The sale of foie gras is once again legal in California, a turn of events that's prompted some restaurants to celebrate the end of "prohibition" with foie gras tasting menus or foie gras-topped ramen. But Daniel Patterson, one of San Francisco's most prominent chefs, tells Eater he doesn't plan on using the delicacy at his two-Michelin-starred flagship, Coi. The reason is simple: It's not local.
"As a practical matter, we only use products from our area at Coi, so we will not be using foie gras from New York," the chef wrote in an email. "It's too bad, I love the Gonzalezes, who owned [now-closed foie farm] Sonoma Foie Gras. They are great people who produced a great product, and I have bought from them since 1994."
Some context: Earlier in January, a federal judge overturned California's two-and-a-half-year-old prohibition on the sale of foie gras, a delicious and expensive product that's made from the silky livers of force-fed ducks or geese. However, it's still illegal to raise birds for foie gras in the state. So in the meantime, much of the country's fatty duck liver comes from Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other farms in New York, as well as farms outside the country.
But even if California's laws changed and local farms started to produce the delicacy again, it's unlikely Patterson would start throwing foie parties at Coi. "Foie gras is a symbolic luxury food, and our menu has never been been based on symbolic luxury foods," he says. "It has always been more of a cuisine of carrots and Douglas fir, of vegetables and herbs that are accented with coastal flavors and some meats and poultry, a cuisine that tries to engage with the flavors and cultural influences around us."
Patterson isn't the only big-name Bay Area chef to express hesitancy about putting foie back on his tasting menu. Corey Lee told Eater last week he "really didn't miss working with it as a chef," at least at his three Michelin-starred Benu; he does serve foie at his more casual French bistro, Monsieur Benjamin. Manresa's David Kinch and Meadowood's Christopher Kostow, in turn, both suggested they'd put foie on their menus when the time is right, and not as a reaction to the reversal of the ban.
As with the three aforementioned chefs, Patterson is in favor of the ban being overturned, even though he doesn't plan to cook with foie. "I am very happy that the ban was overturned. The fact is that foie gras is a non-issue in our country, a symbolic target. It accounts for a fraction of a fraction of a percent of what people eat in this country. What we should ban instead is factory farming: animals raised in brutal conditions, animals full of steroids and sub-therapeutic hormones, animals in methane-producing feedlots, animals produced using something like 100 calories of grain per one calorie of meat. All of these things are big, big problems. I would love to see the foie-gras zealots turn their attention to the methods of animal raising that are devastating our environment and people's health."