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Ethical dilemma?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

A small issue someone can help me with.

 

I have been hired to manage and run a small kitchen in a bakery where savory's are being sold.  It's been a head scratcher so far, I think mainly because of the owners business approach, but nothing other than the menu had been defined.  I helped write the menu and then after many re-writes the owner came up with what he wants. 

 

In the meantime I'm creating the "sandwich's" that are being there signature sangies and all else.  So far nobody has told me that what I was doing was not acceptable but boy wouldn't I like for them to sit with me and tell me what it is they want!!  Frustrating for sure. 

 

People are enjoying my foods and returning.  Good sign so the recipe book is being written accept for one item.  My meatballs.   Have to admit they are fine and I have the acceptance from my co-workers ( rare  because everyone's meatballs are always better haahaa ).  But these are mine and I don't want to put the recipe in the book.  Just don't .   I have been making these this way since childhood.  My Noni's recipe. 

 

I feel as though in order to save my own recipe I have to switch it up some so they can have it but I want everyone to love my meatballs too.    You see nothing is in writting so Im just going at it with food.  This is my dilemma,  do I keep making my meatballs and not put it in the recipe book OR do I give them something completely different????  Because the day I move on from this place the recipe book stays.  Obviously.   

 

The owner is the kind of guy that would say "hell just buy them then!"  He hasn't even tried them yet  but Im trying to give them good and real food.  I already gave them a couple of recipes but they don't have the sentimental attachment .

 

Keep going or switch it up ???

 

 

post #2 of 12

You probably should understand that technique is much more important than the recipe.  That has been my observation.  Someone with a heavy hand might pack them too tight and they could be kinda rubbery.

post #3 of 12

It's true that even if you write out your recipe exactly that it will be difficult to recreate exactly as you do.  That said I fully understand that you do not want to share the recipe.  You have a selection of choices.  Firstly, do you get a cut of the profits from the recipe book?  If not then you are under no obligation to give them your recipe if you're just an employ.

 

Or, you can discuss this with your family and let them print the recipe giving full credit to your nona.  Explain that your grandmother's recipe will go down in history.

 

Or, tell your bosses that you're not willing to include the recipe in their book however you are happy to work with them to come up with a recipe just for this place. 

 

And stop selling your meatballs at someone else's shop.  Put them away to enjoy at your own home and to feature them in your own restaurant one day.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 12

I have never worked in a Kitchen or anywhere in the food industry for that matter. That being said, it sounds like an Intellectual Property issue, which is something I do know about. You didn't create/refine the recipe using your employers time/resources; the recipe was created before you even worked there. The owner has no right to force you into giving him the recipe and you have no obligation to give him the recipe. Keep making it if you want, but I would not put it into the book, unless he is willing to pay royalties or at the very least credit you/your grandmother.

post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonknill View Post

I have never worked in a Kitchen or anywhere in the food industry for that matter. That being said, it sounds like an Intellectual Property issue, which is something I do know about. You didn't create/refine the recipe using your employers time/resources; the recipe was created before you even worked there. The owner has no right to force you into giving him the recipe and you have no obligation to give him the recipe. Keep making it if you want, but I would not put it into the book, unless he is willing to pay royalties or at the very least credit you/your grandmother.


Intellectual property laws get REALLY foggy when it comes to recipes, I've read some crazy stories about people battling in court over recipes, but I agree that the OP definitely does not have to disclose his.  When someone leaves somewhere and takes recipes with them, or leaves somewhere and wants the establishment to stop using their recipes things get RIDICULOUSLY complicated so its best just to keep the recipe to yourself.

 

All that being said, you can give 20 great cooks the same recipe and tell them to cook it, and when they presented the dishes to you all 20 would be different from each other.

 

post #6 of 12

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #7 of 12

This isn't "legal advice," or a "legal opinion."  It's just general experience and common knowledge. 

 

A recipe as a list of ingredients is not "intellectual property," not even Noni's.  A description of what to do with the ingredients, usually is IP, but if the instructions are sufficiently shorthand than they probably aren't.  

 

However, if the meatballs are part of the restaurant's menu, the ingredients and minimal instructions are something along the way to a "trade secret."  Which means the restaurant has at least some control; enough to know how to make the meatballs when you aren't there.  If they're on the menu, they're there because you chose to share the recipe.  I'm sure you see that it would be unfair to "unshare" at this point.

 

Publishing the recipe is something of a grey area.  Nothing's ever a problem until it becomes one.  As long as you're not specifically asked for the recipe, choose not to volunteer.  If you are asked, discuss your reluctance with the owner.  Do it in terms of simple fairness and compromise (for instance they can continue to use the recipe if you ever leave, but they promise in writing they or anyone else who ever runs the business will not publish it).  I also suggest trying not to sound like you think a lawyer would, using legal terms or legal arguments in any way, and casting a jaundiced eye on any "legal advice" you come across here at Chef Talk.

 

I'm not trying to tell you what to do, just trying to help you look at some of your options.  In your shoes, I'd give the recipe freely with the request they put your Noni's name on it. 

 

Just sayin' is all,

 

BDL

post #8 of 12

All the above is good advice, but everyone has different ideas.

 

Me?

 

You write you were hired to run a kitchen.  Part of your job description is to ensure consistant food.  True, everyone makes stuff in a different way, but still, there should be a set standard for each dish.

 

If you make and sell that item, it's your duty to make sure everyone does it the same way.  No if, ands, or buts.

If you don't want to give up the secret recipie, don't put it out on the menu in the first place.

 

I guess this sounds hard-azzed, but that's my take on things. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 12
That's pretty much what I was going to say. If you have something that you just cannot share, save it for you're own place. There are going to be many times when someone else will need to prepare the meatballs.

I think you may need to ask yourself why do you want to use this recipe. What are you getting, money, a name? What is your boss getting, clientele, sales, profit? Remember, you are working for someone else, to put money in their pocket. (Hopefully he is appreciative and appropriately reciprocates) I really feel that it is the owners business, and that withholding recipes is, in essence, a statement that your assets are more important than the owners. I'm sure that without exception, this type of relationship will fail. So if you can't give it to your boss, save it for yourself.

I started a similar thread last week and there are some very good comments made there. Here's a link if you care to check it out.

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/68950/restaurant-ethics-sharing-recipes-and-intellectual-property

( Edit forgot to add..)

I am proud to share everything that I've learned. When someone says "Wow, you have to tell me how you did that!" I just can't help myself. The compliment is too great to say no.
Edited by Sparkie - 1/29/12 at 1:13am
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
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post #10 of 12

Somewhere, someplace, sometime, someone has made them this way before. . As Andre Sotner(former Chef Owner of world famous Lutece restaurant in NYC amd dean of the French Culinary Institute said "No One really invents a recipe'  it's just modified or a take off on something else thats been done already.

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 #11 of 12

I have to agree with the last few posters here.  First off, sorry, but your meatball is not a "one-of-a-kind" especially if it is "Noni's" recipe.  There are probably thousands of families out there making it almost the same exact way, which means there are probably thousands of restaurants making it the same exact way, more or less.

 

Secondly, you were hired to run the kitchen and as such it is your responsibility to ensure consistent execution of food.  That means writing down the recipes that you use to produce the food.  If you didn't want you meatballs recreated by someone else then you should have never used that recipe in the first place.  Barring any "legal" obligations or lack thereof, you have a moral responsibility to the restaurant to ensure that others can make the food the same why if you are gone.  And no, you cannot "take" your recipes when you leave (meaning that you can't steal the recipe book so no one can recreate the dishes anymore, you do have any and all rights to use those same recipes in other places you work though).

 

As a long time chef, I don't believe in "secret" recipes.  I'm honored anytime someone likes what I've cooked them so much that they want the recipe.  Even in competition cooking I don't have any secret recipes.  I'll give anyone any one of my recipes, but I'll dare them to get the same end product that I do.  But that's competition, not a restaurant kitchen setting where it is my goal to ensure that each cook can prepare each item the way I would and end up with the same product.

post #12 of 12

Unless a recipe has serious dollar value (KFC, Coke) I never understood the desire to keep a recipe to oneself. The ability for that recipe to put money in your pocket depends more on your business acumen and desire for success then it does on Noni’s recipe. Colonel Sanders wasn't’t a huge success because of a recipe. He was a success because he built an empire doing the hundreds of other things right along with his recipe. Putting Noni’s recipe out there will likely give your work (and hers) far more exposure and chance for success then keeping it quiet. IMO, it’s like guarding a glass of water and saying it's mine.

 

As for “So far nobody has told me that what I was doing was not acceptable but boy wouldn't I like for them to sit with me and tell me what it is they want!! Frustrating for sure.” I have many past and current employees and my biggest frustration is when people keep their mouth shut or tell me what they think I want to hear instead of the truth. Business owners have many tasks and distractions that impede simple communications. Ask your employers to sit with you and give you feedback and communicate what they want. There is nothing wrong with that and they’ll likely be grateful for it.  

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