South Bay chefs and restaurateurs are saying farewell to foie gras this weekend as the sale and production of the delicacy becomes illegal in the state of California on Sunday.
The foie gras ban, which has been lauded by animal rights groups and criticized by chefs, was passed in 2004 and makes it illegal to sell or manufacture the fattened livers of geese and ducks in California.
Animal rights advocates say the force-feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers for foie gras is cruel, but chefs say the process is more humane than the way most chickens and cattle are treated.
The new law has several South Bay chefs rushing to serve the dish while it is still legal. At least one South Bay chef plans to ignore the ban.
At in Hermosa Beach, Chef Sean Chaney, a staunch opponent of the law, has added multiple foie gras items to the menu this weekend for what the restaurant is calling a foie gras "blowout."
Chaney, who has even traveled to Sacramento to contest the law with state politicians, believes the ban is an overreach by the government.
"I have a very tough time with the government telling us what we can and can't eat," he said. "It is just ridiculous."
Chaney said his restaurant serves, on average, about 800 to 1200 foie gras burgers each month on top of the 500 or so additional plates he sells that also use the delicacy. With a price tag of $12 to $14 per dish, the ban will hurt the restaurant's profits, he said.
"It will definitely affect sales ... We sell a lot," said Chaney.
Hot's still plans to serve the dish even, after the ban goes into effect. The restaurant will give away the foie gras portion of the dish instead of selling it.
"Nobody is going to enforce it," Chaney said. "I am going to keep serving it until I see some enforcement show up because I want to see who is going to do that. I want to be arrested for it."
According to the Hermosa Beach Police Department, Chaney probably doesn't need to fear arrest or even the $1,000 fine associated with illegally serving foie gras.
"I can tell you from my perspective that the Hermosa Beach Police Department is not going to make this a high priority," said HBPD Sgt. Landon Phillips.
"I highly doubt we are going to be inspecting kitchens for the serving of this delicacy," he said, but added that enforcement decisions are ultimately up to the department's division commander.
Although police say they will most likely not enforce the law, some animal rights activists say they most certainly will.
Bryan Pease, the co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League in San Diego, recently told Bloomberg that his group is going to go after chefs who still serve the dish.
"We’re going to come down like a hammer on any chef or restaurant that wants to continue serving this very cruel product," Pease told the news service. "We’re going to make life very difficult for them."
Chaney said Pease can bring on the protests.
"Give him my address because I am going to keep serving it," said Chaney. "Bring the boycotts because the boycotters don't come to my restaurant anyway," he said. "A bunch of vegans are going to boycott us? Who cares?"
Elsewhere in the South Bay, Chef Charlie Negrete plans on serving foie gras this weekend at the Redondo Beach establishment. He said reservations at the restaurant have increased in the days leading up to the ban's start date.
"The foie gras has been selling out like hotcakes," said Negrete. "We actually ran out of what we had in stock for the week, so we had to take a trip early downtown to pick up two more loaves of foie gras."
For Chaney, who was busy running around his restaurant between television and newspaper interviews on Friday, said this weekend will be a busy one for Hot's and, for now, the publicity around the ban is only helping him.
"Our reservations are through the roof right now," he said.