Few issues are more hotly contested in the foodservice business right now than California’s impending foie gras ban. On July 1, SB 1520 implies that the lights will go out on foie gras throughout the Golden State, and everyone has an opinion on it (check out Troy Johnson’s editorial in San Diego Magazine for a particularly inspired take on the matter). But new buzz indicates that the future may not be as bleak as it seems.
According to Eater, California’s ban may not eliminate foie gras from the state so much as it will simply push the product underground, Prohibition-style. (Given that everyone has been so enamored with Prohibition-style cocktail bars lately, that assumption doesn’t sound too far-fetched.) The article points out that the ban only makes it illegal to produce and sell foie gras in California – it says nothing about possessing the stuff. This could lead to chefs offering a “foie gras corking fee,” something that chefs like Mark Pastore at San Francisco’s Incanto are already reportedly considering.
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What’s more: the piece also references a recent Bloomberg article which suggests that, while they’ll have no choice but to go after defiant restaurants who continue to sell the stuff, police departments aren’t all that interested in chasing after chefs who offer a little foie gras for free. In other words, foie imported from out of state could very well still pop up as a tasting menu freebie, and our precious beef wellingtons may yet be saved so long as that creamy filling is thrown in gratis:
“This is not a crime that would be investigated by the LAPD or likely any other municipal police department,” Officer Karen Rayner, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said in an e-mail.
“If it’s given away, we’re not citing under this law,” [Kathleen Brown, deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control] said in a telephone interview. “We may get complaints about that and we may conduct an investigation as to where the foie gras came from. If we found out it came from outside California, then we wouldn’t cite.”
Whether foie gras is ethical or not is a debate that won’t go away any time soon, with both sides too firmly entrenched to budge an inch. But one thing’s clear: for chefs who won’t let go, the law might be a little more on their side than they may have once thought.