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Porcini, Truffles, etc Now Illegal in LA County


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#1 dfunghi

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 06:07 PM

We were informed today that the Los Angeles County Health dept has determined the sale of wild mushrooms are a health risk because they are gathered from an unregulated source. There wording is "Wild mushrooms do not come from an "approved source" ". Furthermore an approved source does not exist for wild mushromm other than those that are farmed. Porcini, Morels, Chanterelles, Truffles, Hedgehog, Yellowfoot, etc, etc, are not farmed by ANYONE since the science does not exist to farm these varieties.
They have made their first strike by ordering all farmers markets in LA County to stop selling or allowing the sale of any wild gathered mushrooms. Their next step is going to be restaurants followed by wholesalers.
If you would like to ask questions or perhaps voice your concerns about the removal of such a wonderful and safe ( when handled correctly) product I encourage you to contact

TERRANCE POWEL Head of Environmental Health div of LA Co health dept.
626- 430-5100
or
HECTOR DELLA CRUZ Acting cheif of same dept.
626- 430-5140

I strongly urge you all to get involved in this before it goes to far. I appreciate any and all support.
David
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Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

#2 Maison Rustique

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 07:35 PM

WTF!

Good grief. Thanks for posting this. I'm just a housewife that likes to cook and it pisses me off. I can't imagine what it must be like for you professionals!

I just realized you said LA County. I'm in OC. Come on down here and get your goods! :wink:
Deb
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#3 fiftydollars

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 07:38 PM

My condolences.

#4 FaustianBargain

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 07:47 PM

Is there an url?

Edited by FaustianBargain, 17 February 2005 - 07:48 PM.


#5 chezcherie

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 08:23 PM

bastards!
i bought some gorgeous ones at my local farmer's market two weeks ago ("winter chanterelles" and hedgehogs), and you can bet that i will dash between the raindrops to see if the mushroom guy is still there this week.
i will use the phone numbers you posted tomorrow, with righteous indignation!!!!
bastards! first foie gras, now mushrooms...keep your hands off my plate!
"Laughter is brightest where food is best."
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#6 rjwong

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 09:09 PM

Yes, there is a URL: http://lapublichealth.org/eh/index.htm

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services
Public Health Environmental Health
5050 Commerce Drive
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
Tel: (626) 430-5200
eh@ladhs.org


Unfortunately, I was not able to find any official information on their website about the wild mushrooms at this time. If and when I find something official (and/or from the media), I'll make certain to have it posted here.
Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

#7 dfunghi

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Posted 17 February 2005 - 10:43 PM

bastards!
i bought some gorgeous ones at my local farmer's market two weeks ago ("winter chanterelles" and hedgehogs), and you can bet that i will dash between the raindrops to see if the mushroom guy is still there this week.
i will use the phone numbers you posted tomorrow, with righteous indignation!!!!
bastards! first foie gras, now mushrooms...keep your hands off my plate!

View Post

Cherie which market do you shop at? We are at the Sat and Weds Santa monica and Sunday Hollywood. Where we will be this weekend but only with our farmed mushrooms . Shiitake, Maitake.

David
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#8 chezcherie

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 08:03 AM

i'm in la canada, but i go to a lot of different markets, depending.
this infuriates me....really. let me know what i can do, besides make phone calls
"Laughter is brightest where food is best."
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Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

#9 jgm

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 08:41 AM

Aaah, so this is what it takes to make me appreciate living in Kansas!

We just got liquor by the drink a few years ago. Now we're trying to banish evolution, and to make sure gays don't get married.

Of course, we'd have to actually be able to BUY those things here before we'd have to worry about outlawing them. (Details, details) :biggrin:

But you do have my sympathy. This is utterly outrageous. Someone at the Health Department doesn't have enough to do. Why couldn't they just require a warning, if they want to keep the public "safe"?

#10 andiesenji

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 09:13 AM

The L.A. County Health Department does not always have the brightest and the best making policy and there are a great many irrational dictates that make no sense whatsoever.
Probably some ignorant busybody filed a complaint and some equally ignorant minor bureaucrat jumped on it and passed it on to the decision makers who probably don't know a truffle from a horseapple and therin lies the problem.
One needs to contact an ombudsman to help with this bureaucratic nonsense.
It makes the county people look like idiots and they need to have this pointed out to them.
Channel 5 and Channel 9 are pretty good at getting the word out when something like this happens, contact them.
If a "name" for instance like Wolfgang Puck, would go on the air and point out that these are foodstuffs that are ALWAYS wild-gathered and are impossible to propagate in a controlled enviornment, then you can get some positive action.
You simply have to compare it to wild-caught fish or a similar product.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#11 chezcherie

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 09:37 AM

just called around, and according to the above listed mr de la cruz, there is no ban currently. i spoke to three county officials before him, none of whom had heard of a ban, or knew who would know.
when i spoke to mr. de la cruz, he was a bit curious about the source of the information ("an email"), and after a short conversation, he allowed as how one purveyor ,whom he, rightly, would not name to me ("ms. consumer") apparently did not jump through the right hoops, and was ordered removed from the certified area...but he says that there is no ban currently in effect.
whew....i think??

Edited by chezcherie, 18 February 2005 - 09:49 AM.

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#12 dfunghi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 10:06 AM

just called around, and according to the above listed mr de la cruz, there is no ban currently. i spoke to three county officials before him, none of whom had heard of a ban, or knew who would know.
when i spoke to mr. de la cruz, he was a bit curious about the source of the information ("an email"), and after a short conversation, he allowed as how  one purveyor ,whom he, rightly, would not name to me ("ms. consumer") apparently did not jump through the right hoops, and was ordered removed from the certified area...but he says that there is no ban currently in effect.
whew....i think??

View Post

I am the purveyor they would not tell you about and I was told in no uncertain terms that it was illegal for me to continue the sale of wild mushrooms either at the farmers market or to restaurants.
VERNY GRAJEDA is the officer that closed me down
310-655-8425
I have repeatedly asked for both in writting and verbaly why was I shut down and what do I do to reopen. Since Feb 2nd I have not recieved a single response. They , I believe , thought I would not pursue the matter and would just close my doors after 10 years. This is not the case I have required that the LA CO Health make a decision and that if it is illegal for clearwater farms to sell them why is it not illegal for Whole Foods, Spago, or any of the other many, many places this product is sold. They are unwilling to enforce anything beyond me at this point, This is why I turn to EGulleters for support. Those of you in the LA area that shop at any of the markets I atttend know me and know my product. I have supplied wild mushrooms to Campanile, Wolfgang Puck ( for his tv show 3 years ago), Mori Sushi, Granita, Capo, Bistro 21, Zax, Amuse cafe, Little Door, Les Duex Cafe ( now closed), Axe, Naya, House rest. ( now closed), and others. As well I have supplied the private chef industry for numerous people both famous and not. A well as hundreds of customers and lovers of fine food.


David

Edited by dfunghi, 18 February 2005 - 10:10 AM.

David West
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Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

#13 chezcherie

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 10:19 AM

david--
very sorry for your trouble with the powers that be. is there some certification that you need that you can pursue in order to become certified? something that other purveyors have been able to obtain? as it seems that other vendors are (currently) okay to continue. perhaps there is a way (though probably not easy or instant) that will allow you to continue to ply your trade?
i DO understand the concern about who is selling what, especially since a bad mushroom can take your liver out....and after attending a few mushroom-foraging classes, i wondered what safeguards were in place at grocery stores (not to mention farmer's markets) to assure that the mushrooms were properly identified. however, there have been wild mushrooms foraged, sold and consumed for centuries, so there should be a certification or something that you could get? i'm very interested in this topic, and would love to know what they require you to do.
yes, wild mushrooms can be dangerous. so can raw oysters (as i believe you or someone pointed out, upthread). so can raw meat, and i don't see a warning posted about that above the meat counter. heck--we KNOW cigarettes can kill ya but they still sell those...just the warning which i'm sure no smoker even SEES anymore, let alone reads...
sorry for your troubles, and i hope there is a way to get the paperwork you need to continue.
i am relieved, however, that things do not seem to be as dire as your original post suggested, i.e., an overall ban on the sale of wild mushrooms in l.a. county.
good luck with the county.
edited to fix some (but maybe not all) typos.

Edited by chezcherie, 18 February 2005 - 10:28 AM.

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#14 andiesenji

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 10:51 AM

just called around, and according to the above listed mr de la cruz, there is no ban currently. i spoke to three county officials before him, none of whom had heard of a ban, or knew who would know.
when i spoke to mr. de la cruz, he was a bit curious about the source of the information ("an email"), and after a short conversation, he allowed as how  one purveyor ,whom he, rightly, would not name to me ("ms. consumer") apparently did not jump through the right hoops, and was ordered removed from the certified area...but he says that there is no ban currently in effect.
whew....i think??

View Post

I am the purveyor they would not tell you about and I was told in no uncertain terms that it was illegal for me to continue the sale of wild mushrooms either at the farmers market or to restaurants.
VERNY GRAJEDA is the officer that closed me down
310-655-8425
I have repeatedly asked for both in writting and verbaly why was I shut down and what do I do to reopen. Since Feb 2nd I have not recieved a single response. They , I believe , thought I would not pursue the matter and would just close my doors after 10 years. This is not the case I have required that the LA CO Health make a decision and that if it is illegal for clearwater farms to sell them why is it not illegal for Whole Foods, Spago, or any of the other many, many places this product is sold. They are unwilling to enforce anything beyond me at this point, This is why I turn to EGulleters for support. Those of you in the LA area that shop at any of the markets I atttend know me and know my product. I have supplied wild mushrooms to Campanile, Wolfgang Puck ( for his tv show 3 years ago), Mori Sushi, Granita, Capo, Bistro 21, Zax, Amuse cafe, Little Door, Les Duex Cafe ( now closed), Axe, Naya, House rest. ( now closed), and others. As well I have supplied the private chef industry for numerous people both famous and not. A well as hundreds of customers and lovers of fine food.


David

View Post


I just had a long conversation with this gentleman. (The correct number is 310 665 8450.)
He said that the only permit that was filed was from the Forest Service and not the Agriculture department and the Ag commissioner had never wanted to get into this area of permits and appproved areas and etc.
I suggested that he contact UC Davis and get information from the mycologist who has done a great deal of research on wild mushroom distribution, before jumping off into the mess that can develop from shutting down a reliable source of wild mushrooms.
He seems to be afraid that if someone gets a toxic wild mushroom he will lose his job and will be blamed for it.
I tried to explain that this makes no sense whatsoever but he is convinced that he is on the right path.
As I suggested earlier, contact an ombudsman, get all the information you can on the subject and threaten a restraint of trade suit if they are allowing other sales of wild gathered mushrooms in the county - or other wild gathered produce (how about ferns, those are mostly all wild-gathered in this area, certainly not from any "approved" sources).
I mentioned the wild-caught fish subject and he said the state does issue permits for catching fish.
It seems to be a circular argument that needs someone with some clout to fix.

Send a letter to the state's first lady. She likes mushrooms!
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#15 dfunghi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 10:52 AM

Cheri,
We have tried repeatedly to obtain the same health certificates and were only issued one to sell only what we grow. We are a certified producer of shiitakes, maitakes which is why we can sell at farmers markets, however the wild stuff is non certifeid by AG Dept which is why it requires a health permit.

David
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#16 dfunghi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 11:41 AM

As of 10:30 am acording to Hector Delacruz there is no ban on wild mushrooms nor are they prohibited for sale, however ANY FOOD from an "unapproved source" is prohibited for sale. Wild mushrooms do not come from an approved source and guidlines as to what is an"approved source" for wild mushrooms is in debate. In a very backhanded way they are prohibiting the sale of wild mushrooms under the guidlines of prohibiting the sale of ANY FOOD FROM NON APPROVED SOURCE.

David
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Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

#17 jgm

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 11:52 AM

Who's over this office? County commissioners? State legislators? Figure out the political hierarchy, and go up the ladder, and find an elected official.

I really think you should consult an attorney if you feel you can afford it. Find someone who specializes in dealing with entities like the health department; it's likely going to take some research on your part, but it will be worth the effort. An attorney who's dealt with these bureaucratic types will already have connections in place and won't be reinventing the wheel.

It wouldn't hurt to call a TV station or two. You need large numbers of people on your side, and a TV story will produce them. Also check in with food writers of influential publications in your area. The publicity will probably bring a couple of mushroom-loving lawyers out of the woodwork, who might volunteer to represent you for free.

Go to war. :angry:

#18 chezcherie

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:28 PM

In a very backhanded way they are prohibiting the sale of wild mushrooms under the guidlines of prohibiting the sale of ANY FOOD FROM NON APPROVED SOURCE.


sure seems like it. are you in touch with other wild mushroom purveyors to see whther they have been affected as well? if they have not, it certainly seems as though you are been singled out for some unwanted (and maybe unwarranted) attention.
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#19 winesonoma

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 05:27 PM

In a very backhanded way they are prohibiting the sale of wild mushrooms under the guidlines of prohibiting the sale of ANY FOOD FROM NON APPROVED SOURCE.


sure seems like it. are you in touch with other wild mushroom purveyors to see whther they have been affected as well? if they have not, it certainly seems as though you are been singled out for some unwanted (and maybe unwarranted) attention.

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#20 JFLinLA

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 07:04 PM

Who's over this office?  County commissioners?  State legislators?  Figure out the political hierarchy, and go up the ladder, and find an elected official. 

I really think you should consult an attorney if you feel you can afford it.  Find someone who specializes in dealing with entities like the health department; it's likely going to take some research on your part, but it will be worth the effort.  An attorney who's dealt with these bureaucratic types will already have connections in place and won't be reinventing the wheel.

It wouldn't hurt to call a TV station or two.  You need large numbers of people on your side, and a TV story will produce them.  Also check in with food writers of influential publications in your area.  The publicity will probably bring a couple of mushroom-loving lawyers out of the woodwork, who might volunteer to represent you for free. 

Go to war.    :angry:

View Post


County offices are controlled by the County Board of Supervisors. There are 5 for all of LA County. They are:
Gloria Molina -- Generally covering large portions of east LA and into portions of the San Gabriel Valley
Don Knabe -- Generally covering southern portion of the County around the harbor area and up along the boundaries of Orange County
Mike Antonovich -- North LA County into the San Gabriel Valley
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke -- Covering central LA, south and south west
Zev Yaroslavsky -- Covering central and west LA and large portions of the San Fernando Valley

The district boundaries are funny. I would figure out who your Supervisor is and then bright and early Tuesday morning (after the holiday weekend) call the downtown office and ask to speak to their deputy who handles issues relating to health and food safety. I know you're pissed off but you need to be calm. These guys and gals are much nicer to you and willing to help you out if you don't seem like a loony and are respectful of them as professionals. Lay out your situation in a reasoned and logical manner.

Some support from your customers would be helpful. Letters or corroborating phone calls (once you know the right staffer to call) from known chefs or restaurants would help, especially if its in their district. Media attention from the local food reporters would be good too.

Best of luck.
So long and thanks for all the fish.

#21 MaxH

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 12:14 AM

Probably some ignorant busybody filed a complaint and some equally ignorant minor bureaucrat jumped on it and passed it on to the decision makers who probably don't know a truffle from a horseapple and therin lies the problem.

Sounds about like what happened with Foie Gras.

In my great great grandparents' time, people in California ate things like crabs, pigs' feet, and (if they wished) opium. (If anyone talked about banning foods because they were not approved, folks would have laughed.)

How things have changed.

#22 pedro

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 04:58 AM

These type of things, like the ban of having game served in restaurants in NY, are simply shocking from a european point of view. Nature an unapproved source?

Really, I can't put myself in a position where I can imagine what would happen in Spain if such a ban would be issued. I think of some chefs I know and their cooking simply doesn't make sense if you remove wild products, specifically wild mushrooms, from their cuisines. You'd have to listen to Santi Santamaría, the first chef in Catalonia who got three Michelin stars with his restaurant, Can Fabes, about wild mushrooms and how important they were. His passion would come through you and make you share his excitement. Not to mention Abraham García (Viridiana), Iñaki Camba (Arce), Lucas González, who hunts them himself for his restaurant Amets, or the wild mushroom broker par excellence in the country, Llorenç Petrás, with his incredible stall in La Boquería.
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#23 dfunghi

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 10:41 AM

This all started on Feb 2nd. Since then I have been on the phone all day everyday Mon- Fri for 2 1/2 weeks. I have had two face-to-face meetings, one with Mr. Delacruz and one with Verny Grajeda (the officer that issued the order to stop selling). I have spoken with the health dept liason from Zev Yaroslosky's office, he is my Supervisor on the Board. I have had the market manager (of over 20 years) from Santa Monica contact all the parties involved on my behalf, and she also had a face-to-face with Verny Grajeda.

To date, we have had no success in resolving the issue of why this product is being excluded ONLY FROM FARMERS MARKETS (there are now 3 vendors, including myself, who have been notified to stop selling wild mushrooms. They include Tradewinds Mushrooms from the Venice market, and the young man (business name?) who recently started selling at the Palisades market). In addition, the head of Southland Farmers Market Assoc. has also made contact on behalf of myself and the markets in general with no success in resolving the situation. I have had a lawyer contact Mr. Powell and, despite his expertise in the restaurant business and his long relationship with Mr. Powell, he had no success in resolving the issue nor could he obtain any clarification in what we can do to comply and return to business.

I provided the DHS (health dept.) with documentation decribing the way wild mushrooms come to market, as well as copies of permits from the three major public land holders in USA [the USDA dept of forestry (usfs),California dept Forestry (cdf) and the Bureau of Land Mngmt. (BLM)]. These are the only permits issued by any agency to pick mushrooms in the wild. Although the DHS asked for "other" permits from food related agencies I assured them they do not exist and we obtain every AVAILABLE permit. I can't get a permit that does not exist.

In addition, I provided a 5 page typed explanation of what qualifies us as experts in the trade of wild mushrooms - with over 20 years in the field and 10 years in sales - including flow charts and names of two of the largest mushroom companies in the West that use the same picker/buyer as I do. As an example, I showed specifically how one of these companies located in Portland, OR. sells to a wholesaler in the L.A. Terminal market. I was told that, not only was I no longer permiteed to sell mushrooms obtained from my original source (the picker/buyer - same source these companies use), but that now I could not even obtain and sell mushrooms from either the mushroom company or the wholesaler in the Terminal Market - although they could continue to sell to anyone they wish - including grocery stores, caterers and restaurants, who continue selling wild mushrooms to the public. This was explained away by DHS as it has to do with different departments within DHS having authority.

I have made sound arguments as to the unfairness of applying rules to one seller and not another, with written proof that it is the SAME EXACT PRODUCT, as well as providing pages and pages of permits, explanations, resumes,and scientific explanations identifying the varieties we sell. I also pointed out that no other seller has been asked to provide ANYTHING SHOWING HOW THE MUSHROOMS WERE SOURCED.

When all this was exhausted I turned to you all, the public, for support and encouragment as well as for more ideas as to how to solve this problem. How is the LA CO. Dept. of Health Services able to determine that the same product from the same source is a danger in one venue and not another?! This not limited to just me anymore - it is now a farmers market issue and clearly discriminates against customers of the farmers' markets, since the mushrooms are still for sale at Whole Foods, Pavillions, Gooches etc. but no longer available to you at the Farmers' Markets.
David West
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Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

#24 chezcherie

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 10:58 AM

wow.
sounds like you have dotted the i's and crossed the t's, to no avail....time to get one of those tv news crusaders on the case. who is the guy who does the "filthy restaurants---are YOU eating vermin?" stories locally?
or one of the chefs who has a segment--mario martinolli or ??
i want to see you get this resolved....let me know how to help.
(have you contacted the l.a chapter of the mushroom society? i was a member for a while, and have the info somewhere, if you 'd like me to dig it up....i think there might be some notes on mushroom experts i took classes from---but you probably already have all the experts you need---sounds like you ARE one, for that matter.)
best of luck---don't give up.
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Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

#25 MaxH

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 01:19 PM

These type of things, like the ban of having game served in restaurants in NY, are simply shocking from a european point of view. Nature an unapproved source?

Bravo Pedro, that last question says it beautifully.

(We modern North Americans have an awkward relationship with food and we find our way in fits and starts, often changing direction. Give us a few hundred more years and we may get it right. :-)

#26 chefzadi

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 03:07 PM

Do you think a petition would help? Is it possible to start an e-petition? Would more letters of support help from your clients as well?

You can count on me for a signature and a letter if you want.
I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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#27 jgm

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 06:58 PM

You have two very powerful tools at your disposal:

1. Public wrath. Call a TV station and a couple of food writers in the area who have a large impact and the respect of their readers. Get well-known chefs and other prominent individuals on your side. A couple of movie stars wouldn't hurt. Embarrass the department. Make it a political issue.

2. Sue the bastards. The fact that they're singling out farmers' markets only, seems to me to be singling out a section of the market, and my gut tells me that's grounds for a case. But someone who has been admitted to the Bar in California would no doubt have a more reliable opinion. The only bar I've been admitted to lately is one that also has great cheeseburgers. :biggrin: But I'm serious: sue them. Join with others in your position, and sue them.

#28 andiesenji

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Posted 19 February 2005 - 07:41 PM

I just sent an email suggestion for this story to KTLA
KTLA story email

Anybody else want to join in?
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#29 Ore

Ore
  • participating member
  • 378 posts
  • Location:Sherman Oaks, CA

Posted 19 February 2005 - 07:58 PM

This is horrible news. Again, as Pedro mentioned above, here in Europe, how the hell are you gonna tell someone that nature is an unapproved site. WTF?? I'll try and do all I can from way out here (I still have some friends in LA!). I have shopped at both the Venice and SaMo markets - I may have even bought shrooms from you -

Were you the first approached? Do you think your inspector guy, or the people regulating this can tell the difference between wild and not?? I would keep selling - are they standing over you like a hawk? I would sell till arrested - then FIGHT A BLOODY FIGHT - or a SUPER PEACEFUL fight with all your friends here on eG and out there in CA behind you.

Let us know where and when.

#30 Ore

Ore
  • participating member
  • 378 posts
  • Location:Sherman Oaks, CA

Posted 19 February 2005 - 08:03 PM

I just sent KTLA my story...maybe something tomorrow on the news - maybe something tonight!!!