Twenty years ago, he says, hardly anybody was producing rabbits commercially in California. When he and his wife, who he describes as an "internationally-acknowledged meat rabbit veterinarian," started, the only rabbit meat available was shipped in frozen from out of state. "If you're Chez Panisse," he says, "you're not going to put that on the menu."
Then one night, they had a chef friend from San Francisco over for dinner and served him rabbit. He liked what he tasted. After that, says Pasternak, the calls started coming in--first from Chez Panisse, then later from the French Laundry, La Folie, State Bird Provisions. His ever-lengthening list of restaurant customers includes Thai eatery Kin Khao, where chef Michael Gaines makes a green curry with rabbit loin and saddle.
Right now, he says, the meat market is seeing what he calls "the great rabbit shortage of 2014": Demand has outstripped supply.
Could rabbits take off with "urban farmers," the same was as urban chickens have? They already have. Pasternak says he has offered classes for homeowners who want to raise a few rabbits in their back yards. Declares a recent USDA report, "Rabbits have become the urban chickens of the 2010s." But with one difference important to homeowners who prize sleep: Rabbits, notes Pasternak, don't crow at 4 in the morning.