Guest Column: Register Star story promotes hate, racism
By Phillippe Forcioli, Chef/Owner Cafe Patou
I love America and I love Rockford, but I no longer love the Rockford Register Star. Let me explain why. I was born in France and came to America 22 years ago. I came here because it is a great country with great people, and it is truly a land of opportunity.
I worked in New York as a chef at the famous Harrys Bar restaurant before settling in Rockford. Both of my children, Laurent and Sophie, were born in America. Eleven years ago, I opened Café Patou, which serves French and Italian cuisine. Over the years, Café Patou has grown in popularity and now employs 25 people.
During Café Patous 12-year history, I have spent thousands of dollars advertising its virtues to readers of the Register Star. The restaurant has earned many Best Of awards during the years and was recently featured in a column by feature writer Georgette Braun.
Until March 13, I had been treated with nothing but kindness by the Register Star. On that unhappy morning, I was shocked by what I read on the front page of the Life & Style section: Café Patou prominently displayed in a list of all things French that ought to be banned. I was stunned that my restaurant, which helps support 26 local families, was targeted by the Register Star for extinction simply because I came here from France with some of my favorite recipes.
It is sad that Life & Style Editor Jennie Pollock feels comfortable publishing that it is desirable to get rid of the French influence in America. If Pollock published a similar piece after the September 11 terrorist attacks encouraging the banning or getting rid of all things Arab or Muslim, she would, quite properly, be branded a racist. The principle holds in this case and so does the charge of racism.
I will never understand why Pollock felt compelled to launch a hate campaign against me and the staff of Café Patou. This was no accident, either, it was premeditated and intentional. Although there are several restaurants serving French cuisine in Rockford, Café Patou is the only one on its banned list. Well, one other restaurant, Lucernes, was referred to as French in the same article that mentioned our restaurant. Poor Lucernes. For the knowledge of the people at the Register Star, fondue is a Swiss dish, and Lucerne is a city in Switzerland.
If the justification for this attack is simply that the editors of the paper disagree with the policies of the current French government, my suggestion is for them to publish an editorial. That is how a newspaper is supposed to function. My staff and I have nothing to do with French politics; we create French and Italian cuisine, not French government policy. Should we divide the restaurant in two and have a border patrol to keep everybody on the Italian side?
Maybe Pollock will try to excuse this as a misguided attempt at humor. The racist Amos and Andy Show was supposed to be funny, too. But it is hard to laugh when you are turned into a target. In addition, it is irresponsible for Pollock to publish a piece that encourages hate crimes as the number of attacks against French-Americans increases due to tension between governments.
I have a simple request of Pollock and the other editors at the Register Star: In the future, please leave Café Patou out of your juvenile (a French word!) stories that promote hate and intolerance. Au revoir.