Yesterday a who's who of the San Francisco chef world gathered at Incanto in Noe Valley to discuss an issue very close to their hearts, the impending foie gras ban slated for July of next year. Among the heavy hitters in attendance were Manresa's David Kinch, Harold McGee, La Folie's Roland Passot, Lafitte's Russell Jackson, Bushi-tei's Michael Hung, and Golden Gate Restaurant Association director Rob Black. Representatives from Bella Gourmet, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Sonoma Foie Gras and D'Artagnan were all on hand to represent their very small industry. From the motives and people behind the foie ban, to last-ditch tactics, to confessions about organized threats, lots was discussed. Take a look at our notes from the flanks of the discussion, after the hop.
· Incanto owner Mark Pastore asked how many people in the audience has been threatened or harassed by foie protesters, and over a dozen chefs in the audience raised their hands. Among them were Russell Jackson and Chris Cosentino, who penned a high profile piece about it in 2009.
· Chefs discussed ways to deal with picketers. Eric Ripert has been known to respond to protesters outside his New York restaurant Le Bernardin by giving them vegetarian hors d'oeuvres. Thomas Keller took a similar tack when he gave lemonade to protesters outside the French Laundry in Yountville. In a different vein, David Chang decided the day of the protest outside his restaurant was the perfect time to pressure wash the sidewalk.
· While the beef and chicken industries in America have lobbyists and ties to the government, the foie industry is a small, easy target for animal rights activists. If the foie ban passes, the language is written in such a way that it can provide a door into attacking larger industries. The activists see the foie ban as a gateway law to larger control.
· Chef Russell Jackson of Lafitte restaurant mentioned that a wild turkey weighs seven to nine pounds and a typical Butterball beauty, found in supermarkets across America, weighs between 20 and 25 pounds. "How do people think it got that way?"
· Foie supporters asked Rob Black, director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, to back them in a law suit. Black said his organization fully supports foie gras and is against the ban. He is putting it before his board to decide on the best course of action.
· The law may still be repealed especially on the grounds of the Constitution's commerce clause, stating no U.S. state can forbid a perfectly legal product from other states.
· In response to foie protesters' allegation that enlarging a duck's liver is unnatural and cruel, chefs raised several points. Ducks have an esophagus that is already equipped to swallow large animals in the wild, and they naturally fatten their livers for energy prior to migration. On the flip side of the card shown in the gallery above, the following facts were also shared: 1) Independent vets, scientists, chefs and journalists who have witnessed the feeding conclude that it causes the ducks no harm. 2) American foie gras is raised on small-scale farms using artisanal methods. 3) The American Veterinary Medical Association has refused to take a stance against foie gras.
· Chris Cosentino, who has nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter plans to use his clout in the Twitterverse to fight the foie gras protesters. “Twitter is huge," he says. "We can help each other [by using Twitter].”
· Look out for more foie-focused diners and fundraisers around town to create awareness and raise money for foie's defense in the months leading up to the ban.
· Foie supporters can get involved immediately by signing this petition over at the Artisan Farmers Alliance.
· All Foie Gras Coverage [~ ESF ~]