Picard cancels out from Winterlude [General]

2011 Jan 10
Well now I think I'll get a refund - have to think about it.

NCCinfoCCN to NCCinfoCCN

~ Le français suit ~

Thank you for your interest in Taste of Winterlude. We are contacting you to inform you of a change to the opening night Taste of Winterlude event. The culinary experience in the Grand Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, with its spectacular view of the opening night fireworks, will now feature one of Canada’s best-known chefs, Michael Smith. The “Celebrity Sugar Shack” experience with Chef Martin Picard will no longer be offered on February 4, 2011.

A Prince Edward Island resident, Chef Smith will prepare an Atlantic-themed menu that highlights East coast cuisine. Chef Smith, is the winner of the James Beard Award for Cooking Show Excellence and is the host of Chef Abroad, Chef at Home and Chef at Large seen on Food Network Canada and in more than 100 other countries. He is an award winning cookbook author, newspaper columnist, roving Canadian cuisine ambassador, restaurant chef and home cook.

All ticketholders to the opening night Taste of Winterlude event have the option of retaining their tickets for the evening’s new experience with Chef Smith or of being fully reimbursed. Please email info@ncc-ccn.ca to either retain your tickets or to request a refund as soon as possible. Full refunds are available until Thursday, January 20th.

The NCC and the event sponsor, American Express, were very much looking forward to welcoming Chef Picard to Winterlude and to offering ticketholders a unique evening with the Chef. When the event was initially announced, concerns were brought forward over the potential that foie gras might be served as part of the experience. The menu having not yet been finalized, the NCC, American Express, and Chef Picard then agreed that, in order to maintain a positive experience for all participants on opening night at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the menu would not include foie gras. However, Chef Picard has now informed us that his preference is to bow out of the event. The NCC and American Express respect Chef Picard’s decision, and together we moved forward to develop a new culinary experience for the public to enjoy on the opening night of Winterlude.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and invite you to enjoy a culinary experience with Chef Michael Smith as part of the American Express Winterlude Opening, or to explore the dozens of other Taste of Winterlude culinary experiences available at www.winterlude.gc.ca/taste.

With dozens of culinary experiences, Taste of Winterlude is a program that highlights excellent Canadian products and that celebrates the creativity and talent of some of Canada’s top chefs, sommeliers, and winemakers.

For comments or questions regarding Taste of Winterlude, please contact the NCC by telephone at 613-239-5000, 1-800-465-1867, 613-239-5090 (TTY) or 1-866-661-3530 (toll-free TTY), or via e-mail at info@ncc-ccn.ca.

Thank you.

Client Services
National Capital Commission


2011 Jan 10
Hey, Michael Smith rocks! Never heard of this Picard guy

2011 Jan 10
Good on Picard! I was a bit surprised it took that long, he's not the type of guy that will let a menu being dictated to him.

Now I suppose the 8 whiners will come back to complain that Smith might use lobster...

2011 Jan 10
Michael Smith is ok - I like his shows, but I don't think I'd pay top dollar for his banquet cuisine. Maybe I'll use the cash to try some other places on my hit list. Gotta think about it a bit more.

2011 Jan 10
Good for Picard. I fully expected this. I mean, did you see his "at the table with..."?

Michael Smith is a good chef as well, so not really losing out on anything unless you're looking for foie gras or shock factor.

2011 Jan 10
Maintain integrity & walk away, it was his only choice. Don't give in to the tree hugging thug huggers! lol
Now lets hope Mike Smith doesn't make his famous foie gras terrine: www.chefmichaelsmith.ca

2011 Jan 10
I had reserved 4 spots and immediately cancelled when I found out that the NCC had given in to the PETA morons. I was really hoping and expecting that Martin would pull out and he did. Bravo Martin! Vive le foie gras! Michael Smith is a great chef and I'm sure he won't disappoint but you can be assured that it won't be as off-the-wall as a Martin Picard event.

There is a place in this world for all living creatures. Especially next to the garlic mashed and the asparagus...

2011 Jan 10
I'm curious about the "shock factor" comment above - what does Mr Picard do that is so shocking?

2011 Jan 10
Picard is known for his over the top presentations/portions/ingredients - like duck in a can - where he basically does a duck confit in a can, heats it up - then opens the can at the table and plunks it on your plate (ok - not him but the servers). He is a snout to tail chef and from what I've read is the single largest buyer of foie gras in the world (foie gras on or with everything). His show "wild chef" also quite entertaining.
his restaurant:

2011 Jan 10
Ok, that is a different sort of "shock factor" than I was expecting - sounds like I might actually like this guy. Any free content of his online anywhere?

2011 Jan 10
The one with Anthony Bourdain is pretty cool...the duck 'break down' is pretty insane.

2011 Jan 10
I particularly like the line "when he dies, stop".

Now that is extreme! haha wow.

2011 Jan 10
anthony bourdain eating at au pied du cochon was the best.

I'm sure lots of people will be backing out now. Can't invite chefs to your city, to cook "their style" and take his main ingredient away. This sucks

2011 Jan 10
OK, I like him based on his Q interview

Back to basics and bucking food trends - what is not to like!

2011 Jan 10
Oh I love the duck in a can! In your face fancy pants! :-)

2011 Jan 11
The duck in a can (actually includes foie gras also) ;) is probably the best thing i`ve tried from his restaurant. I`ve loved everything i ate there, but that one was just great.

I bought one to make at home, and it was so good. I`m drooling just thinking about it.

2011 Jan 11
Way to go NCC! In acknowledgement of this accomplishment, I will be serving eight guests foie gras this weekend. Possibly served in a baby seal skull.

2011 Jan 11
Zym: here is my picture of the Duck in a Can. I love Picard, every year for my birthday I go to PDC in Montreal. You really should watch his show Wild Chef, you would get a kick out of it. Especially when he goes hunting, nothing goes to waste with him.


2011 Jan 11
LOL, exactly. Partridge grilled cheese, foie gras poutine...and the list goes on.

2011 Jan 11
I was so mad about this decision when it was made back in December. After reading the breaking news on Ron's blog (www.roneade.com), Omnivore's Ottawa, I felt absolutely compelled to rant.


I would totally eat the duck in a can. I used to buy Reflets de France Confit de Canard in a can, when I lived in France, and it was phenomenal. Now, I buy a duck and put the legs in the slow cooker, where they essentially make their own confit. It's awesome.

Duck breasts, bien sur, are seared stove-top and served rare.

2011 Jan 11
Every time there is a protest about the ethics of fois gras foodies seem to take it personally.

The only mistake the NCC made here was inviting Picard without realizing his menu would conflict with the menu they wanted for the gala. One would think an organizing committee would review a chef's style & specialties before signing them up to host the flagship event (this is a $50k evening).

This is poor planning by the NCC, nothing more, nothing less.

That said, Michael Smith is a class act. From his twitter account this evening:
PEI> for the record I think Martin Picard is a national treasure and I love foie gras> I'm also proud to represent the maritimes anywhere...

2011 Jan 13
"Every time there is a protest about the ethics of fois gras foodies seem to take it personally."

Hey Food Fun, maybe some do but I don't take it personally and I have no problem with people not wanting to eat foie gras on ethical grounds and boycotting a restaurant because the serve foie gras. They can even engage in civil protest in my view. That’s everyone’s right and I have boycotted certain businesses on ethical grounds too. While I have ethical issues with the industrial farming handles animals, I don't have any problem with foie gras.

The problem I have is the imposition of views by SOME protestors on everyone else that might disagree. Those who remember the foie gras protests from a few years ago may recall that it did not simply involve picketing but in some cases violent action by the protestors and threatening phone calls to owners in the middle of the night.

In this case, a government agency announced that a celebrated chef was coming to Ottawa. I am sure they received some protests but the protests of a few should not result in a quick flip flop just to make sure we do not annoy anyone. In my view the response should have been that we have asked Martin Picard to come and it’s up to him to cook what he wants. Foie gras is perfectly legal in this country and there are farms that depend, at least in part, upon foie gras sales – including one just outside of Ottawa. I note the Government of Canada has drawn a line in the sand when it comes to seal meat despite protests and trade issues. It's too bad the NCC did not follow this example.

There could have been protests, there could have been boycotts and all of that is completely acceptable in a democratic society. In my view, the NCC should have held the line and said you can go do that but we are not going to have decisions dictated to us.

Personally, I wonder – was anyone at the NCC threatened or intimidated as restaurants were a few years ago or was it simply worry over a public protest?

Foie gras is presently not illegal in this country which means it’s a matter of personaly choice. To turn your phrase on its head - I notice that SOME activists take it personally when the rest of us want to exercise our rights to make up our own minds.

2011 Jan 13
It's not hard to speculate that the NCC was horrified by the notion of the eight (or whatever) foie gras protestors showing up elsewhere and that being picked up by the media as the defining story about Winterlude.

Which would almost certainly have happened.

But still doesn't excuse the way the NCC buckled.

Moi, i would have set aside an area for them to protest if they wanted, set some well-behaved security to keep them out of the way of the paying attendees, and sent out a tray of non-offensive food and warm beverages for them in full view of the media.

And for good measure I would have one of those ice sculptures of a canadian goose right out front.

400ish satisfied diners with full bellies trumps 8 (or whatever) liver-haters with homemeade placards.

2011 Jan 13
Just curious - can anyone concede that the gavage is *perhaps* unethical? I listened to one local chef get stuck on that question on the air. It's the inconvenient truth of foie production, force feeding the animal past it's natural limits. Dan Barber has in so many words admitted this based on his TED talk on ethical foie production, where he calls for a paradigm shift. If you see the paradigm shift in unnatural feeding processes in other areas of livestock rearing (for instance, corn fed & finished beef to grass-fed beef, battery-penned chickens to free range/roaming chickens with natural diets), why can't people just admit there could be more ethical practices in place for foie production and move on/make change? It seems this issue is unnecessarily dichotomous, because both sides of the debate do not want to admit being wrong. The only problem is, damn, wrong tastes so right & has impressive profit margins for restaurants!

2011 Jan 13
I seem to have become a card carrying member of the foie gras defence league.... though I probably only have it 5-6 times a year. Chimichimi, I will tell you my own point of view on this:

1) Lets assume you are right that gavage is really not very nice. I guess for me, I don't have a massive problem because of what I have witnessed. I have been out to mariposa farms as a customer and showed up unannounced to buy some foie gras. When there I noticed some ducks roaming around freely. From what I understand, that's not uncommon as foie gras farms are typically small run operations. I would rather have that life with the gavage than the industrial farming that goes on with chickens and beef. I do buy "unethical" meat but I don't like and I feel guilty about it.

2) But is gavage really that bad for the ducks/geese? Not according to some. Here is the link to an article I have posted before. I will let you read it yourself. Is it a whitewash? - Well I am not an animal expert, but I found it pretty compelling. Again, I have no problem with those who disagree and those who want to protest... it's the imposition of views that gets to me.
The article is found here: incanto.biz

The relevant section on gavage is below:

Much of the outrage being stirred up over foie gras production centers around the practice of gavage, the use of a funnel inserted into the duck’s esophagus to force-feed grain to the duck over the final 15-21 days of its life. Those who oppose gavage assert that the ducks choke, vomit, and suffer greatly because of this process. This sounds reasonable. After all, how would you like to have a tube stuffed down your throat three times a day?

However, this approach is the crux of the problem with an argument meant to play upon human empathy: it anthropomorphizes an animal whose physiology is fundamentally different than ours. Ducks and geese are waterfowl. Their digestive tracts evolved to accommodate swallowing of whole fish, the occasional amphibian, and rocks for the gizzard to assist in digestion. They lack a gag reflex and their esophagus is lined not with the delicate mucus membrane found in humans, but a thick cuticle. Their windpipe opens in the middle of their tongue and they do not breathe using an abdominal diaphragm as humans do. Air passes through air sacs located in the upper torso, prior to entering the lungs. Ducks are able to breathe, even during the brief 10-15-second process of gavage.

Dr. Jeanne Smith, an avian veterinarian who investigated Incanto’s foie gras supplier, Sonoma Foie Gras, in 2004 testified before the California legislature that tube feeding is the medically accepted way of feeding ill or injured ducks and geese, a practice she regularly teaches her clients to perform for home care of their birds. The principal difference between the feeding she saw at Sonoma Foie Gras – compared to her clients’ injured tube-fed birds – was that the foie gras ducks were unstressed by the process. This is inconsistent with the picture of tortured, abused birds enduring an inhumane feeding procedure. Similarly, a delegate from the American Veterinary Association who visited Hudson Valley Foie Gras in 2005 announced that his personal position on the foie gras issue changed to the positive as a result of his visit, indicating that “tube feeding is less distressing than taking the rectal temperature of a cat.” As recently as last month, a journalist from the Village Voice ran a lengthy expose on American foie gras and concluded there is little evidence to support the argument of cruelty and suffering among the ducks.

2011 Jan 13
Medicine Jar

I couldn't have explained it in any better way. Unfortunately there are those who won't let the facts get into the way of a sensationalist story used to intimidate and force unreasonable views onto others. I don't oppose the fact that any animal defence league (PETA et al)has an opinion. What I do get upset about is the fact that the NCC gave in so easily. Much the same as the restaurants who gave in by no longer serving foie gras. I would dare anyone to protest in front of Au Pied de Cauchon in Montreal. The patrons alone would line up to beat them with a few pork hocks and cans of "Canard en conserve". Unfortunately, political correctness is Ottawa will prevail and instead of telling these people to go pound sand they all run for cover thereby giving these people "gain de cause"... It's really quite sad. The following favorite statement says it all...

"Political correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical, liberal minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media which holds forth the proposition that it is possible to pick up a turd by the clean end"

2011 Jan 13
This is getting off topic, but I find that view of political correctness to be offensively narrow-minded. Here are some statements about political correctness from its wikipedia page:

Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid-1980s, as part of its demolition of American liberalism. What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism — by leveling the charge of "political correctness" against its exponents — they could discredit the whole political project.

Moreover, the commentators claimed there never was a “Political Correctness movement” in the US, and that many who use the term do so to distract attention from substantive debate about racial, class and gender discrimination and unequal legal treatment. Similarly, Polly Toynbee argued that “the phrase is an empty right-wing smear designed only to elevate its user”.

Commenting on the UK's 2009 Equality Bill, Toynbee wrote that:
The phrase "political correctness" was born as a coded cover for all who still want to say Paki, spastic or queer, all those who still want to pick on anyone not like them, playground bullies who never grew up. The politically correct society is the civilised society, however much some may squirm at the more inelegant official circumlocutions designed to avoid offence.

2011 Jan 13
Narrow minded perhaps but accurate and realistic...

2011 Jan 13
"Taste of Winterlude is presented by American Express® in collaboration with the National Capital Commission." says the Taste of Winterlude website.

Anyone think American Express had a part to play in the flip flop?

I have heard of some folks getting their tickets refunded from the NCC in protest. Does anyone know if anyone has cut up their American Express card in protest?

2011 Jan 13
AmEx does similar dining out events in a bunch of major cities. I don't think they are too concerned about the actual menus.