By IBTISSEM GUENFOUD, ABC News

(PARIS) — It’s a culinary first in France: A vegan restaurant in southwest France has been awarded a coveted Michelin star, the first plant-based restaurant 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.

The Michelin guide published its annual French edition Jan.18 and included ONA, a remarkable achievment for the establishment opened by Vallée in 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign. ONA raised 10,000 euros (about $12,131) and over 80 volunteers helped work on the restaurant for two months.

The restaurant serves plant-based dishes on a green terrace and has a garden with 140 plants. Menu items include vegetable foie gras, lemon caviar tartar, panisse, rhubarb, broccoli cooked on hay and a salted floating island.

Vallée’s fusion cuisine is inspired by her traveling, especially in Thailand, but also by Indian and African dishes. “I bring back spices, cooking methods, vegetables that I would not have seen,” Vallée told ABC News, who did not expect to receive one of the highest awards in France for a restaurant.

“The inspectors come very discreetly, we did not even know if they would have time to come by this year,” Vallée told ABC News. “But it’s wonderful, especially for a small town, and for the plant movement,” she said.

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 dishes are typically centerpiece.

While her establishment is still currently closed to the public under French authorities’ measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, Vallée is looking forward to reopening in the spring. After a devastating year for the French restaurant industry due to the pandemic, she is already working on new recipes and has a book project in the works.

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