ONA – which stands for 'Origine Non Animale' (translated as 'animal-free origin') – in the city of Ares, near Bordeaux, was launched in 2016 by chef and restaurateur Claire Vallee, who was able to open the restaurant following a successful crowdfunding campaign and after receiving a loan from a green bank.
It was awarded the honour during an online ceremony held yesterday (18 January) when Michelin Guide France announced its latest set of stars. In addition to receiving its first star, ONA was also recognised with Michelin's green clover symbol, which was launched last year and promotes restaurants serving ‘sustainable gastronomy'.
“It felt like I got hit by a train,” Vallee told Agence France-Presse (AFP) of the moment she received the call from Michelin informing her of its decision.
A Guide Michelin spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that ONA is “the first vegan restaurant in France to win a star”.
Vallee offered seven dishes on her gourmet menu before she had to close ONA because of Covid-19 restrictions. Her favourite combinations involve pine, boletus mushroom and sake; and celery, tonka and amber ale.
Traditional French banks gave the young chef short shrift when she came to them looking for a loan to get started.
“They said the outlook for veganism and plant-based food was too uncertain,” she said.
Although now considered a pioneer for vegan cuisine in France, Vallee said she simply followed in the footsteps of others, singling out the late Jean-Christian Jury, who ran the Mano Verde restaurant in Berlin.
New stars for Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland will be announced during an online ceremony next Monday (25 January).