ONA: Vegan restaurant becomes first in France to get Michelin star

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Image caption,
Vegan food is gaining a small foothold in France

A vegan restaurant in south-west France has been awarded a coveted Michelin star, the first of its kind 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.

In an emotional Instagram message, she thanked her supporters and crowdfunders as well as positive media reviews.

The Michelin guide published its annual French edition on Monday.

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 had traditionally taken pride of place.

A former archaeologist, the 41-year-old chef is self-taught and became vegan after a trip to Thailand.

"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," she told her supporters.

"We will continue on this path because this star is mine, it is yours, it is that of the impossible, it is the one that definitively brings plant-based gastronomy into the closed circle of French and global gastronomy."

She opened her restaurant in 2016 thanks to money obtained through crowdfunding and loans from a bank which specialises in ethical funding.

"It felt like I got hit by a train," she told the AFP news agency when she received the call from the Michelin guide last week to inform her of the accolade.

She also won a green star, which rewards strong ethical practices.

She says she initially struggled to obtain funding through traditional banks: "They said the outlook for veganism and plant-based food was too uncertain," she told AFP. The chosen location for her restaurant was also not considered promising enough.

Dishes on her seven-dish gourmet menu at her eatery (currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic) include combinations of ingredients such as fir tree, boletus mushroom and sake, or celery, tonka and amber ale.

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