Claire Valley runs the ONA restaurant – which it stands for Non-animal origin In Ares, near Bordeaux, which she launched in 2016 thanks to crowdfunding from supporters and a loan from a green bank.
“I felt like I was hit by a train,” Valle told France Press of the moment she received a call from the Michelin guide informing her of her decision.
In addition to the classic star award on Monday, Vallée also won a green star, which was presented by Michelin last year to reward organizations with a strong record of ethical practices.
A spokeswoman for the Michelin Guide told AFP that UNA was “the first vegan restaurant in France to win a star.”
Vallée made seven dishes on her gourmet menu before it was forced to shut down ONA due to Covid-19 restrictions. Her favorite combinations include pine nuts, boletus and sake mushrooms, or celery, tonka beans, and amber beer.
Traditional French banks gave the young chef a short period of time when she came to them looking for a loan to start. “They said the outlook for vegetarians and vegan foods is very uncertain,” she said. Also, the location chosen for her restaurant in the Arcachon Basin on the Atlantic coast wasn’t promising enough.
Fali said she holds no grudge: “Everyone does their job.”
Vallée continued to secure financing through crowdfunding, without collateral, and through La Nef, a bank that specializes in lending to projects he considers ethical. She said, “It shows that nothing is impossible.”
Valle admitted he wondered along the way, “whether we are good enough because vegetable-based cooking is difficult and innovative.”
But, she added, “the most important thing is to have fun doing this.”
Although now considered a pioneer in vegetarian cuisine in France, Vallée said she simply followed in the footsteps of others, singling out the late Jean-Christian Jury, who ran the Mano Verde restaurant in Berlin.