France’s Minister of Ecological Transition has paid an official visit to Europe’s first “solar restaurant”, situated in Marseille.

On May 3, week after its official opening to the public (in take-out mode), in the Château-Gombert “technopole” in Marseille, the solar open-air café, Le Présage, received the official visit of Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition, as official recognition of the impact of this eco-business project.

As of April 2020, chef, Pierre-Andre Aubert has been working on establishing a solar restaurant – Le Présage – in Marseilles, France. He is also collaborating with a local university to sponsor a PhD in restaurant-scale solar cooking, heat retention, and passive solar heating.

The associates founded Le Présage considering that the act of eating is the very foundation of a society, and that the ways of producing, transforming, consuming, and sharing a meal define a society. By transforming one’s relationship with food via a solar restaurant in an “edible forest” with good, healthy cuisine, the aim is to transform the society in which we evolve towards a “delicious future”. It is with this positive transformation that Le Présage is embodied in Marseille, as the “first solar restaurant in Europe”.

French Minister visiting Le Présage

This ministerial visit thus marked the recognition by the State of the innovative and replicable character of the concept, which is available in both its “solar open-air café” version for a minimal deployment throughout the Mediterranean basin and in its complete version of food ecosystem with the Château Gombert restaurant-garden.

The restaurant’s owners claimed it was an honour to have cooked “ministerial solar trays” for Barbara Pompili and her delegation. She will be able to report to Guillaume Gomez, in charge of promoting French gastronomy, on the quality of this “gastronomic writing with solar ink”. He is to preside over the jury of the first solar cooking competition, being organised on June 19, jointly with the Polytech-Marseille school, the University of Aix Marseille and the association Les Festins Photoniques, with the support of Gourméditerranée.

“Our solar restaurant will appear in a few years as an evidence for the Mediterranean and even beyond… To transform our world, we must reinvent our imaginations. We have a vision that is soft, vegetal, just and delicious, which runs on the sun. We hope that the visit of the Minister of Ecological Transition will allow to spread our vision of a delicious future more widely”, declared Pierre-André Aubert, founder of Le Présage, Chef and engineer.  

So just how does a solar powered stove work? “It consists of two parts,” explains Pierre – André Aubert. “For the first one, we worked with a German company that develops and markets mirror light-concentrators for collective kitchens. The second part that we developed in-house is a stove more adapted to the practice of traditional cuisine, a cuisine “à la française”. It allows us to make 25 dishes a day or so. To complete these 2 parts and have a really optimal working tool, we are currently working on adding a static oven.

For days when the sun hides behind clouds, Aubert has another solution: “We transform our organic waste into biogas, through a process of “methanisation”. We put our peelings and leftovers in a tank to ferment with the use of bacteria, which makes it possible to produce methane gas. To give you an order of magnitude, we found that the equivalent of 15 place settings provided us with ½ hour of gas for the next day. In addition to offering us an energy boost for days when the sun is absent or for days when it appears only late, it allows us to recycle our waste. All of this is consistent with our ‘make do’ philosophy.”

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