We’ve all seen the cliché depicted in movies and TV, even in cartoons. The snooty, often surly, French waiter who questions the patrons, makes jokes that fly over customers’ heads, or deny requests for well done steak and oat milk lattes in favor of traditional dishes. But, like in many areas, being a waiter in Paris is a thriving profession and one that many “garçons” take very seriously. In an effort to highlight this job a tradition was started back in 1914 that pitted the waiters of Paris against each other in a race – tray in hand.

Paris Waiter 1904
Via: Wiki Commons/Rijksmuseum

The La Course des Cafés is 1 1/4 miles long and contestants are not allowed to run. Rather they must convey a tray with some water, a cup of coffee, and the biggest symbol of France -a croissant- from the starting line to the finish line near City Hall. And, they must be in uniform. Under current rules both men and women can participate. This year there was a mens race winner, Samy Lamrous, and women’s race winner, Pauline Van Wymeersch.

Judges waiting at the finish line check to see if the trays are intact. If even a drop is spilled then the contestant is disqualified.

2024 Paris La Course des Cafes
The 2024 race. Via: Wiki Commons/FreCha

The race was not run between 2012 and 2023, but was revived ahead of the summer Olympics to be held in Paris in 2024. The 1949 race (seen below) shows the winner completing the course in 12 minutes- a minute and 30 seconds faster than the 2024 mens champion.

Watch the 1949 La Course des Cafés in this short video.

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