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Jose Andres' Bazaar hosts benefit dinner for foie gras chefs

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
Cocktail party will help underwrite legal fees for chefs sued for serving foie gras

Foie gras may have been declared legal in California, but that doesn’t mean the courtroom battles are over. And so a group of fans of the fatty liver are throwing a benefit dinner to raise funds to help offset some of the legal fees incurred during the fight.

At José Andrés’ Bazaar at the SLS Hotel, five well-known chefs will cook for a cocktail reception for 75 guests Tueday night, with the proceeds going to the CHEFS Legal Defense Fund. Foie gras will be provided by Hudson Valley Foie Gras out of New York.

Tickets, which go on sale Thursday, are $200 and available on the Eventjoy website.

The chefs who will be cooking include Andres and Holly Jivin from Bazaar, Michael Voltaggio from Ink, Dominique Crenn from Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, Sean Chaney from Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach and Ken Frank from Napa Valley’s La Toque.

An earlier dinner at San Francisco’s Lazy Bear sold out at $550 per person in less than 10 seconds, according to the restaurant’s Twitter account.

Frank will be one of the beneficiaries of the Bazaar event. One of the most prominent of the pro-foie gras activists, he's the target of a 2-year-old suit by the Animal Legal Defense Fund because he was giving away foie gras dishes during the ban, along with a printed protest card. The law prohibited only the selling of foie gras.

The group’s lawsuit argues that Frank “aims to circumvent the law by calling its actual sales of foie gras ‘gifts.’ As a result, ALDF has been required to expend valuable resources investigating the defendant’s unlawful acts.”

Even though a U.S. District Court judge ruled in January that the California ban on foie gras was illegal, Frank’s legal troubles continue. He says to date his costs in defending against the suit are “approaching six figures.”

“Foie gras is legal now, but that hasn’t stopped the crazies from suing me,” Frank says. “We’re trying to make sure they can’t just take after anyone they disagree with. Only a few chefs have been sued, but if they were to get some traction in court, they’d sue other chefs too.”

Andrés says he’s hosting the event to “raise some money to help pay the defense of some of these chefs. We’re not doing this to create a controversy; we just want to help a small group of hard-working chefs pay their legal defense.

“We want to be careful because we understand that sometimes people think differently than we do. But on this issue I’ve seen some things I really don’t like. This is America and we need to be able to disagree in the right way.

“I think we all can agree that no animals should be mistreated, but if they are going to be going after somebody for mistreatment, they should be going after the bad practices of some of the beef industry or the pork industry or the chicken industry.

“Animals need to be treated well, no chef disagrees with that notion. Unfortunately, in California they went after and closed down the one farm that actually was an example of how you could take care of animals for human consumption.

“I don’t think these are smart people. I think they are people who will go after anything, but they don’t see the bigger problem: How are we going to keep feeding people in America in a sustainable way.”

Frank is still thinking about what he’ll serve at the dinner, but he’s thinking about sauteed foie gras with fresh corn. Andrés says he might break out his big gun — hollowed-out truffles stuffed with foie gras.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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