French culinary 1st: Vegan restaurant earns Michelin star

Chef Claire Vallée’s plant-based fusion cuisine is inspired by her traveling.

January 19, 2021, 10:26 AM

PARIS -- It's a culinary first in France: A vegan restaurant in southwest France has been awarded a coveted Michelin star, the first plant-based restaurant in the country to receive the distinction. ONA, which stands for "Origine Non-Animale" ("animal-free origin") in the town of Arès, near Bordeaux, is run by chef Claire Vallée.

The Michelin guide published its annual French edition Jan.18 and included ONA, a significant achievement for the establishment opened by Vallée in 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign. ONA raised 10,000 euros (about $12,131) and over 80 volunteers helped work on the restaurant for two months.

The restaurant serves plant-based dishes on a green terrace and has a garden with 140 plants. Menu items include vegetable foie gras, lemon caviar tartar, panisse, rhubarb, broccoli cooked on hay and a salted floating island.

Vallée's fusion cuisine is inspired by her traveling, especially in Thailand, but also by Indian and African dishes. "I bring back spices, cooking methods, vegetables that I would not have seen," Vallée told ABC News, who did not expect to receive one of the highest awards in France for a restaurant.

PHOTO: The vegan restaurant ONA in Arles, in southwest France, was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star.
The vegan restaurant ONA in Arles, in southwest France, was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star.
Google Maps Street View, 2018

"The inspectors come very discreetly, we did not even know if they would have time to come by this year", Vallée told ABC News. "But it's wonderful, especially for a small town, and for the plant movement," she said.

Michelin has previously awarded stars to vegetarian and some vegan restaurants around the world, noting that vegetables and plant-based cuisine are finding their place in high-end establishments where meat and fish dishes are typically centerpiece.

While her establishment is still currently closed to the public under French authorities' measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, Vallée is looking forward to reopening in the spring. After a devastating year for the French restaurant industry due to the pandemic, she is already working on new recipes and has a book project in the works.

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