Chef Hanis Cavin Speaks Out About California Foie Gras Ban

June 15, 2012

California’s Foie Gras Food Fight
Friday, June 15, 2012
By Angela Carone

Chef Hanis Cavin of Carnitas’ Snack Shack speaks out about the California foie gras ban on KPBS TV’s Evening Edition 6:30pm Saturday, June 16, 2012.

It’s lunch time on a Thursday and San Diegans wait in long lines at Carnitas’ Snack Shack in North Park, under a wooden pig standing vigil on the restaurant’s roof.

Thursday is special. That’s the day chef Hanis Cavin serves foie gras.

The burly chef jostles for space in the small kitchen. He points to a plate of sliced foie gras, waiting to be tossed onto the grill. “There it is in all its glory. Brings a tear to the eye, doesn’t it?”

Cavin’s 6-month-old restaurant specializes in pork. It’s named after his miniature pet pig and YouTube star, Carnitas.

Cavin’s love of pork is almost primal. He has a tattoo of a pig on his inside forearm. It includes an accurate diagram showing the different cuts of meat.

But Cavin also loves foie gras. He serves it once a week and prepares it differently each time. Mostly he sears it, making the outside crunchy. On this day, he’s made it into a gravy and poured it over short ribs and French fries. “I want people to enjoy it. If they’re taking a risk to order it, I want them to go, ‘Wow, this tastes good,’ and hopefully open their palate.”

Foie gras is a delicacy, and it’s expensive, though not at Carnitas’ Snack Shack. “That’s what’s kind of ridiculous,” Cavin chuckles. “We sell it for $8 and it normally runs $18-25 on most menus.” On that Thursday, it sold out in two hours.

On July 1st, the sale and production of foie gras will be illegal in California, the first state to enact such a ban in the nation. Authors of Senate Bill 1520 say the way foie gras is made amounts to animal cruelty.

Banning foie gras might not mean much to your average consumer, who rarely eats such pricey fare. But the debate reminds us of something we all deny on a regular basis: We don’t like to think about where our food comes from because more often than not, where it comes from isn’t pretty.

Maverick TV host and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain says foie gras is one of the 10 most interesting flavors in the world. Chef Hanis Cavin says that for some people, eating foie gras is a religious experience.

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