The Paris waiter: a French profession, tradition & an art

Susan Ross Donohue  05/13/2012There are some things that are so ‘Paris’, they just scream out “HEY, this is Paris!”. Sitting at a café watching the waiters skillfully manage a full house, I wonder how much the character of the city would change if students took over the waiting jobs. It would be a bloody tragedy!

At home in Montréal, waiting tables is a bridge between university and full time employment, but in Paris waiting is a profession. I can’t imagine waiters without the long white aprons, balancing trays and looking so…well…Paris waiter-ish. It’s an art, it’s a tradition that takes plenty of skill, and the French waiter is associated with the city as much as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.

Susan Ross Donohue  05/13/2012I’ve met some pretty nice waiters in my time. Once, while sitting at a table waiting for my husband, the waiter at the small and lovely café gave me a little Eiffel Tower as a keepsake.  He returned a few minutes later with one for my husband “so he won’t be jealous”. (Not jealous of him, but of my husband not having an Eiffel for himself)! How nice is that?

Susan Ross Donohue  05/13/2012

If only we had real cafés in North America! I don’t mean those trendy faux cafés where you can have a $40.00 glass of wine. I mean a true café where neighbors meet, maybe play some chess or just pass the time of day. It’s all so civilized!

Have you heard of the Course des Garçons de Café, The Waiters Race?

This event initially began in the early 20th century to recognize the importance of the waiting profession. Waiters, in proper waiting attire, carrying a tray of glasses, rush to the finish line without breaking a glass or spilling a drink. I believe the rules have relaxed somewhat because I now notice sneakers in the more recent photos. This popular race has spread worldwide and many cities now hold their own Waiters Race, but let’s face it, the real waiters are in Paris!

Susan Ross Donohue  05/13/2012

Image Credits:
1. & 2. Taken by Joe Donohue
3. ‘The Paris waiters inspire me’ Oil Pastel by Susan Ross Donohue
4. Course des garçons de café 2011, Anne Thomes, Marie de Paris

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Susan Ross Donohue

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