The famous red guide awarded a star to ONA, the vegan and organic restaurant that chef Claire Vallée opened in 2016 thanks to a crowdfunding campaign.
For the first time in France, a restaurant that doesn’t use any animal products whatsoever has snagged a star from the prestigious Michelin guide. It’s a crowning achievement for chef Claire Vallée, who opened ONA – an acronym of “Origine Non-Animale” (or Non-Animal Origin) in Arès, near Bordeaux. She has succeeded in introducing vegan cuisine into the most exclusive circle of French haute cuisine. At Claire Vallée’s ONA,
“vegan cuisine takes center stage for the first time in a restaurant to win a Star in France,”
the press release accompanying the publication of the 2021 guidebook announced.
She also received a green star – an idea launched last year –highlighting restaurants at the forefront when it comes to sustainable practices.
A former archeologist who became a self-taught chef at age 29, Claire Vallée opened her restaurant in 2016. The menu is 100% vegetable based, featuring dishes made from local, seasonal products from organic suppliers. There is a splendid array of original dishes, from Indian-style stuffed zucchini to raspberry humus and cabbage and lime salad.
“I chose to create a cuisine which reflects my character and values, avant-garde in a multitude of aspects. I believe in plants!” the 41-year-old explains on her restaurant’s website. “For me, it is undoubtedly the cuisine of the future, because it meets all of our needs effectively: ecology, biology, ethics, humanity, and health.”
A native of Nancy, in eastern France, she discovered and became enamored with plant-based cuisine while traveling in Thailand. Upon her return, she went vegetarian first, then vegan.
“The ONA project started because of how fed up we were of seeing junk food, industrial food (both animal and vegetable) everywhere, and because of our determination to refuse animal exploitation in all its forms, the chef reminisces.”
Starting her restaurant was a real challenge. When local banks refused to finance her project, she decided to try crowdfunding, where she collected €10,000 from 126 contributors. At that point, an ethical bank decided to support the establishment, which opened its doors on October 22, 2016.
Success came quickly, and in just six months, ONA won two chef’s hats and a score of 13/20 from Gault & Millau, then a plate and a fork from the Michelin Guide in February 2018.
The 2021 Michelin Guide for France features:
30 “three-star” restaurants, including one new one
74 “two-star” restaurants, including two new ones
534 “one-star” restaurants, including 54 new ones