Remember the Animal Protection & Rescue League? After protesting outside of Momofuku last summer, the San Francisco–based vegan avengers promised a “sustained presence” in New York, but we never really heard from them again. Now organizer Bryan Pease informs us that the group has hired Michelle Brotman, a New School student who works at vegan eatery Blossom, to be its New York–campaigns coordinator. She’ll organize more protests, and the first one will take place outside of Telepan on March 27 from 7 p.m. till 9 p.m.
Wait a minute — Bill Telepan? The chef who’s trying to improve school lunches with hormone-free milk? The same chef who won a merit badge from Animal Welfare Approved, for switching to a grass-fed beef burger? We called Telepan to make sure they had the right guy.
Sure enough, the chef was surprised to have been targeted by the organization — not only because he has long objected to practices such as the beak-clipping of turkeys and factory farming in general (and sources his food accordingly), but also because he doesn’t sell all that much foie gras in the first place. The foie-gras ravioli he did over the winter isn’t on the menu anymore. Telepan tells us, “I wrote them a letter back explaining to them that I've known Izzy [Yanay] and Michael [Ginor, of Hudson Valley Foie Gras] for many years. I’ve been to their farms many times. I’ve seen their production many times, and I’m very satisfied with the way they produce it. And then I ran off the list of all the other people I buy meat from by their first names and reminded them that I was one of seventeen restaurants that are on the Certified Humane list. It’s nuts! They’re picking on the wrong guy.”
Of course, Bryan Pease disagrees. “If there’s a business that professes to care about animal welfare and more ethical food practices but is also serving foie gras, it’s almost worse than a restaurant that says they just don’t care. If [Bill Telepan] has taken that stance [about foie gras], it’s not just a matter of being hypocritical but it’s providing more legitimacy to this practice of force feeding and making it seem like it fits in with free range and organic and all these other values.”
To be sure, Telepan isn’t the only one that’s being targeted. We’ve heard that Wylie Dufresne and John Fraser have also received letters. But the Telepan protest is the one that’s currently on the calendar. So what can the group expect when they show up? “We got sweets for them if they want sweets,” Telepan jokes. “If it’s raining, I’ve got umbrellas. I’ve talked to the local police, so they’re going to be hanging around to make sure they don’t destroy the place.” No doubt the po-po will be especially vigilant if there’s some delicious foie-gras ravioli in it for them.