They were more than 150, this Monday, September 20, 2021, to participate in the march of waiters and waitresses in Calais. The opportunity for the former hotel and restaurant industry, but also the youngest, to show their attachment to this sector deeply marked by the health crisis.
Benjamin, 17, is a little nervous. This final year student in hospitality trades is preparing to compete for the first time in the famous “waiters’ race” in Calais. “I wanted to prove what I was capable of“, explains the young man. His objective: to arrive at the end of the 5 kilometers of course without spilling the contents of his tray – namely, 2 bottles and 3 cups, obviously filled to the brim.”Me, I have a technique: I put everything in the center, my hand flat underneath and I spread my fingers“, shows us the apprentice waiter.
“Show that we are still here”
For this 28th edition, theUMIH du Calaisis (Union of hotel trades and industries), at the origin of the event, wanted to mark the occasion. “Last year the competition was canceled, deplores Marc Lavoisier, one of the organizers. And in November 2020, we lost the founder of the walk, Noël Devey, to the coronavirus.“A succession of bad news, especially since the hotel and catering industry is one of the sectors most affected by the health crisis. According to Marc Lavoisier, the profession has lost 30% of staff in Pas-de-Calais.”This race is to show that we are still here, he adds. We must continue to share our values.“
Jonas Demasmes has been wearing trays for over forty years. Service is his life. Now retired, this former manager of a brewery in Saint-Omer and nine times champion of the waiters’ race in Calais, is competing for the last time. Not without emotion. “What I miss is contact with customers, explains Jonas Demasmes. It’s a difficult job, where you leave your problems behind the door. We work nights, weekends and public holidays.“But at the sight of dozens of high school students gathered for the event, the 60-year-old regains hope.”It makes me happy and excited for the future. The next generation is here!“
“Such a strong demand for employment”
After about forty minutes, it is many young people who cross the finish line. Sometimes by dropping a few drinks. Ten centiliters of overturned is ten minutes of penalties. But for these students from the Lycée Saint-Pierre in Calais, the important thing is to share. “I want to become a waiter, it’s a great job, and today there is such a strong demand for employment», Explains Thibaux, in final year. We offer pleasure to customers who come to the restaurant or bar perhaps once a month. They must be respected.” Crisis ? “A blow to morale, for sure“, adds the high school student. But all say so”We don’t do this for the money!“For most of them, this race is proof that catering is above all a passion.