Even Waiters Are Training For The Olympic Games At The Course Des Cafés

How fast could you cover an urban maze of a race course carrying a tray of Parisian treats?

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It’s not just the athletes who are out training hard for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games.

Paris, known for being the ‘city of love’ and top-notch cuisine, witnessed a revival of a century-old tradition this past Sunday. The streets of the French capital were transformed into a battleground for waiters, clad in their iconic black and white attire, competing in the Course des Cafés.

Dating back to 1914, the Course des Cafés, or ‘coffee race,’ was designed to challenge the skill and speed of Parisian waitstaff. After a 12-year hiatus due to financial constraints, the event returned just in time to help Paris’ best prepare for the surge of tourists expected for the Olympic Games.

Even Waiters Are Training For The Olympic Games At The Course Des Cafés 1
Photo Credit: Joshua Berlinger

So, how does the race work? Waitstaff must cover a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) route through the heart of Paris, which covers the tight, bustling roads of the Le Marais district. 

Armed with a tray filled with quintessential French fare—a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and a freshly baked croissant—servers embark on a mission, aiming to reach the finish line first and unscathed.

This year, over 200 waiters, the ‘crème de la crème’ of the city’s cafés, took to the cobblestone road, showing off their speed and ability to balance delicacies while tackling the urban maze. 

But this is no ordinary race. The rules are stringent—any spillage or alteration to the tray’s composition would impact the waiters’ final score. As the Paris city government also humorously pointed out, indulging in the delectable tray was, of course, against the rules.

The revival of the Course des Cafés served a dual purpose. 

Not only did it pay homage to Paris’ rich culinary heritage, but it also aimed to promote sport and uphold the renowned excellence of French service, especially with the impending arrival of the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Even Waiters Are Training For The Olympic Games At The Course Des Cafés 2
Photo Credit: Joshua Berlinger

City officials, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Deputy Mayor Dan Lert, were on-site as spectators, highlighting the significance of Paris’ food culture and waitstaff.

As the race reached its peak, Pauline Van Wymeersch and Samy Lamrous emerged victorious, crowned as the fastest woman and man, respectively. 

Their prize? Tickets to the Olympic opening ceremony.

With the Olympic Games coming to Paris this summer, there is no doubt these waiters will be ready to take on the influx of tourists and athletes with Olympic-level speed.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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