Chefs and restauranteurs — the sort of people who tend to have more knives and sharp objects on hand than most — are starting to fear the increasingly violent rhetoric that has fattened up as California's ban on foie gras grows nearer. In an op-ed for the Chronicle, noted foie gras fan and owner of Incanto, Mark Pastore explains how chefs have become the latest target of bullying in California:
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John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, responded to a proposal from 100 of California's most prominent chefs to reconsider a July 1 ban on foie gras by threatening to shove dry oatmeal "down their throats over, and over, and over again."
Besides being a pretty hilariously off-color thing for a prominent politician to say, Burton's comment has Pastore, who speaks for the foie gras coalition, worried about how violent the discussion around fatty goose liver has become. While the chefs respect Burton's right to disagree about the delicious product, his "ongoing use of violent rhetoric" strikes a little too close to home for those who have been affected by acts of domestic terrorism that have occured since animal-rights activists first took up the cause. Pastore continues:
Many of us first became involved with this issue in 2003, when animal-rights activists vandalized the home and business of chef Laurent Manrique, his wife and 2-year-old child, and then issued a threat against him. The FBI categorizes these as acts of domestic terrorism. Such acts should be met with unequivocal opposition, not by imitation.
In addition to Manrique, Pastore explains, researchers at California universities have been stalked or threatened, a local ranch became the victim of arsonists, and local chefs have been vandalized or threatened for exercising their right to serve fatty liver. Former Lafitte Chef Russel Jackson, who famously threw a series of "F U Foie Gras" Dinners, even bragged about coming to work wearing a bulletproof vest after protestors started getting rowdy. (Although, to be fair, he might have been joking.)
According to Pastore and the foie gras supporters, however, speech such as Burton's can lead to similar incidents as bashing gays and bombing abortion clinics, in that it makes it acceptable to hate a chef for the dishes he chooses to serve. If you ask a more reasonable person, on the other hand, they might just point out that disagreeing with a chef's menu is little more than a good reason to simply dine someplace else.