23, 000 for lunch? This was the banquet of the century

Last minute preparations for the esteemed guests

117 years ago, French authorities put on an epic culinary display, Jane Hanks revisits the day’s events

On September 22, 1900 a huge banquet for nearly 23,000 people took place in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. The guests were the mayors of France, the hosts were the President of the Republic, Emile Loubet and the Prime Minister, Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau and it took place during the Universal Exhibition. 25,000 invitations went to mayors from all over France, Algeria and the colonies and 22,965 attended. Among the guests were also members of parliament, senators, judges and army chiefs.

The country’s mayors arrive at the Tuileries

Huge banquets were fashionable at the time but this surpassed anything ever seen before. The quantities of food, people and materials needed for the organisation show what an undertaking it must have been.

There were 700 tables, each one 10 metres long which could each seat 32 to 36 people. That is 7km of tables. They were placed under two immense marquees made especially for the occasion. The longest measured 521 metres and was 28.5 metres wide.

A catering firm, Potel et Chabot (which still exists today), was hired to provide the meal and they took on 3,500 cooks, 21,870 waiters and 1,215 maîtres d’hôtels for the occasion, a record ...

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