Hot Doug’s Sohn reflects on Chicago’s former foie gras ban

April 22, 2011

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(Flickr/Paul Goyette)
Hot Doug’s offers a variety of exotic offerings, like sausage made from buffalo, elk and venison.

Next week marks five years since the start of Chicago’s short lived foie gras ban. The fatty duck and goose livers, produced by force feeding fowl through metal tubes inserted in their throats, are either a delicacy or the product of horrific animal cruelty, depending on who you ask. Its banishment from Chicago’s white-linen tables was bundled into other legislation, approved by a voice vote, poorly enforced and repealed two years later.

The dizzying back-and-forth left some people feeling like the ban was lifted mostly because Chicagoans were embarrassed by the national attention and public ridicule from outside city limits. Celebrity chef/raconteur/vegetarian-hater Anthony Bourdain said the foie gras ban made Chicago look like “some stupid cow town,” and as Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel put it, “a city trying to become an Olympic destination doesn't want to look like a stupid cow town.”

Animal rights activists, who surely would have bristled at Bourdain’s characterization, were sad to see the law go. But one person who celebrated its repeal was Doug Sohn, proprietor of the gourmet hot dog joint that bears his name.

At Hot Doug’s, Sohn sometimes incorporates foie gras into his recipes, like his special duck sausage. It’s made with foie gras and Sauternes, and is served with truffle aioli, foie gras mouse and fluer de sel. (No surprise perhaps that particular entrée was a favorite of Bourdain’s when he visited Hot Doug’s for the Chicago episode of his Travel Channel TV series, No Reservations.)

Sohn was recently interviewed for Young Chicago Author’s periodic cabaret known as the Encyclopedia Show. Amid jokey questions probing his thoughts on the “best spice” (salt, cumin) and the “worst spice,” (fenugreek) Sohn dished on the period from 2006 to 2008 when he tried to figure out how to respond to the ban. On one hand he says the city “didn’t have the sense of humor I thought they might about this issue.” On the other he says he feels like he “ignored the law and won.” You can hear more of his reflections in the audio excerpt posted above.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Doug Sohn was interviewed at an event presented by Young Chicago Authors in April. Click here to hear the event in its entirety, and click here to subscribe to the Dynamic Range podcast.