Sunday, January 11, 2015

Oh Yeah, Anthony Bourdain Stands Up to Wolfgang Puck and the PETA Crowd (I mean really stands up)

Victorino Matus writes:
On Wednesday, U.S. district judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled unconstitutional California’s foie gras ban, siding with plaintiffs who insisted the state law was invalidated by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, which allows for the force-feeding of ducks and geese for the purposes of making foie gras. Passed in 2004, the ban was fully enforced in 2012.

Of course some California chefs defied the law, serving the fattened liver in protest—they just weren’t charging for it. Or, as the legendary French chef Jacques P├ępin once suggested, they served it under a different name, like the “special toast of the house for $35.”

What’s the big deal about this particular delicacy? Five thousand years ago, the Egyptians discovered that ducks and geese, prior to migration, gorged themselves and allowed their livers to expand to several times their normal size. The French perfected this short but extreme boost in the birds’ diets, calling the process gavage.

And when those livers can’t get any bigger, it’s time for foie gras....

There are just a handful of places in the United States that raise ducks for foie gras. One of them is Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York State (a plaintiff in the California case). When I last wrote on the controversy for the Wall Street Journal in 2007, I interviewed Hudson Valley’s owner, Michael Ginor, who was adamant that his method of gavage was humane—it takes 5 seconds, 3 times a day, for 20 days. He also invited anyone with concerns to visit any time. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dropped by and, according to Ginor, said, “You know what, I came here already knowing that I wasn’t going to be anti-foie gras, but now I’m angry.”

And you don’t want to make Anthony Bourdain angry. When I interviewed him (also in 2007) and mentioned that Wolfgang Puck was no longer serving foie gras, the Kitchen Confidential author shot back, “I think d—head should stop worrying about cruelty to animals and start worrying about all the customers he’s flopping his crap on at airports.” He didn’t stop there: “Listen, he does a lot of business in California, he got squeezed and pressured and phone-called from all angles and like a German shopkeeper, you know, he folded, and sold out the people hiding in the cellar next door. I got no respect—it makes it all the more painful that he’s a chef of such stature and importance to American culinary history so it makes me want to throw up in my mouth thinking what a treacherous little c—sucker he is now.”
 -RW

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