California’s foie gras ban becomes law this Sunday, following a final week of human force-feeding in which foiehounds storm the gates for one last taste of the lardy liver. But there’s hope on the horizon, as bigwigs with the LAPD, SFPD, and other authorities concede that not a single thing is going to be done to chefs who still serve the stuff, as long as they’re sufficiently sneaky and underhanded about it. Under the law, chefs are supposed to be cited $1,000 every time they’re busted selling foie gras to a customer. But Bloomberg reports that loopholes abound and anyone who gives the stuff away as a free supplement to "pricey toast" is basically going to be let off the hook, recalling tactics employed by Chicago chefs to defy their own, now-reversed ban.
"This is not a crime that would be investigated by the LAPD or likely any other municipal police department," an LAPD spokesperson says. Those feelings are echoed by a counterpart with the San Francisco Police Department, who admits, "I’m not aware of any plans for us to enforce it."
A deputy with that city’s Department of Animal Care and Control similarly concedes that no citations will be issued for chefs who offer say, a free foie boost aside a customer’s $29 pear compote, nor to any Cali chefs who prepare foie gras produced in another state. "If it’s given away, we’re not citing under this law … If we found out it came from outside California, then we wouldn’t cite," explains Kathleen Brown, easing wringing West Coast hands.
So this is exactly what chefs and foie producers plan to do. LudoBites chef Ludo Lefebvre, never one to stay out of the foie fray, says "giving" the stuff away gratis is first on his agenda, while some state foie producers are hightailing it right across the border to Reno, with plans to establish an underground system that will help guide the liver back to Californian plates. One such foie retailer headed to Nevada, Laurel Pine of Mirepoix USA, notes, "The law is not against possessing it. It’s against producing it or selling it in California."
These evasive tactics may even include a courier scheme that allows a person to purchase foie gras in Nevada, then have it delivered back to a California chef who is willing to prepare the stuff. This proposed method already has the approval of San Francisco chefs like Incanto’s Mark Pastore and La Folie’s Roland Passot.
In other words, there are going to be numerous ways around the looming ban for those willing to pay for it and the cops hardly give a toss anyhow. Now Senator Lois Wolk says she’s even ready to carry legislation that would amend the ban, as long as the right proposal comes forward.
Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And with semi-legal foie gras about to leak through so many loopholes, animal rights activists simply say they’re going to turn up the heat on any restaurant serving the stuff. Bryan Pease, a co-founder of San Diego’s Animal Protection and Rescue League warns, "We’re going to come down like a hammer on any chef or restaurant that wants to continue serving this very cruel product … We’re going to make life very difficult for them." Let the games begin!