Executive Chef Joey Elenterio, whose cuisine is one-star Michelin rated, has a supply of foie gras and prepares it for diners as a gift. That doesn't sit well with animal welfare groups that want the state's new law banning foie gras enforced.
"The law is very clear on what's allowed and what's not allowed and they think they're going to be able to evade enforcement by giving away free foie gra but they're not going to be able to evade enforcement, what they're doing is in violation of the law and that will be proven and they will be subject to a fine," Animal Protection and Rescue League spokesperson Dana Portnoy said.
Chez TJ owner George Aviet acknowledges the restaurant is using loopholes in the law.
A Mountain View resident complained to police on Thursday. After visiting Chez TJ, police have been turned the matter over to the district attorney's office, which is looking into it.
Elenterio says he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to hateful email. Now he has a small protest outside the restaurant.
"It's sad to see the other side trying to push their beliefs on us," Elenterio said. "It's a moral choice. It's my moral choice to give it away. It's my moral choice to have it in the restaurant. It's my moral choice to cook it."
Aviet and Elenterio did have defenders Friday. A few people came to show their support, if not for the foie gras, for the restaurant.
"I think it's unfair for protestors to disrupt the operation of a local business like this," Elsa Birch said.
Both sides have dug in their heels, unwilling to budge. At some point, the showdown may end up in court. For now, the controversy is in the court of public opinion.
"It's up to the consumer to do their education, get their education done, and make their own opinion on it," San Jose resident Diana San Roman said. "I don't think that they should go by what they visually see from one person."
The simmering controversy may also reach a point where one side is indicating it may back down, at least at Chez TJ.
"I think if it gets to the point that it's really causing too much trouble, we'll stop serving them," Aviet said.
Chez TJ could be an interesting test case for the new foie gras law. Does giving it away free allow the restaurant to avoid running afoul of the law?
Tomas Roman contributed to this report.