For over a century, the Michelin Guide has been leading travelers and connoisseurs to some of the world's best cuisine. The guide, which originated in France and recently expanded coverage to three cities Stateside, awards stars to only a handful of exceptional restaurants.
Think haute cuisine caters only to omnivores? We talked to four top chefs—in Italy, France, England, and America—who've earned the coveted Michelin designation and who offer gourmet vegetarian menus. But you won't need reservations (or deep pockets) to taste their mouth-watering creations. Below, each chef shares a recipe that's easy enough to make at home and elegant enough to warrant bringing out your fanciest tablecloth.
THE CHEF Thomas Keller
AWARDED 3 Michelin stars
RESTAURANT The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.)
After chef Thomas Keller opened The French Laundry in 1994, he introduced the Tasting of Vegetables menu option with vegetarians in mind, though it's popular with omnivores as well. "Our chefs look at the menu as a great opportunity to showcase ingredients that may typically be an accompaniment to a dish, rather than the main ingredient," he says. Over the years, the tasting has evolved from a five- to a nine-course menu, which changes daily based on what's fresh in the adjacent culinary garden. Fun fact: Keller is listed as "ratatouille designer" on imdb.com, a title he earned as a consultant for Pixar on the 2007 Academy Award-winning movie Ratatouille.
Arlequin du Potager en Aigre-Doux (Sweet and Sour Vegetable Assortment) (pictured)
THE CHEF Alain Passard
AWARDED 3 Michelin stars
RESTAURANT L'Arpège (Paris)
One of the temples of French gastronomy, L'Arpège was once renowned for roasted meat dishes—until chef Alain Passard declared in 2001 that he was bored. "It was very hard for me to find inspiration in a dead animal," he explains. Although Passard still serves poultry and seafood at his 25-year-old Parisian restaurant, the Grands Crus du Potager, a tasting of vegetables, has become its signature menu. Three gardens in three different regions of France provide roughly 500 varieties of fruits and vegetables for the kitchen. "To cook produce born out of the expertise of our gardeners is something that undoubtedly makes creativity easier," he says. "It's a great source of inspiration."
Semolina and Gruyère Quenelles with Tomato Sauce
THE CHEF Raymond Blan
AWARDED 2 Michelin stars
RESTAURANT Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons (Great Milton, Oxford, U.K.)
"Now, more than ever, eating less meat and more vegetables represents a step toward a healthier lifestyle. This is the future of food," says Raymond Blanc. The French-born chef has had a vegetarian menu at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, his countryside restaurant and hotel, since its opening in 1984. An organic, two-acre garden on the grounds provides 90 types of vegetables and more than 70 different herbs. "The kitchen brigade and I work closely with my team of gardeners to ensure that we grow the best varieties for our menu," he says. Blanc also runs an on-site culinary school that includes a one-day vegetarian course. (He himself is self-taught, inspired by his mother's cooking.)
THE CHEF Pietro Leemann
AWARDED 1 Michelin stars
RESTAURANT Joia (Milan, Italy)
"Vegetables mean life to me," says chef Pietro Leemann. "I like to play with their color, their architecture, their taste." A longtime vegetarian, he changes the menu seasonally at Joia, his Milanese restaurant known for its artful presentation of food, in order to showcase his favorite vegetable of the moment: "Asparagus in spring, eggplant in summer, pumpkin in fall, and artichoke in winter." Born in Switzerland, Leemann trained in Europe and Asia before opening Joia more than 20 years ago. In 1996, it was awarded a Michelin star and remains the only vegetarian restaurant in Europe featured in the Michelin Guide.