There was a time when if you told a French person you didn’t eat meat, they might well have responded: ‘But you eat chicken, right?’ (We speak very much from experience.) Now, though, meat- and animal product-free cuisine is all the rage in France – and in a sign of its growing mainstream acceptance, a vegan restaurant has just become the first in the country ever to receive a Michelin star.
Chef Claire Vallée opened ONA (‘Origine Non Animale’, or ‘animal-free origin’) in Arès, south-west France, back in 2016 thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and a loan from a green bank. Just over four years later, and with the kitchen currently closed due to the pandemic, it has become the first totally animal product-free restaurant in the country to receive a classic Michelin star. (It also received a ‘green star’ for its strong ethical bent.)
Before it was forced to close last year, ONA would typically offer a short menu of seven dishes featuring flavour combinations like celery, tonka and amber ale, or pine, boletus mushroom and sake. Of the moment the Guide Michelin delivered the good news, Vallée yesterday told reporters: ‘It felt like I got hit by a train.’
We’re sure France’s legion of new vegans – and many others who, y’know, just like good food – will be queuing up to try ONA’s prize-winning plates as soon as they can.
And these, by the way, are the world’s most iconic dishes, according to locals.