This morning at 11:45 a.m., chef Ken Frank of La Toque was in a meeting when he received a phone call from Michael Tenenbaum.
Frank: “I am in a meeting, I cannot talk to you.”
Tenenbaum: “Shut up, Ken. We won!”
This was the second phone call Tenenbaum placed to announce the news: the sale of foie gras is now legal in California.
As a lawyer (and a gourmet), Tenenbaum fought very hard to overturn California Senate bill No. 1520, signed on September 29, 2004, by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It reads (extracts):
CHAPTER 13.4. FORCE FED BIRDS
25980. For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
A bird includes, but is not limited to, a duck or goose
(b) Force feeding a bird means a process that causes the bird to consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily. Force feeding methods include, but are not limited to, delivering feed through a tube or other device inserted into the bird’s esophagus.
25981. A person may not force feed a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size, or hire another person to do so.
25982. A product may not be sold in California if it is the result of force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size.
His tenacity prevailed and on January 7, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson issued a ruling that overturned the bill. The judge ruled it was unconstitutional because it interferes with an existing federal law that regulates poultry products.
Ken Frank later spoke on the phone with me, saying: “I am very, very happy. I am overjoyed for chefs and consumers to once again serve and enjoy foie gras without the fear of lawsuits. The game is over for the activists. They cannot win an honest argument. It is not true that foie gras is cruel and is a diseased product. It crumbled on the face of facts.”
Expect to find foie gras at La Toque as soon as tonight. Ten pounds are on the way from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Chef Kris Morningstar ordered eleven pounds for his new restaurant Terrine. Chef Josiah Citrin of Mélisse is preparing for tonight sautéed foie gras with turnips, hazelnuts in a blood orange sauce.Tomorrow, chef José Andrés will be offering free foie gras cotton candy at The Bazaar from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Chef Sean Chaney, one of the three plaintiffs, will have foie gras on the menu of his restaurant Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, in many different forms and preparations.