Gibson Law Group - April 2021

For the First Time, a Vegan Restaurant Gets a Michelin Star

It’s difficult to take animal products out of French cuisine and replace them with lemongrass, seaweed, and fir (yes, the tree). French meals are generally meat-centric, featuring vegetables solely as a side dish. And, even with no meat, how do you cut out cheese and cream? Claire Vallee, owner of the vegan restaurant ONA, found a way. The name is an acronym, standing for “origine non-animale.” And her restaurant, located near Bordeaux, France, was among the 54 restaurants to earn their first Michelin star in 2021. Although a few restaurants in the U.S. and Germany featuring vegan dishes have earned Michelin stars in the past, no restaurant that was 100% vegan has been honored with a star. ONA had a bumpy start despite this amazing honor. After crowdfunding and securing a loan from La Nef, which specializes in loans for ethical and eco-friendly businesses, Vallee still ran out of money to complete construction. Undaunted, she used social media to rally 80 volunteers to help finish the job over the course of two months. She finally opened ONA in 2016. “This is a good thing for the vegan community, as this star is evidence that French gastronomy is becoming more inclusive, that plant-based dishes belong there, too,” Vallee told CNN.

During the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, ONA went to takeout only. With the rise in popularity of plant-based diets, demand for vegan restaurants has been growing, but ONA still struggled. Last fall, its seven-course menu featured dishes with intriguing combinations of fir, boletus and sake shiitake mushrooms, dulse seaweed, lemongrass, and galangal (also known as Thai ginger). Today, the restaurant is currently closed because of the pandemic, but the victory is huge for French cuisine. Gwendal Poullenec, the international head of the Michelin Guides, told The New York Times, “The general public might not associate pure veganism with a gastronomical experience.” But a Michelin star could liberate chefs who are still reluctant to explore plant-based cooking. For most of us, international travel won’t be on the menu anytime soon — but we hope ONA opens its doors again soon. The world deserves to enjoy ONA’s award-winning menu!

Up In Flames The Fyre Festival’s Legal Fallout for Influencers

Influencer marketing has long been a legal gray area, but recently settled celebrity lawsuits related to the Fyre Festival — a failed luxury musical festival — have definitely added some color to the debate. The idea for the Fyre Festival came from rapper Ja Rule and his business partner Billy McFarland, a 25-year-old CEO of a luxury concierge service. The duo created the event together and touted it as the world’s most expensive music festival. They’d also launched an attractive marketing campaign which included celebrity promotions by Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and other influencers. All the while, the organizers knew the Fyre Festival was doomed from the start. In lieu of a multiday, luxury experience, thousands of people were scammed and left stranded in the Bahamas instead.

“[The organizers] had six to eight weeks to pull off something that should have taken close to a year,” says Chris Smith, who directed a Netflix documentary on the festival. “But what was most surprising to me was going to the Bahamas and seeing the aftermath of what was left behind and the effect on the people there.” The local economy was devastated. “They had engaged with so much of the local community to try and pull this off. There were hundreds of day laborers working,” says Smith. “Fyre had such a high profile that I don’t think anyone could have assumed that it wouldn’t work out.” As the Fyre Festival fell apart, Gregory Messer — the trustee in charge of overseeing the bankruptcy for Fyre Media — looked into the finances. He began to suspect that there had been “fraudulent

transfers” between the founders and many of the event’s promoters, and he began to sue the celebrities and influencers that drove the hype behind the festival. For example, McFarland and Ja Rule reportedly paid Kendall Jenner over $275,000 to publish an Instagram post promoting the festival. Although Jenner denied liability, she did not disclose on the post that it was paid and sponsored. Messer’s attorney further argued that Jenner had not told her Instagram followers that she’d pulled out of the festival after learning of its disastrous problems. Although more legal parameters will like spring up in the future to further define the limits of influencer marketing, this will certainly make any celebrity think twice about accepting money to promote events and brands. And that’s definitely for the best!

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