Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune
January 26, 2010
When the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of foie gras, the expectation by some proponents was that the city's chefs would express indignation, shrug their shoulders in resignation and quietly get back to work.
"Quite simply, I was offended by a group of zealots bullying their personal agenda into my professional kitchen," said Michael Tsonton, at the time chef-owner of Copperblue restaurant in Lake Point Tower and now at Hotel Sax.
For Didier Durand, chef-owner of Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar in River North, the ban was an affront to his heritage.
"I used to do foie gras farming side by side with my mother, Renee, back in France," Durand said, "so I knew the animals were neither hurting nor scared."
Durand and Tsonton organized Chicago Chefs for Choice, a grass-roots movement that fought the ban on several fronts. The group promoted speakers holding opposing views on foie gras production, organized fundraisers and exploited loopholes in the foie-gras ordinance with a little low-level civil disobedience.
Ultimately, Chicago Chefs for Choice, with considerable help from the Illinois Restaurant Association, helped create a climate that led to the ban's repeal in 2008.
The foie-gras issue remains a controversial matter, but in Chicago it is no longer a legal one. These chefs took a stand, endured criticism and worse (Durand's restaurant was vandalized at least twice), but fought City Hall and won.
Cyrano's, 546 N. Wells St., 312-467-0546, cyranosbistrot.com; Hotel Sax Chicago, 333 N. Dearborn St., 312-245-0333, hotelsaxchicago.com