— Published 10 May 2023

In Paris 2024, stars on the plates

Tony Estanguet, its president, has been repeating it without tiring for more than five years: the Paris 2024 OCOG wants to “move the lines“. More down to earth, it will also have to fill the plates. With Sodexo Live! at the helm and in the kitchen, a regular at the great international sporting events.

The French company, a subsidiary of the Sodexo group, joined the OCOG’s national partners last year. At the bottom of the pyramid, in the category of official supporters. A modest rank, but a huge challenge: feeding the 15,000 athletes and staff housed in the Olympic Village, while respecting environmental requirements and the tradition of French gastronomy. Quantity, but without sacrificing quality. Not an easy task.

The figures tell us a lot about the scale of the task: 40,000 meals, snacks and snacks will be served daily, at all hours of the day and night; 6,000 Sodexo Live! employees will be mobilized, including 1,000 in the athletes’ village and 15% who are unemployed or come from priority areas; 80% of the products will be French, a quarter of which will come from less than 250 kilometers from each site.

In total, no fewer than 500 recipes will be developed by Sodexo Live! teams between now and the end of 2023. For the occasion, the group has recruited three renowned chefs, Akrame Benallal, Amandine Chaignot and Alexandre Mazzia (photo above).

With less than 500 days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, they presented a preview of their creations to the media on Tuesday 9 May: a chicken with crayfish accompanied by potato gnocchi and chicken sauce for Amandine Chaignot; a herbaceous chickpea pomade with peas and smoked fish milk for Alexandre Mazzia; and a “mueslinoa”, a crunchy quinoa muesli for Akrame Benallal Classroom.

In the athletes’ village, a main hall with 3,500 seats will be set up in the nave of the Cité du cinéma. The menu promises to be very universal, with Asian, French, hallal and world cuisine.

Six other food outlets will be spread throughout the village. Called “grab & go”, they will offer food to go. A space of more than 500 m2, located on Ile-Saint-Denis between the bus station and the entrance to the main restaurant, promises to be more gastronomic. A team of bakers will make the French baguette on site.

As a bonus, 14 Olympic and 8 Paralympic venues will also be supplied by Sodexo Live!

Bad news for the most delicate palates: the project for a floating gastronomic restaurant, “Le Paquebot”, installed on a barge moored opposite the village, has been shelved. It was to serve 400 meals a day, with reservations. The IOC found the idea appealing, but it did not fit in with the functioning of an Olympic village. It would have created frustration, according to the Olympic body.

But don’t worry, weariness and monotony shouldn’t be a problem for competitors. The OCOG and Sodexo Live! consulted with more than 200 athletes from around the world for over a year to assess their needs and expectations. Among them, Olympic medallist in the 470 at the Rio 2016 Games and nutritionist by profession, Hélène Defrance. “There is no precise menu, you have to adapt to each person’s habits,” she explained to the media. “Some people have a very fine diet, others eat less balanced and need pizza and pasta.”

A detail that has become almost superfluous: the Paris 2024 OCOG and its official supporter are keeping an eye on the carbon footprint. A battery of water fountains will be installed throughout the village and venues to reduce the use of plastic. Kitchen equipment, including ovens and planchas, but also plates and cutlery, will be reused after the Games. The stated aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of the meals by half.