Meet the top French chefs devising meatless menus in a ‘major turnaround’

With France gradually easing from its reliance on meat, the most renowned chefs who will be serving the athletes during 2024’s Olympic Games are emphasizing a more vegetarian diet.

Michelin-starred chef at restaurants Akrame Benallal, a Michelin-starred chef, offers many burgers, steaks, and other meats in his establishments. Still, his signature menu for the Games is muesli topped with Quinoa.

“When you’re eating 40,000 calories served every day I want no one to be disappointed. I want those who eat kosher with me, those who eat halal, Christians and Buddhists as well,” he says.

“It’s vegetables that unite everyone,” he says.

Akrame Benallal is one of the chefs leading the focus on vegetarian food during the Olympic Games in Paris next summer. Photo: AFP

He is among three chefs who have won awards overseeing the French food preparation for the 15,000 athletes in the Olympic Village this summer.


Another one is Alexandre Mazzia, a former professional basketball player who has recipes on chickpeas, peas, smoking beetroot, and smoking fish using Chard.

In the past, there have been no well-known French dishes that don’t incorporate meat.

Food historian Loic Bienassis


The chefs work with a large food company, Sodexo Live!, which runs the restaurants. It has set out as a primary goal to reduce the environmental footprint of its menu and also use less animal proteins.

It says that a third of proteins in the 500 dishes will come from vegetables. One of its most popular meals will consist of daal made of green legumes that originate from the Paris region, accompanied by skyr (a kind of yogurt) along with coriander and corn oil.

French consumers consume, on average, an average of 113kg (250 pounds) of meat each year, which is higher than many European countries and nearly more than the global average, as per Our World in Data.

Alexandre Mazzia will be focusing on chickpeas, peas, and smoke-smoked beetroot in some of his dishes during the Games. Photo: AFP

However, as the country is determined to cut down on its consumption of meat for reasons related to the environment, The Olympics could prove to be the beginning of a new era, says Food historian Loic Bienassis.

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“Historically there’s been no famous French recipes that don’t incorporate meat. The idea of saying ‘Let’s make some French cuisine, but remove any meat is an enormous change,” he says.

There will be plenty of meat available inside the Olympic Village, of course.

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The final of the three best French Chefs is Amandine Chaignot. She has selected guinea fowl and Crayfish as her signature dish.

“Clearly, when we think of traditional French cuisine, we think more of ‘steak au poivre’ than quinoa risotto,” she says.

But vegetables cannot satisfy all the requirements of the world’s elite athletes, says Helene Defrance, a medal-winning athlete and nutritionist who sits part of the athletes’ commission for 2024.

Amandine Chaignot is cooking her guinea fowl recipe with Crayfish to be her special dish during the Games. Photo: AFP

” Vegetarianism is a big trend … but it’s not something that we can impose on everyone,” she declares.

The pulses can be difficult to digest, and not all people convert plant proteins efficiently, she added.

However, as Mazzia says thei,r food is more about celebrating after the competition, not during the pre-game.

People line up in front of the headquarters of the Paris Olympic organizers in Saint-Denis Outside Paris. Photo: AP

“I’m interested in everything related to kilocalories and the like, but that’s not what I’m here for,” he says.

“The most important thing to do in this Games is to slow down and have a moment of relaxation and enjoyment that is completely different. I’m hoping that the athletes will get to celebrate their medals along alongside me.”

In order to reduce waste, the Sadhwani advises that people can reduce food waste by repurposing vegetable wastes for food scraps, composting them, or incorporating them into other dishes instead of throwing them away.

Giving back to local food banks and charities is a different way to avoid food waste.


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