Vauthy, Brasel, Schwartz, Carmellini Speak Out On California Foie Gras Ban

On July 1, the state of California will institute a ban on the "force feed[ing of] a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size" as well as the sale of products that are a result of this process. This falls under sections 25980-25984 of the California Health and Safety code, which was enacted in 2004. According to the cited code, anyone caught raising a duck for foie gras or selling the product can be issued a fine for $1,000 per violation.

In plain English - in a few weeks you won't be able to get foie gras in California. Already California chefs are up in arms, rallying support to repeal the ban. Well known restaurateurs like Thomas Keller are trying to compromise by promising more humane standards put in place and there are even t-shirts that you can buy, stating "Don't touch my foie gras".

It should be noted that foie gras production, which involves the controversial force feeding of ducks through a tube, had been banned in Argentina, Israel, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, and Poland. In 2006, the city of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras, but the ban was repealed in 2008.

Though foie gras sales are still legal in Florida and there are no laws banning the sale or production currently on the table, Short Order thought it would be interesting to ask some of our city's best chefs what they thought of the California ban. We got a surprising earful ... and a lesson in civics.

Peter Vauthy
Vice President/Executive Chef, Red the Steakhouse

"I actually have lots to say on the subject as I grew up with geese, ducks along with other animals,raised chickens and know that from first and experience ducks and geese can naturally eat more than you could ever imagine... Foie Gras has been made for thousands of years and has a long culinary tradition. My biggest concern is once you ban foie gras,where does it end? Whats next? Foie gras is not for everyone, but I am a firm believer in freedom of choice. If you don't like foie gras, then exercise your freedom by not eating it."

Sean Brasel
Chef/Co-Owner, Meat Market

"California can do as they wish, but I don't think there's much difference between force feeding ducks to make foie gras and baby veal. My concern is where the line is drawn between what is, and what is not acceptable when it comes to 'producing' food."

Andrew Carmellini
Chef/Owner, The Dutch

"I have always had a problem with the anti-foie people. Why not put their efforts toward the tomato or sugar cane pickers in Florida and the quality of their lives? 99.9 percent of Americans eat tomatoes and sugar. 001 percent of that eat foie gras."

Jamie DeRosa

Executive Chef, Tudor House

"The question is, what is the consequence for defying that ban? Will the chefs/restaurant be required to pay per offense penalty, or receive a slap on the wrist, and will chefs/ restaurants ignoring the shark fin ban be treated equally? Any chef worth wearing a white coat and commanding a proper kitchen wants to know where and how the ingredients are being raised, fed, treated, massaged, caressed or any other attempt to make something more then it is- this includes that of geese and duck. It's also interesting to note that some chefs will dismiss the assertion that the method of raising ducks and geese for foie gras is cruel, but all agree that the practice of finning is (no argument there)."

Michael Schwartz

Chef/Owner, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

"It's total fucking bullshit. Why don't they go after the chicken industry? Now there's some fucked up shit that is a real issue. If people would go to both facilities they'd have an eye opening experience. Pick some battle that's going to mean something. Think of all the environmental and health impacts of industrial chicken farming. The chicken industry could take some tips from the foie gras industry in terms of care of animals. Aggravating."

Kenny Gilbert

Corporate Chef, 50 Eggs Restaurant Group & Executive Chef, Swine Southern Table & Bar

"Foie Gras has been a part of the culinary experience for so long. As a chef we are classically trained to prepare the product. I do not believe it is cruel. The product is farm raised, fed and harvested. When speaking about harvesting Kobe beef, it's OK to have a person raise a cow, provide massages and feed it fatty foods so it produces a fattier product. For me it's all the same. Fat is flavor, period... How you get there should be up to the farmer."

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