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[photo by Keith Hale~Sun-Times]

Didier Durand, the animated French chef perhaps best known for his opposition to the city's short-lived foie gras ban, is running for mayor.

Well, he wants to anyway. He was trying to. Sort of.

In a newsletter e-mailed over the weekend, Durand announced he was running as a write-in candidate. He described his platform ("Good food makes people happy") and that he'd set up a website, (half of which looks legit).

So I had to ask: Are you serious, Chef?

"If I was able to repeal the foie gras ban, then I can take care of the city," Durand told me by phone this morning. "I'm neither Democrat nor Republican. I'm from the foie gras party. I don't think I'll be elected, at least this time. But I really believe good food makes people happy."

Durand said that because all of his relatives are in France, "I won't put any of my family on the city payroll." Other pet projects: "School food, making sure we put tables all across the city in the parks for people to eat. Also, I will do something about the cigarette butts everywhere."

"The next mayor should be a foodie just like Mayor Daley."

There is but one snafu: Durand has missed the deadline for write-in candidates. "I'm not sure if there's more paperwork to be done," he acknowledged when I asked him if he was officially on the ballot.

Indeed, Dec. 23 was the deadline for write-in candidates to file their notice of intent, says Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections. (Candidates originally on the ballot who were kicked off have until tomorrow to file.) Allen had no such paperwork from Durand.

"This souffle is half-baked," Allen said, chuckling. "Or whatever euphemism you want to use."

And so: a call back to Durand, who was unperturbed and only slightly confused.

"Anybody who wants to write me in, they can do that at the bottom, I think," he said.

Don't be surprised then if, after your meal at Cyrano's Bistrot, Durand's River North restaurant, the chef asks you to do just that. While you're at it, ask him about the cookbook he's writing on the gastronomy of Bergerac, his hometown in France. He's working on it. Really, he is.

Foie Gras Ban.jpg

Didier Durand promised Chicago a foie gras museum, and now he's making good on his word.

"Museum" might be a stretch, but that's what Durand is calling the collection of posters, photos and memorabilia adorning a portion of his restaurant, Cyrano's, 546 N. Wells.

The irrepressible Frenchman was one of the faces of a chef-led campaign to overturn the city's short-lived ban on foie gras a few years back. Indeed, the ban was repealed in 2008, and damned if Durand is going to let anyone forget.

"The ban was repealed May 14, but June 11 was the actual date when we could serve foie gras again," says Durand (who, along with a handful of chefs, never really stopped serving the French delicacy -- he just cleverly called it something else on the menu).

Last year, he created Foie Gras Week to coincide with that date. Several restaurants offered $10 foie gras specials.

This year, Foie Gras Week runs from Friday through June 19. Participating restaurants include Oceanique in Evanston and Hemmingway's Bistro in Oak Park. In addition, Durand will offer renditions of some of his chef friends' foie recipes, including a terrine with strawberry-rhubarb jam from Michael Tsonton, another force to be reckoned with back in the ban's heyday.

The only other foie gras museum Durand is aware of is in Frespech, France. He's knows this because he was there on a fact-finding (and memorabilia-buying) mission in February.

His museum "is kind of closure for me," Durand says. "Now, there's more and more demand for foie gras. I'm not a Musketeer, but I achieved what I wanted to."


Never mind that it was illegal for less than two years, and never mind that it has now been legal, again, for one year. Foie gras still deserves it day -- or week -- dammit.

Chef Didier Durand, one of the more outspoken critics of the city's ban on foie gras, is the chief architect of the first ever Foie Gras Week, which runs Thursday through June 16 (Why Thursday, you wonder? June 11 is the date when the repeal of the ban was official.)

Seven restaurants, including Cyrano's, Durand's River North bistro, will offer $10 foie gras specials during this time.

At Cyrano's, diners will have five such specials to pick from, including a foie gras terrine with artichoke confit and pan-seared foie gras with grilled asparagus, poached duck egg and a balsamic glaze.

Durand says foie gras producers are even discounting their goods for him and his fellow chefs participating in the liver fest.

Besides the fact that foie gras is, as he say, "part of my blood," the irrepressible Frenchman feels strongly about making sure people don't forget about the ban. (He is trying to start a foie gras museum and has dibs on the domain names and

"I've worked on a total of three years to get that ban repealed, sending e-mails, sending letters sometimes going to court, sometimes going to their offices at night," says Durand, who plans on holding Foie Gras Week annually and even going national with it.

"We just don't want to have any other food being banned," he says.

Participating restaurants also include: Cafe Bernard, 2100 N. Halsted; Cafe Matou, 1846 N. Milwaukee; Carlos', 429 Temple Ave., Highland Park; David Burke's Primehouse, 616 N. Rush; Hemmingway's Bistro, 211 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park; and May Street Market, 1132 W. Grand.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.



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