Last night at Wilshire in Santa Monica, chef Nyesha Arrington helped a packed patio get its foie on, with the help of some very notable chef friends. Joining her on a six-course dinner of foie gras-centered dishes, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the pro-foie organization, C.H.E.F.S., were Fig chef Ray Garcia, Ray’s Kris Morningstar (who brought the famous 13-year-old chef, Flynn McGarry, with him), Public Kitchen’s Vartan Abgaryan, Mezze’s Micah Wexler, and the great Mark Peel of Campanile, who took over in the absence of Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine.
The evening began with the expected gauntlet of anti-foie protestors (we’d be disappointed if it didn’t), who may have disclosed their out-of-towner status when mispronouncing the name of the restaurant, also the name of L.A.’s legendary boulevard. Protestors used bullhorns and signs depicting the practice of gavage to make their point with passing traffic and assembled news cameras, but generally kept from provoking defiant diners directly.
Dinner started with cocktails, including an on-message “Parisian Standard” using duck fat-washed No. 3 London dry gin with salted duck fat pear brulee, preceding the appearance of Arrington’s downy dab of foie gras butter alongside a basket of bread. Well-received highlights of the all-foie menu included Wexler’s foie terrine with cherries, pistachio dukkah, and yogurt, as well as Garcia’s foie Monte Cristo sandwich served with pickled plum, sorrel, and lardo, while Peel prepared mussels with foie and Morningstar wrapped it up with scallops in a thin, fried potato skin. Then the night ended on a shocking, sad note.
Rallying the chefs and their crews together for a toast, Peel, who’d earlier tweeted that he and Arrington brought the protestors cookies, interrupted the proceedings with a sad news-break, announcing the death of “one of the greatest chefs, if not the greatest,” Paul Bocuse.
Peel raised a glass to the chef and noted that Bocuse would “be livid at the restrictions being placed on the culinary arts.” The news was met with gasps (and one lady overheard asking, “who?”) and the moment, chock-a-block with chefs who worship Bocuse, was quite poignant.
Of course, the good news is that Bocuse had not actually expired and that his demise was only the subject of widespread Twitter rumors, which no one probably found out until this morning when the hoax was revealed. Fortunately, the only funeral required, as originally anticipated, was for the ingredient about to be snatched off of California’s plates.