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Restaurant Ethics: Sharing Recipes and Intellectual Property

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm having a hard time wording a specific question here, so hopefully thru discussion we can get to what I'm looking for...

When moving to a new job, do you bring your recipes with you? Example, where I currently work, we serve fresh pastas using recipes developed and refined by me using techniques and ingredients taught to me mostly by my grandmother. When is it ok( or not) to share my recipes or use them professionally? Another example would be using menu items from previous jobs for say a dinner special, (or heck, put it on the menu cause it went over so well). Where do you draw the line between stealing and borrowing? When do you lose the right to your own creations?

This isn't something that is really going on in my life right now, but someday I'm sure it will. Maybe it's happening to you. I'm really interested to hear what you think is ethically responsible vs the way things work in the " real world". Plus it couldn't hurt to be educated as to how the law applies.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
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A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #2 of 18

Use whatever you want. Restaurant owners have no ethics anyway. If there is a name involved and it is a registered trademark or logo you can't use the same name. If they were grandmas recipes ans someone wants them hold back 1 ingredient if you like.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #3 of 18

If it's on a menu where I currently work, I won't even mention it. We have had a chef who worked for us that took our recipes to another restaurant close by. Customers knew about it first from our restaurant, and when they go there, they easily spot that they copied us and it gave that place a bad reputation. Other than that, it's always okay to share recipes no matter who came up with it. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is who is making money off of it. Is it you, or is it someone else? If it's someone else, will they treat you good? Give you a raise? Etc. 

 

If I go to a job interview, I would rather make them something to eat than show them a resume just to prove a point. I'll use what they have in their kitchen, and let them come up with a few ingredients for me to use. I'll make it up right there on the spot and if they like it, good. If not, I know I am not wasting their time or my own. 

post #4 of 18

I call it "industrial espionage."  There is nothing wrong with doing it. You should not even give it another thought.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
" Restaurant owners have no ethics anyway" that is all too true. I'm not sure I've met one yet. They'll do anything for a buck. That irks me to no end.

I like to share what I know. Usually, if someone asks about a recipe where I currently work, I will omit an ingredient or step or something to change it just a little. (Family and close friends get the real deal though.) The fact that I change it a little shows that I'm feeling guilty on some level for sharing. That begs the question, am I living within the bounds of the value system as accepted by society( and more importantly, my own)?

I've had several people tell me not to share what I know because other people are going to steal it. I've never agreed with people who feel that way. They guard their recipe books like it's some ancient book of spells. I've heard of some places that make you sign non disclosure agreements. That is just ridiculous to me.

In the end, everything we know is stolen from somebody. I like to give credit where its due.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #6 of 18

I have no issues sharing anything.  If any of the chef's didn't mentor me as they did, I wouldn't be where I am today.  The casino I work for now is huge on collaboration, and it's an exciting environment because of that.  I just know that what will make my food better, is better fundamental techniques.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Jchenschel: thanx for your input. I couldn't agree more! I've only had one job where the chef ran the kitchen this way. Everyday was about learning and improving. He also always insisted that he learned more from us than the other way around. I wish this had been the norm for the places that I've worked. Unfortunately it's mostly been a big competition, fighting for everything to move up, stealing( for lack of a better term) to learn. I can see how this approach can be successful, but I've never been more happy, creative, or grew as much as I did in the more collaborative setting.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #8 of 18

Recipes are recipes. That's what cook-books are made of. Hello?!? LOL. There's probably no chance at all that anything/everything that you bring with you to a kitchen will leave completely with you when you leave. Nobody should expect you to ever leave and not at the same time take something with you also. As an example of cook-books, look at Thomas Keller and the The French Laundry Cookbook. Do you think he's worried about his recipes? Now I'm not saying that everyone is Thomas Keller, but we shouldn't have any worries either way. I think there is a lot more involved in plating a really good dish than just the recipe. If you're good you're good, if not ... well ...... sorry. 

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Absolutely! There is definitely more to a dish than just the recipe. I would also add, that if you're good, you don't really need the recipe anyhow.

So what are these chefs/ owners so afraid of? One owner actually asked me not to tell people what brand of nacho cheese they use! I would be interested to hear some from those of you who might think that cooks shouldn't share what we know. I suppose this personality type isn't likely to be an active member around here.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #10 of 18

Well ... I actually am that good. I use recipes. That's what helps me be, and stay, as good as I am. When you've got to prepare let's say 100 of the same dish over a 5-hr period, you want them to all be the same. Recipes help me to keep things on the same track so that there aren't any differences between dish #14 and #81. Originality is really cool, but I think people come back to get something that was a hit for them more than rolling the dice every time. Plus, I'm just really old, and without recipes I forget stuff. That pretty much sucks.  

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Oh no, I didn't mean it that way. I meant that if I ate at your place and really liked something, I could probably figure it out on my own without needing a copy of your recipe. If I was good enough, that is... obviously, depending upon the dish, it could be very difficult without some insider info. I would never knock someone for using a recipe. There are some people who have knocked me for using recipes, but they're not restaurant people and don't really understand.

I once was scolded by a chef for " improving" a dish that I didn't like. He said " you think that tastes like ####? Good! Make sure it tastes like #### EVERY TIME you make it!" He made quite an impression, it did take a while to sink in, but I totally get it now.
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #12 of 18

I really do not use recipes, but I do refer to them as far as for quantities or yields. Iceman hit it when he said keeping it the same. Consistancy is the key to any good restaurant, hotel or catering op.

Eveything must be the same all the time to assure customer returns.

As an example I oft use McDonalds , It does not matter where in the US or world you go(except India no beef) its still the same and heaven knows it is successful and has been since the beginning.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #13 of 18

if you cook local seasonal food with many different varieties there is apt to be more variance in the products taste....ie a German stripe tomato is very different from a zebra, a sungold grown on Biver Farm is different from one grown at Claverach....etc.   Many of my friends that cook local talk % in recipes....

 

I've got a couple things I don't share, just because they are so dang easy and so wonderful.....

 

LaRuth's owner would come to work with a brown paper bag of seasoning, just cus he didn't want it all over town.

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 18

I don't need recipes to cook. I use recipes though. How best to translate my knowledge and creations to coworkers and guests who want to recreate a particular dish without me standing by their side, unless it is by a recipe?

 

I am not afraid to share a recipe for anything I do. Early in my career, I needed recipes. Everything I do today, came from learning from others. How could I possibly refuse to pay that forward?

 

Trade secrets? I can give the same recipe to 10 different people. I can give them the same ingredients. I can give them the same equipment. I will get 10 different versions. Some will be close. Some will not.

 

If someone "borrows" a recipe or a dish, I look at it as a compliment. Also I know that my creativity didn't end with that particular dish. There are thousands more new recipes and dishes floating around in the ethernet of the bucket on top of my shoulders.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #15 of 18

well said Layne.

Generous soul.    

I've shared through classes & with friends....sold some for publication, you'd be amazed at how much you get paid for magazine/cookbook/website recipes.  

Written and edited recipes for a grower's market 7 years/24 weeks....lots of recipes.

 

One of my best friends, chef/owner of a 200 seat restaurant for 25 years, said hey I'll give out recipes all day long...."first you go to the farm and buy a pig, then you......."  Essentially ingredient driven food is just that....sourcing is #1.

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
That's a wonderful attitude. I am fortunate to have had a chef with the same sentiments as a mentor. The world could use a lot more of this. My current surroundings are not so generous. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that there are people who want to give back out there. BTW, "Pay It Forward", love that one!

Shroom: How do you get hooked up with publishing recipes?
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.  - Al E
Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
Reply
post #17 of 18

Have a platform, in my case it was as a chef managing an educational chef owned growers' only market & being program chair of a professional culinary group.  So when media came to town I gave them a fun basket representing the BEST of our city's artisan food scene....offered to dine around at fun restaurants and give a tour of the farmer's market.  When they needed help they called....it was an eye opening experience.

* once you sell a recipe it's theirs to alter

*you can sell it numerous times......3 times same publisher, + I still own the recipes and can resell again!

 

If you write a book, that's just the beginning.  Selling the first one typically comes down to you.  

 

Friends.  Lots and lots of friends in publishing.  They need good story ideas, I need good publishing friends....works out.

 

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #18 of 18

I would say that if the recipes are yours, then using them at a new place is your right.  They are, after all, your intellectual property.  They are part of who you are as a chef, even if the original ideas came from your grandmother (which I wholly respect, as my family has a few recipes like that) you have made them your own.  As for sharing them with others, why not.  As others have said, I would take it as a compliment if someone wanted MY recipe on how to make something.  And if they wanted to use it in their restaurant, I'd simply ask that they make it their own and not just copy it...the food you make should represent you as a chef, and not just be a copy of someone else's work.  But if another chef wanted to use my idea or recipe as a place to start, again...I'd take that as a compliment.  In fact, it would be about the only kind of compliment I really wanted...to know that I did something well enough that another chef was impressed.  I don't want someone to say, "That was a great meal chef!"  I'd be just as happy to have them be repeat customers, or ask to use my idea as part of their recipe book.  I mean, anyone can tell you it was a great meal, but if they mean it they'll come back for more, or want to replicate it themselves...as they say, actions speak louder than words.  Just my feelings on it anyway.

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