The narrative of great cooking has rarely been one that includes vegetarian fare. Butter, offal, fois gras – these are the ingredients that buttressed the kitchens of Escoffier, Ducasse and all their loyal admirers. Historically, this proclivity toward meat has only been reinforced by the Michelin Guide. In 2001, when Alain Passard announced that michelin-starred L’Arpège was to turn vegetarian, he was told that it would be a "death sentence". That his restaurant, a french one at that, would shun meat was thought of as sacrilege. Yet, the opposite proved true. Passard heralded in a new era, one that worked to place vegetables on the same pedestal as that of meat.
This shift could not come soon enough. We now know of the direct correlation between the meat industry and climate change; with meat and dairy producing 60% of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions. And since the United Nation's IPCC report climate report was released this month, we've been riddled with anxiety. So it's reassuring to know that internationally the restaurant industry are encouraging efforts to platform plant-based eating.
This year, 57 vegetarian and 24 vegan restaurants worldwide were awarded Michelin stars. Of those establishments, Origine Non-Animale, or ONA, just outside of Bordeaux, was the first vegan restaurant in France to be given a Michelin star. Head Chef and owner, Claire Vallée, had to crowd fund to open the restaurant in 2016, after mainstream banks rejected her pitch for a vegan restaurant as “too uncertain.”
Joining ONA in their plant-based efforts are Michelin starred joints like King's Joy in Beijing and Eleven Madison Park in New York City, Danny Meyer's baby that he famously sold in 2011 to chef Daniel Humm. Humm announced in June that the institution would reopen after months closed due to the pandemic, with a menu free from animal products. Once again, not the first to do so, but a decision that will galvanise others to follow suit.
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As part of new efforts towards a food culture that is deferential to sustainability and the environment, the Michelin Guide introduced the Michelin Green Star last year. According to the Michelin Guide website, those awarded a Michelin Green Star, "hold themselves accountable for both their ethical and environmental standards, and work with sustainable producers and suppliers to avoid waste and reduce or even remove plastic and other non-recyclable materials from their supply chain."