As other businesses go green, food service remains an energy-intensive outlier. Europe’s first solar-powered restaurant wants to change the recipe.
“Do you want to witness the power of the sun?” grins Pierre-André Aubert, taking a scrap of wood and holding it under the beam of light emanating from what looks like a giant satellite dish covered in mirrors.
Within a second it begins to smoke and char at the edges, the point more than dramatically made by the sizzling summer heat of Marseille. “Now that’s what you call firepower,” adds Aubert. “It reaches about 600 to 700 Celsius at this point.”
In this leafy corner of the southern French city, away from the bustling vieux port and next door to the engineering faculty of Marseille’s Polytech University, is Europe’s first ever 100 percent solar-powered restaurant. Or, as they say locally, restaurant solaire.
Le Présage, which launched in April, currently serves up refined, emissions-free gastronomy to dozens of diners per day. The early success of the project has shone a light on the huge potential for solar power to transform a sector infamous for its intensive, inefficient use of energy.
For Aubert, a former aeronautical engineer who worked as a chef for a decade before founding Le Présage, harvesting the energy of the sun is just like harvesting any other kind of local ingredient. “The idea of this restaurant is simple: it’s to use the natural resources from the area,” he says. “Obviously, we use fruits and vegetables, wild herbs like fennel, mustard and rocket that grow in the area. But the other natural resource, which is most available here in Marseille, is sunlight.”
The project has immediately cooked up interest. Barbara Pompili, France’s Minister for Ecological Transition, stopped by for a meal in April. And Le Présage, which plans to launch several other sites in the next three to five years, is in the midst of raising €1.7 million to fund its further development. Where next?