Race Salutes Paris' Famed Waiters

Apparently by making them walk a mile and a quarter carrying coffee, water, croissant
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 25, 2024 1:08 PM CDT
Race Honors Paris' Celebrated Waiters
Waiters carry trays with a cup of coffee, a croissant, and a glass of water as they take part in a waiters run through the streets of Paris on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Usain Bolt's sprint world records were never in danger. Then again, even the world's fastest human likely wouldn't have been so quick while balancing a tray with a croissant, a coffee cup, and a glass of water through the streets of Paris without spilling it everywhere. France's capital resurrected a 110-year-old race for its waiters and waitresses Sunday, reports the AP. The dash through central Paris celebrated the dexterous and, yes, by their own admission, sometimes famously moody men and women without whom France wouldn't be France.

So drum roll, please, for Pauline Van Wymeersch and Samy Lamrous—Paris' newly crowned fastest waitress and waiter and, as such, ambassadors for an essential French profession. And one that has a big job ahead: taking the food orders and quenching the thirsts of millions of visitors who will flock to the Paris Olympics this July. The resurrection of the waitering race after a 13-year hiatus is part of Paris' efforts to bask in the Olympic spotlight and put its best foot forward for its first Summer Games in 100 years. The first waiters race was run in 1914. This time, a few hundred waiters and waitresses dressed up in their uniforms and loaded up their trays with the regulation pastry, small (but empty) coffee cup, and full glass of water for the 1 1/4-mile loop starting and finishing at City Hall.

Van Wymeersch, the runaway winner in the women's category with a time of 14 minutes, 12 seconds, started waitering at age 16, is now 34, and said she cannot envisage any other life. "It's in my skin. I cannot leave it," she says. Van Wymeersch works at the Le Petit Pont cafe facing Notre Dame Cathedral. Lamrous, who won the men's race in a time of 13:30, serves at La Contrescarpe in Paris' 5th district. Their prizes were medals, two tickets each for the July 26 Olympic opening ceremony, and a night out at a Paris hotel. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says cafes and restaurants are "really the soul of Paris." "The bistro is where we go to meet people, where we go for our little coffee, our little drink, where we also go to argue, to love," she says. "The cafe and the bistro are life."

(More 2024 Paris Olympics stories.)

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