A vegan restaurant has made culinary history by being awarded a Michelin star in France.

The restaurant, ONA, an acronym for Origine Non-Animale (‘animal-free origin’), is based in the French city of Arès near Bordeaux. It serves plant-based dishes on a seven-dish based gourmet menu which is changed on a monthly basis. Specialities include: black truffle gnocchi, yellow zucchini ravioli and candied lemon condiment, all animal-free courses.

Claire Vallée, the restaurant’s proud owner, wrote a post on several social media outlets, thanking everyone for their support, urging them to, “follow your dreams” after winning the star.

ONA was also awarded a green star by the Michelin Guide, a new accolade introduced in December 2020 to spotlight restaurants with excellent ethical and sustainability practices.

“It felt like I got hit by a train,” the restaurant owner exclaimed upon receiving the phone call from Michelin Guide.

When Vallée, a self-taught chef and archaeologist graduate, wanted to open a vegan restaurant on the coast of France, banks were reluctant to lend money to the new business owner, thinking her dream to be futile. 

“They said the outlook for veganism and plant-based food was too uncertain.” she admitted in an interview with the AFP news agency.

However, through crowdfunding and a loan from a “greener” bank, specialising in ethical funding, Vallée managed to gather the funds she needed to open her vegan restaurant.

Writing on Facebook, Vallée said of her accolade: “It is because you believed in me, in this crazy bet beyond my doubts, my anxieties, my fears, but also thanks to our common work throughout these last four years that today we obtained our first star in the Michelin guide. We will continue on this path because this star is mine, it’s yours, it’s one of the impossible, it’s the one that brings the Vegetable Gastronomy into the closed circle of French and World Food.” 

The restaurant serves as the first vegan one in France to be awarded a Michelin star. ONA now joins a number of other vegan restaurants in Europe to have earnt a Michelin star.

All restaurants in France are currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the forced lockdown and temporary closure of her restaurant, Vallée has used her time to try out new recipes and write a cookbook.

During the first lockdown, when they were still partly open, ONA offered vegan burgers for delivery. Their most recent menu offered combinations including: dulse, lemongrass, galangal, paimpol beans, calamansi and batak berry.

ONA’s website can be found here.