzy” the first definition that often comes to mind are grand, luxurious, and expensive. What many do not realize though, is that the Ritz name did not always represent such lavish ideals. The Ritz hotels were named after Cesar Ritz, who was born in 1850 in a small Swiss village. Cesar was the youngest of 13 children in a very poor family and humble home. His hospitality career began at the young age of 15, where he apprenticed as a sommelier in a hotel, but was quickly fired because he did not possess the “special knack, the special flair” that is required to be successful in the hotel business. (Montgomery-Massingberd & Watkin, p.9) He left the hospitality career for a while, but when he returned to Paris during the Franco-Prussian war, he started working as an assistant waiter and worked himself up the ranks: First as a maitre d’hotel, a manager, and then finally as a hotelier at two different restaurants. One of the restaurants was a high-class restaurant titled Restaurant Voisin where he waited on important people and created dishes such as elephant trunk in sauce chasseur, which is a sauce often paired with game meats. (Brigid Allen, ‘Ritz, Cesar Jean). Next, he became a floor waiter at one of the most lavish European establishments in Paris: the Hotel Splendide. (Montgomery-Massingberd, p. 12). Accordingly, working amongst so many wealthy self-establishing Americans had a positive effect on Cesar and helped him acquire knowledge of the hospitality industry and the preferences of highly esteemed people. Once he began to manage the restaurant at the Grand Hotel in Nice, he often migrated with the swell of international tourists: moving to the mountains for summer, and oceanside hotels in the winter. When he managed the Grand Hotel National and the Grand Hotel in Monaco, he quickly gained a reputation for enticing wealthy customers with his elegance and good taste; His hotel soon after became the “most elegant hotel in Europe”: In fact, it is said that he invented “the customer is always right”. In 1887, ten years after managing the most elegant hotel in Europe, he purchased the Hotel de Provence in Cannes and the Restaurant de la Conversation and Minerva Hotel in Baden-Baden. He, alongside Auguste Escoffier, became the first manager and chef of the Savoy Hotel until 1897. The hotels and restaurants were so popular that even aristocratic women were seen, dressed to impress, in the Savoy dining rooms, which was uncommon in the given culture (Ashburner, F.) During the late 1890’s, he owned hotel enterprises all over Europe. Cesar’s wife was once quoted to say, “Cesar’s suitcases were never completely unpacked; he was always either just arriving from or departing upon a new journey.” (Montgomery-Massingberd, p. 22) In 1896, Cesar joined with Alfred Beit, who was a South African millionaire known as the wealthiest man in the world at the time, and opened the Hotel Ritz in the Place Vendome in Paris. Within the next 7 years, he opened 2 more Ritz hotels in London and Madrid.  Ritz eventually retired in 1907 at the age of 57 due to his deteriorating health. He sold his hotels in Frankfurt and Salsomaggiore before retiring from the Ritz Hotel Development Company. He lived at home until 1913, where he was placed in private hospitals until his death in 1918. Though Cesar Ritz truly made something of himself, he returned to his humble beginnings where he is buried in the village of his birth, to be remembered as a “king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings.”

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