Optimism in All Its Forms
During the third annual ‘Printemps de l’Optimisme’ held in Paris, I had the pleasure of meeting Thierry Saussez, the founder of this wonderful event bursting alive in positivity and seeking to cultivate the dynamism of businesses across all sectors.
I wanted to interview him on the importance of optimism in the art of welcoming and in service-based careers.
What is your definition of the French art of welcoming?
The French art of welcoming is about two things that frequently interlace and share in the lineage of the values of optimism.
The first of these corresponds to the concept of sharing: sharing pleasure, joy, happiness. It’s also about putting our zygomatics to work, and by that I mean the reception, the welcome greeting, smiling, and the reflection related to the pleasure of taste buds at the moment of degustation; all this, whether it’s a relatively simple cuisine or an elaborate one.
The second is about respecting others, which begins from possessing a good sense of self-esteem. Because at the heart of it, receiving, sharing, and expressing positive emotions is at once about respecting oneself; that is, drawing from all of one’s personal capacities of relation, conviviality, and capacity for welcoming, and at the same time, about respecting others.
These two functions are infinitely more significant than we would generally think them to be because all the scientific studies show today that they nurture our neurons and lead all the way back to the brain in order to cultivate in us positive emotions that will then set off an entire chain of neurotransmitters and hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins. These are the elements that instill in us the feeling of security, well-being, and shared pleasure.
In addition, this disposition toward others and this art of welcoming are excellent for our health, our morale, and even the image that we give off to others.
Do you think that our art of welcoming is a medium for delivering optimism throughout the world? Is it perceived as such abroad?
Through the image that we project of ourselves and the image that France projects, I think that everything related to the world of cuisine, tableware, and gastronomy (I’m talking here about gastronomy in all its dimensions: fine cuisine, regional cuisine, etc.) very finely balances the slightly noxious image that we also have of being complainers who are never content and who could create some rather negative emotions.
And yet, our image of the country of gastronomy, our terroirs, our winemakers, our countryside, and our restaurants, whose traditions trace very far back in the history of France, are obviously among the strongest and most significant in the world and allow us to neutralize the other traits that might otherwise be judged to be rather negative.
Numerous demonstrations on optimism and positive energy
Do you think that hoteliers, and other related agents in the hotel industry at large, are right to be optimistic?
These days, in order to be a craftsman, an entrepreneur, a chef, a restaurant owner, a hotel owner, and any other service-related profession, you need to arm yourself with courage and optimism. Difficulties are a very present reality because the markets never all win ahead of the game and neither do the clients; and because the smallest collective drama can become the origin of delicate weeks where people leave less and where the ambient pessimism is even stronger. This helps to remind us that optimism is not so much made just because everything’s going fine, but instead because there’s a need to cultivate positive energy.
All the agents in the domain of the hotel industry in general know very well that “life is only as beautiful as it is savage.” What that means is that, at heart, they are fully alive to the joy produced by the sense of accomplishment when they overcome difficulties and challenges.
Numerous events, including this colloquium, around the values of optimism
Finally, can we say that French cuisine is completely tied to optimism?
Yes, I think that’s very likely the case. Especially if you add the idea that respect for others begins with self-esteem and that sharing in conviviality nurtures positive emotions, you will sense that you are in a rather rich domain. To this I add a third dimension, which is the value of optimism: the thirst for learning, for discovery, and for curiosity, generating the search for flavors and culinary pleasures (whether this be externally in the culinary domain or in our own personal lives).
We can thus identify three reigning values: curiosity, respect for others, and self-esteem. If one does not have self-esteem, one cannot tap into our full capabilities. And from there, conviviality, shared pleasure, and positive emotions are what take part in the universe of optimism.
I would also add the idea of engagement: within the world of gastronomy and cuisine, there are an overwhelming number of chefs who task themselves with training younger chefs, and especially in the case of helping out those in need, we offer a wonderful example of citizenship and engagement.
Discover Thierry Saussez’s book on Optimism:
For my last question, let’s speak more generally: is optimism a valuable quality in the luxury world?
Yes, absolutely so. Because luxury corresponds to images of France that, in the world, remains a symbol of excellence and refinement.
There are many people who, at one point or other in their lives, make a concession, perhaps to go on a trip they’ve been planning for ages, enjoy fine dining at a place they aren’t able to frequent every day, or for the jewelry of their dreams, and often only for a special occasion.
For the majority of them, living this dream is accessible only once in a while. But when they live it out, they can attain this dimension of luxury and thus appreciate a very positive image of their life and their future. Because it’s about a dream transforming into reality, and that, that’s what’s absolutely incredible.
Look for the ‘Table de l’Optimisme’ at ‘Printemps de l’Optimisme’:
It is THE must-do event for gourmet lovers: playful discoveries along a gourmet path, presentations on innovation, there is something to suit all ranges of tastes and for all talents! Take part in gourmet tours led by Sodexo, Ecole Lenôtre, and the Maison Colom (Friday from 12:30 and 3:30 / Saturday at 11:00, 12:15, 13:30, 15:45, and 17:00) and attend demonstrations and tastings of Parmesan and White Truffle Risotto and Japanese-inspires and grapefruit-infused scallops, courtesy of Ecole Ferrandi Paris and Rungis International Market.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.