Once again it may be time to look towards Chicago as a culinary test market. This time, however, it isn´t to see what is being created in the kitchens along Michigan Ave. as much as it will be to see how things are cooking in the courts.
On August 23, the Chicago City Council´s ordinance, banning foie gras in the city´s restaurants, became law shooting down all foie gras sales in the city´s restaurants. But this has little to do with foie gras and more to do with poitical interference in something as politically correct as the restaurant business.
An industry coalition, The Illinois Restaurant Association and Chicago Chefs for Choice got their ducks in order and prepared a lawsuit naming chef Allen Sternweiler of Allen´s- The New American Cafe as plaintiff.
Feathers are ruffled in Chicago. And, the lawsuit will cost the taxpayers of the windy city big bucks. But, the city has deep pockets. As we all know, restaurant owners don´t.
Now whether you happen to be goose liver lover or not has little to do with the ban on foie gras. The meat of the issue here is how far can a city council, or any other governing agency go in dictating what can or cannot be sold in your restaurant.
It seems rather odd that immediately after the foie gras ban was approved, Alderman Ed Burke decided to take his shot at banning trans fats in the city´s eateries. What´s next? Could the soda pop lobby get together and pressure the Aldermen to ban chocolate milk? How about those chicken vendors? Could they put the hurt on the beef industry? What about Pasta on Wednesday? Could this be prohibited because it was too Italian and possibly politically incorrect?
Who knows where this will stop. And, if you think it will only happen in Chicago, don´t kid yourself. Chicago is a test market for many things.
Chef Didier Durand, owner of Cyrano´s Bistrot & Wine Bar and co-founder of Chicago Chefs for Choice, recently hosted a special foie gras dinner to raise funds to assist with the legal expenses to fight the ban. The 150.00 a plate dinner raised about $9,000.00 which will go towards the legal fees of this costly suit.
We all know hard difficult it is becoming to offer customers a unique experience at a reasonable price. One of the fallacies many people have about the business is that every owner has a wheelbarrow in the office to assist in getting the money to the bank.
With tougher legislation on building, on equipment, on handicap accessibility, and all the other small print requirements that you need double digit readers to decipher, regulations are impeding growth for most small unit operators.
To have the city council, in any city, dictate what can appear on a menu, may be taking culinary creativity one step too far.
For updates on the Windy City Foie Gras Wars go to Chicago Chefs for Choice. Check it out frequently. Once this happens in Chicaog, city councils across the country will want to get on the "Ban Wagon". You may not think this ban will effect you, but in the long run, it will effect every restaurant owner in the country. If you would be interested in sponsoring a dinner to assist with the legal fees contact Chef Durand. He will be happy to hear from you.