Supporting the performance of the Total Direct Energie Team cyclists: interview with two Elior chefs

Chefs Tour de France
From August 29 to September 20, Elior chefs, Yann Lous, Serge Hutte et Fabrice Piret will be cooking meals for Total Direct Energie Team’s 8 professional racing cyclists.

During the three-week event, our chefs will provide responsible meals that are specially developed and prepared to maintain the cyclists’ performance, while taking into account the local culinary specialties of each leg of the race. Read the joint interview of two of the chefs: Serge and Yann.

How did you develop the recipes for the cyclists?

Yann Lous I thought up the recipes in accordance with the regions through which the cyclists passed. Each meal features a regional specialty of the city of arrival. However, it was necessary to take into account the nutritional balance of each meal and adapt certain recipes, as the itinerary of the race involves passing through many mountainous regions where the recipes are often very rich. For the "Auvergne Truffade", for example, I lightened the cheese recipe and replaced the ham with pork tenderloin, which is less heavy.

Serge Hutte the local dimension of the meal is indeed very important. Every day, we go and buy the products we need to cook: meat, vegetables, dried fruits, cereals, etc. to ensure that the ingredients are both ultra-fresh and bought straight from local traders and producers. For example, for the Cazères-Loudenvielle leg, we planned a very regional recipe: a black pork chop accompanied with ratatouille and tarbais beans so we stock up at the local butcher and use tarbes beans, which is a regional specialty.

The local dimension of the meal is indeed very important. The ingredients we use are both ultra-fresh and bought straight from local traders and producers.

Serge Hutte - Elior chef 

What other elements do you take into account to prepare the cyclists’ meals?

SH While we prepare the same menu for all the cyclists, we generally adapt the quantities according to their individual needs. The cyclists know how much they need depending on their body type, level of fitness and the next leg of the race. So, we take all of this into account while ensuring that it fits into a very strict diet. This really is customized cuisine!

YL Racing cyclists need 4,500 to 5,000 calories per day compared with around 2,000 for the average person. This means designing specific grammage recipes. For dinner, for example, a racing cyclist needs 120 grams of meat, 150 grams of vegetables and 350 grams of starchy foods. To boost the starch content, which racing cyclists need in larger quantities, I have increased the quantity of starchy foods to accompany dishes and added more to desserts.   

However, as Serge points out, although the menus are thought out in advance, we are often required to react quickly so as to adapt to the needs and desires of the cyclists. For example, one evening a cyclist asked if the team could have smoothies for breakfast, and the next day they had them. They were pleased and their feedback was very positive! 

Cyclists need 4,500 to 5,000 calories per day compared with around 2,000 for the average person. This means designing specific-grammage recipes.

Yann Lous - Elior chef 

What is a typical day like for the cyclists?

YL We are immersed in the daily life of the cyclists because we prepare and serve all of their meals for several weeks. From breakfast through to dinner, we cook in a truck. We prepare and dress hot dishes beforehand so that they are ready to serve. Before sitting down to eat, the athletes often pass by the kitchen to see what we are cooking up for them. This makes for a very warm and familiar atmosphere.

The rest of the year, I cook for the employees of a large company in the Paris region. The world of cycling is therefore entirely different yet fascinating. We also get to talk with the cyclists when they’re not racing. For example, I chatted with a cyclist about the energy balls recipes he wanted for the snack for his next race.

SH Cooking for athletes is a very special and new mission for me. For several weeks, we will be living with the cyclists and the entire team in a bubble:  a form of isolation that is particularly underscored given the current sanitary crisis.  With Yann and Fabrice, we are therefore living in close proximity with the cyclists, whom we are gradually getting to know. This allows us to cook in a family spirit, and to give the cyclists the little things they appreciate: for example, different flavored oils, honeys and salt.

For more than three weeks, we have to meet the cyclists’ needs, understand their expectations and get to know their specific eating habits so that we can create a bond with the team.

More generally, I am also in charge of the logistics and administrative organization, a coordination role which allows me to work alongside other staff members, such as the operations director and the sports directors.  It's important to bond with everyone and sound out the team.


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