A vegan restaurant in France has made culinary history by becoming the first plant-based establishment in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. In addition to its Michelin Guide star, ONA — led by chef Claire Vallee — was also awarded a green star for its strong ethical and sustainable practices. The win represents a flourishing of vegan cooking unimaginable even a decade ago.

ONA, a vegan restaurant in Ares near Bordeaux, has been looking after vegans since 2016, after launching with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, and a loan from La Nef — a green bank that lends to ethical projects. Now, four years later, the restaurant is celebrating Michelin recognition. ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale" ("Animal-free origin"), was awarded a classic star and green star this week. Owner Claire Valle (a self-taught chef and former archaeologist) told AFP, the moment she found out she felt like she "got hit by a train."

ONA awarded Michelin star
French chef Claire Vallee poses for pictures in front of her vegan restaurant ONA in Ares ©Medhi Fedouach/ AFP/Getty Images

The kitchen is currently closed due to the pandemic, but would typically offer diners a market menu of three dishes for lunch (€24) or, a seven-course dinner (€59). Anything but dull, ONA's accessible and imaginative plates invite all eaters to the table. Dishes are plant-based and animal-free. Specialities include yellow zucchini ravioli, black truffle gnocchi, peas and beans in barberry brine, and Swiss chard ballotine with vegetable ricotta, candied lemon condiment and turmeric lace tuile. Claire and her team develop menus that change with the season, using fresh and sustainable produce

"Our green terrace, open in summer, has 140 varieties of edible plants used in our kitchen. Our energy is renewable, and we have a compost system," Claire explains on ONA's website.

The Michelin verdict: “more than a restaurant, it’s a way of life. The beautifully dressed plates feature a splendid array of fruit and vegetables. Greatly deserving of the attention it is garnering.”

Vegan restaurants in the US, Germany and Spain have already received Michelin stars in recent years, but ONA's award is a first for France.

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