It’s funny how closely related food and relationships are and how important good relationships are in business and life. But a recent visit to the World of Whirlpool (WOW) in Chicago really brought these connections home.

WOW, is an “immersive appliance showcase” for educating potential buyers about Whirlpool products. What led us to this “discovery-based experience center” was an invite to see the new JennAir appliances. Whirlpool supplies Tridel’s fridges, ranges, icemakers and other appliances, so this was a learning opportunity we jumped at.

Tridel has always held that a home is more than bricks and mortar. Eating out may be common, and kitchens may be getting smaller but they’re still the heart of a home. Even if our lifestyles aren’t “picture perfect” and not everyone is a social media foodie, baking bread, cooking and enjoying a nice meal with friends and loved ones are enduring rituals that bring us together.

The kitchen—made modern and current—is here to stay. And so are good relationships with our business partners. Tridel regards its suppliers as key relationships. They’re trusted stakeholders, and we work hard at engaging with them. We know our buyers interact more with their appliances than anything else in their homes; that’s one of the reasons that we really value our relationship with Whirlpool. So there’s a nice circle here that unites food, kitchens, appliances, relationships and deep beliefs about how to treat our suppliers and customers.

I’ve served the appetizer (an intro to WOW) and the main course (strong stakeholder relationships mean the world to Tridel) Now, it’s time for a tasty dessert: a little about the new JennAir appliances, i.e., Whirlpool’s “pinnacle” offering, as JennAir marketing director Jon Hall, says.

First, a bit of history. Lou Jenn (after whom JennAir is named) was an airflow engineer who wanted to bring outdoor cooking inside. In the early ’60s, he designed a system that channeled cooking smoke, fumes and grease down, eliminating the need for a ventilation system at eye level and resulting in a clean look customers loved. As a co-benefit, the new approach also made the much-prized open floor plan concept possible.

Fast forward to today and JennAir has captured that innovative spirit in its two new kitchen appliance lines: NOIR and RISE. (For Tridel, a welcome surprise was the launch of 15”, 24” and 30” appliances that will fit perfectly in city-size suites.)

Drawing on deep research with its target luxury market, a desire to drive progress in appliances for modern luxury customers, and the “rebelliousness” of its founder, JennAir has reimagined its designs, putting an emphasis on individuality and personalization. Though the target demographic may be 35–55, their common denominator is a passion for culinary experiences and a rejection of “vanilla” alternatives. Called “discerning indulgers,” they seek high-end appliances that feature more modern, contemporary styling with fully integrated digital technology. What they get is craftsmanship, customization and connectivity (WiFi).

Smart technology provides a whole new cooking experience. The heart of a home will always be the kitchen, but new digital options and striking designs promise to make it more modern and current.

The lines’ embedded smart technology allow purchasers to manage their fridge food inventory; control functions and settings through an app; get recipes and cooking directions, as well as access a call centre if problems arise. Integration with other smart home technology means that if the oven heats up the kitchen, the thermostat adjusts automatically.

I could tell you more about JennAir’s marketing, which presents a high-energy story about “edgy” new products that challenge conventional ideas about luxury. But you can probably get a better feel from reading an article in Forbes and/or watching the ad on YouTube. You can also learn about the options for small space needs we found so appealing.

As for me, one takeaway from the World of Whirlpool experience was that I wanted to spend more time in my own kitchen cooking and entertaining—which means that the experience clicked. So, to our hosts, I say thank you for a rewarding opportunity to learn about your new appliances and to envision them helping our buyers create the heart of their homes.

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