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Chef Martin Picard, famed for his use of foie gras, is no longer preparing the Taste of Winterlude dinner in Ottawa on Feb. 4. ((Graham Hughes/Canadian Press))

The organizers of Ottawa's Winterlude festival have opted to leave a controversial food off the menu of its opening dinner, and the Canadian chef famous for preparing it out of its kitchen.

Montreal chef Martin Picard was originally asked to cook for the Feb. 4 Taste of Winterlude dinner at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., but his use of foie gras — an ingredient made of fattened duck or goose liver — riled some diners and animal rights activists.

Picard backed out in December after being asked to deliver a menu without foie gras.

The delicacy is produced by force-feeding the birds to make a larger, softer liver. Animal rights activists have long objected to the practice, calling it inhumane.

The National Capital Commission announced Tuesday that Picard will be replaced by another celebrity chef, Michael Smith,, who stars in the Food Network show Chef at Home.

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Smith, from P.E.I., is set to prepare an Atlantic-themed menu, the NCC said.

Picard owns the acclaimed Au Pied de Cochon restaurant in Montreal and Cabane à Sucre restaurant near Mirabel, Que.

He also appears on the TV show The Wild Chef, where he hunts and prepares various foods.

Ottawa chefs serve up protest

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Foie gras, pictured, is produced by force-feeding ducks or geese to soften and fatten the liver, a process animal rights activists call inhumane. ((Spencer Green/Associated Press))

Steve Mitton, owner of the Murray Street Bistro in the Byward Market area, said he and three other restaurants will serve foie gras during Winterlude as a form of silent protest.

"I'm just hoping it'll say something … that I'm standing up for what I believe in," Mitton said, adding foie gras is not normally on the menu at his restaurant.

The NCC sent a letter to the events 450 ticket holders Monday, offering refunds.

Winterlude begins Feb. 4 and runs until Feb. 21.

With files from the Canadian Press