June 6, 2012
Foie gras ban to hit workers hardest
Chefs shaping a repeal strategy for ban July 1
California chefs only have a few weeks left to legally serve foie gras, but industry experts are finding it difficult to predict just how much the landscape will really change come July 1.
“Demand for foie gras is the highest it's ever been in California right now,” said Rob Black, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “Producers can’t keep up with it.”
The cost of the ingredient has swelled along with its heightened demand, with gourmands paying as much as $60 per pound for the fattened duck liver.
Black said, in reality, the greatest ramifications of the ban will come at the cost of rank-and-file servers, who will lose out on earning an estimated $20 million in tips alone.
“Such an expensive ingredient is irreplaceable,” Black said. “And diners ordering foie gras usually order expensive wine and other dishes to round out the meal. My sense is we will see some losses coming very soon.”
In the months leading up to the ban, the attention on the pricey ingredient has caused the number of restaurants that actually serve fois gras to balloon. In the past, only the 350 fine dining restaurants in California have regularly served foie gras, but in the past year has popped up in all manner of restaurant menus, used in everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to milkshakes.
The ban remains highly controversial and many California chefs have spoken out against the ban in recent weeks, an effort many have deemed to be too late to be effective in overturning the law. But momentum is building for a repeal in 2013, Black said.