Vallee opened the restaurant in 2016 after crowdfunding finances and securing a loan from Nef, an ethical bank.
When the money ran out to complete the works on the establishment, Vallee said she rallied 80 volunteers over social media to help finish the job over the course of two months.
By Rob Picheta and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN, January 19th, 2021
(CNN) — The Michelin Guide has awarded one of its coveted stars to a French vegan restaurant for the first time.
ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale or Non-Animal Origin, has been handed the accolade in the newest edition of the long-running culinary guide.
The restaurant, in the small southwestern village of Arès, near Bordeaux, is the first animal-free establishment to appear in the Michelin Guide to France since it was created in 1900.
It is among 54 restaurants to earn their first star in the 2021 update. Michelin said a “key takeaway from the 2021 selection is the continued spread of diverse styles of cuisine across France.”
“At ONA … vegan cuisine takes center stage for the first time in a restaurant to win a Star in France,” it said.
Opened by self-taught chef and former archaeologist Claire Vallee, ONA boasts a seven-course evening menu priced at 59 euros ($72). Its specialties include a yellow zucchini ravioli with black truffle gnocchi, and a Swiss chard ballotine with vegetable ricotta.
Vallee said she was overcome with emotion when the Michelin guide’s international director called her Thursday to tell her ONA had earned the accolade. “Cooking with my team is like performing in a theater. You never really know how it’s being received until the very end,” she told CNN.
Vallee opened the restaurant in 2016 after crowdfunding finances and securing a loan from Nef, an ethical bank. When the money ran out to complete the works on the establishment, Vallee said she rallied 80 volunteers over social media to help finish the job over the course of two months.
“This is a good thing for the vegan community as this star is evidence that French gastronomy is becoming more inclusive. That plant based dishes belong there too,” Vallee said.
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“The team that I work with are really proud. The Michelin star and the green star serve as recognition. It’s also for them and the local producers and the vegetable farmers we work with,” she added.
The restaurant operated as takeaway-only during the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic, and has benefited from state aid, Vallee told CNN.
Vegan-only establishments have become increasingly sought-after in recent years, alongside the rapidly growing popularity of plant-based diets.
The Michelin Guide, meanwhile, is working to remain relevant amid a rough period for the hospitality industry and as an increasing number of chefs shun their famous prize.