Years ago, Chef Sean Chaney would dazzle his family and friends with mouthwatering tacos. His skills earned him the moniker Hot Sauce, and eventually just Hot. These days, as co-owner/executive chef of Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, Chaney has an activist group hot…bothered.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say they’ve brought suit against the restaurant for “engaging in unlawful business practices” by violating the July 1 statewide ban on the sale and production of foie gras.
But hold on…is the restaurant actually selling foie gras?
According to the Hot’s menu, customers can order THE Burger, which includes balsamic thyme onions, whole grain mustard, and served “with a complimentary side of foie gras.”
Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA said the suit was filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. “It’s a transparent attempt to evade the law, plain and simple,” he said. “No restaurant can act outside the law by illegally selling the diseased livers of abused birds, and PETA will help make sure that this one doesn’t.”
Hot’s Kitchen had already joined a coalition objecting to the ban, and based on the stance that the law is unconstitutionally vague, sued the state of California the day after the law went into effect.
PETA insists that foie gras (deliberately fattened liver of a duck or goose) production, and concentrated force-feeding of the bird is cruel and inhumane. This ancient method of ‘gavage ‘ constitutes inserting a tube deep into the duck’s throat to pump in large amounts of corn. The force feeding is conducted over a period of two to three weeks prior to slaughter, stimulating the rapid growth of enormous amounts of fat in the liver. The end product is a fatty liver that’s 6 to 10 times its normal size.
The foie gras industry, restaurateurs, and ardent lovers of the buttery food assert that the ducks, devoid of a gag reflex, feel no pain. In fact, they say the unobjecting birds, at force-feeding time, practically line up for their supper. They point out that the powerful beef, pork and poultry industries are more deserving of scrutiny, however the tiny foie gras business, comprised of only three producers in the nation, is the easier target.
Hot’s Kitchen spokeswoman Kelley Coughlan states, “Publicity stunts such as the filing of an outrageous, baseless lawsuit, followed by the issuance of press releases are nothing more than an attempt to exploit the media by stoking controversial flames and are designed to line the pockets of profiteers… Hot’s stands by its previous statement that foie gras can be made humanely, and we continue to provide our customers with wholesome, humane animal products.”
While many chefs have embraced the statewide decree, others have reacted defiantly.
Eater LA reported Chef Greg Daniels of Haven Gastropub in Pasadena bluntly stating, “I think the French are laughing at us…there are much better targets of your trying to protect animal rights.”
Chef Roland Passot of La Folie declared, “We raise these ducks to be eaten. We don’t raise them to become pets.”