About 20 activists protesting the use of foie gras greeted the first wave of diners eager to try celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre's creations at Redondo Beach restaurant on Wednesday night.
For the season finale of their new television series, LudoBites America, Lefebvre and his wife, Krissy, to Casa Pulido, where they served what Ludo Lefebvre called "French Mex" cuisine.
The protest, which was organized at the last-minute by San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League Executive Director Bryan Pease, featured chanting and posters depicting ducks being force-fed through pipes.
The group disapproves of Lefebvre's use of the French delicacy foie gras—fattened duck liver—in a $12 foie gras quesadilla served with crispy cabbage and juniper berry oil.
To create foie gras, farmers dump several pounds of food down ducks' throats multiple times per day, according to the organization's website. A force-fed duck's liver is 12 times larger than a normal duck's.
"They're torturing animals for a table treat," Pease said.
A statewide ban of foie gras will go into effect in June 2012.
"We just found out about this yesterday afternoon," Pease said, adding that he was pleased with the number of people who came to protest, considering the short notice. He said that 50-60 people show up at most protests.
Protester Brenda Calvillo from Huntington Beach agreed.
"It's really hard to reach anybody on a last-minute basis," she said.
Pease spent part of the night chanting over a megaphone; however, Redondo Beach police officers later informed him that use of a megaphone violated a municipal code.
Several Redondo Beach police officers kept an eye on the protesters. According to Sgt. Dave Christian, someone contacted the police department about the activists.
"We came to make sure they weren't violating any laws," such as blocking the sidewalk, Christian said.
Some diners were clearly uncomfortable with the protesters' shouts, especially when some sign-carrying activists started yelling, "Shame on you!" There were even some heated exchanges of words between some patrons and protesters.
At one point Christian did walk over and speak to the group.
"We respect your right to protest," he said, later adding, "We don't want anyone to get in trouble."
Manhattan Beach resident Susan Rudnicki, who attended the protest, said Lefebvre exchanged words with the activists through a window before the restaurant opened.
"He used the F-word a lot," she said, noting that he also insisted that the protesters were treading on his cultural heritage.
"There's nobody starving for lack of foie gras," Rudnicki said. "It has no redeeming value."
Nevertheless, the protest may have backfired somewhat. Production crew members said many diners ordered the foie gras dish, perhaps out of curiosity.
Holly Sarah Wong, who ate at the restaurant, called the dish "excellent" in a Twitter message.
"We ordered seconds of the foie [gras] quesadilla," she wrote.