Baguettes but no wine: Athletes to eat gourmet at 2024 Paris Olympics
Some 15,000 athletes will get to feast on fresh baguettes, gourmet dishes and environment-friendly French cuisine — but no wine — when Paris hosts the Olympics next year.
The company tasked with serving 40,000 meals a day at the Olympic Village unveiled Tuesday some of the items on the menu of a sit-down restaurant that plans to serve food created by some of France’s most-renowned chefs.
Bringing a “fun, gourmet and healthy” touch to the plates is key to the job, said Alexandre Mazzia, whose AM restaurant in Marseille earned three Michelin guide stars. He presented a recipe made of crushed chickpeas with herbs and a smoked fish sauce.
Other chefs unveiled dishes that included an elaborate quinoa risotto and a chocolate mousse with raspberries.
“It’s a pride and an honor to be able to show French tradition and skills,” Mazzia told The Associated Press.
French food services company Sodexo was selected to oversee the catering at the athletes’ village and other sites of the Paris Games. The company was assigned the challenge of making the 2024 Olympics an occasion-appropriate opportunity to explore France’s legendary gastronomy.
“France will invite the world to its table,” said Philipp Würz, who is the catering manager for the Olympics organizing committee. Athletes “know they will eat well here. Our goal is to provide them with high quality food.”
The eatery at the Olympic Village, which is meant to be the “biggest restaurant in the world,” is expected to seat 3,500 people.
In addition, athletes will have access to “grab and go” food points, including one dedicated exclusively to French cuisine cooked up by chefs, Sodexo said.
“What I cooked here is poultry, guinea fowl slowly roasted with a nice crayfish jus, very reduced, very intense, with a ‘poulette’ sauce (white sauce), so it’s a kind of creamy, comfort food,” renowned chef Amandine Chaignot, who runs a Paris restaurant, explained.
“I wanted it to be a bit representative of what we do in France so it’s quite ‘gourmand,’” she said.
The Olympic Village also will feature a boulangerie producing French baguettes — recently given U.N. world heritage status — and other breads. Croissants and other pastries will also be available.
One exception will be made to the French way of life, though: No wine, or any form of alcohol, will be offered to Olympians in the village, organizers said. Champagne and liquors will be reserved for reception events.
Stéphane Chicheri, the chef for Sodexo’s venues and sporting events branch, said more than 500 menu items will be available to meet the needs of all sports, special diets, eating habits and religious beliefs.
Another challenge Paris 2024 organizers promised to meet is to make the Games more sustainable and environment-friendly.
In that regard, the main restaurant at the village will use only reusable serving dishes, according to Sodexo.
The company said all meals will be based on seasonal products, and plant-based food will represent one-third of the offerings at the Olympic Village.
All meat, milk products and eggs will be French-produced. Imported items, like bananas and rice, will all be organic or have fair trade certification, Sodexo said.
To avoid waste, goods not consumed will be given to food banks and associations. Food scraps will be turned into compost or used for biogas production, the company said.
Quality and diversity of food is important because athletes need to be reassured that they’ll find what they need to nourish their bodies, said Hélène Defrance, a competitive sailor who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics and now specializes in nutrition.
Still, organizers want the meals to be a convivial moment, in the pure French tradition.
“It’s not only the moment when we really feed our performances and get prepared for competition from a nutritional point of view,” Defrance said. “It’s also a moment when we regenerate and take a break, some time for exchanges, usually a pleasant moment.”
At his gastronomic restaurant in the southern city of Marseille, chef Mazzia is used to greeting many professional athletes, from kayakers and long-distance runners to judo practitioners and French and NBA basketball players.
“They are always surprised and happy with the moment they spent. I think I’ll meet some of them again during the Games, so that’s great,” he said.
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