Bay Area restaurants work around foie gras ban


Executive Chef Joey Elenterio is preparing fois gras for his customers at Mountain View's Chez TJ restaurant, despite California's new law banning the sale of the duck and goose liver.

Elenterio says he doesn't sell fois gras -- it's a special gift from the chef to those who order Chez TJ's $130 tasting menu.

"Here at Chez TJ we are giving away complimentary gifts of foie gras away to our guests, therefore we are not breaking any laws," Elenterio said. "The law states that by selling and producing foie gras in the state of California, that is the act which is illegal."

The Presidio Social Club in San Francisco also plans to serve fois gras this Saturday; they will sell it. General Manager Maureen Donegan believes the club is exempt from California law because it sits on federal park land.

"We're not trying to break any laws, you know, we're not trying to exploit anything," Donegan said. "We're providing a service, that's our intention and we're allowed to do it, so we're going to do it."

Dana Portnoy is with the Animal Protection and Rescue League, which fought for the law based in part on evidence and videos showing ducks being force fed.

"We have a few belligerent chefs that are acting like little children," she said.

She believes the Presidio Social Club and Chez TJ are both breaking the law.

"If a restaurant is serving, you know, free foie gras with a $20 crouton, that still amounts to a sale; it's still in violation of the law and it's prohibited," Portnoy said.

"We are in the customer service industry," Elenterio said. "My customers want foie gras; I'm going to give them foie gras."

"It's an ingredient and it's a delicacy that a lot of our customers wants to have it, so having that as a gift to give to our customers, it would be our right to do it," Chez TJ owner George Aviet said.

Elenterio says he is using up a stockpile he purchased legally in California before the ban and if he needs to replenish that stock, he will go out of state to Nevada.

As for the Presidio Social Club, activists say they will make their presence known there this weekend.

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