Brfarr: I am in NoVa so now you've piqued my curiosity! What restaurant is yours, if you don't mind my asking?
Now, on to the substance of the post. While I will provide the same disclaimer as other posters that THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, I am an attorney here in the area. No, I'm not an intellectual property attorney, and no, I don't have a lick of experience in this particular area of law. That being said, this set of circustances presents some fairly general principles of law that are part of most lawyers' general knowledge base.
So, the whole "slavery" thing. What BDL was referring to (I think) is the concept of specific performance. When someone has breached a contract you can usually request specific performance of that contract as a remedy in addition to damages. For example, we contract for you to sell me a house, and you breach, I can generally ask the court to force you to sell me that house. However, you cannot ask for specific performance on services, or employment contracts. This is actually less because of a notion of not forcing someone to do something they don't want to do; courts force people to do things they don't want to all the time! It's more because the person being forced is likely to under-perform out of spite, thus thwarting the goals of the process. I will add this, however, if you were to win on a hypothetical breach of contract action for his failure to provide these recipes, the measure of damages may not be limited to the $20/hr for 6 hours you said you'd be comfortable paying. Instead, I'd argue that your measure of damages is either (a) the replacement cost of those recipes (how much you'd have to pay another chef to reverse engineer the recipes and/or create suitable replacements); or (b) the amount of financial loss your business suffers as a result of the breach (lost revenue because you don't have those same dishes on your menu). The latter is much more difficult, if not impossible, to prove but it's theoretically an option.
It sounds like the practice of documenting recipes was not outlined in the written contract regardless, so another question presents itself. Was this expectation communicated to him clearly enough to satisfy whatever generalized language the contract does include? If so, then you may have an argument that he breached by not doing it all along. So, it's not his failure to cough up the recipes now that is the breach, its the fact that he didn't do it throughout. You are likely not inclined to take him to court over it, but if you explain it to him that way, it helps to support your argument for how he should be compensated. You're not "buying" the recipes from him, he's just catching up on a backlog of work he should have done already.
That brings up the IP issue. Even if he did write them down all along (of for the ones he did write down) who do the recipes belong to? I will admit that I do not know whether one can protect recipes through copyright or patent law (someone referenced Coke and KFC, but that is trade secret which is different) but it has been said on this thread that recipes are not copyrightable or patentable and that sounds about right. It makes sense that you are not breaking any law if you are able to successfully reverse engineer a recipe, and moreover, I feel like if this were possible we'd hear about this litigation all the time and we don't. So let's assume that you can't protect recipes with copyright or patent (I know, we're not supposed to assume, but that's also why I said THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE :) ). If that is the case, then he's not selling you anything because there isn't anything to sell; you can't sell something you don't own. For what it's worth, if this is true that also means that language in the contract regarding ownership of recipes developed during a chef's employment wouldn't have any purpose or effect. A non-compete may accomplish this goal, but I'd question the enforceability of a non-compete that was tied to specific recipes.
So, aside from being long winded as us lawyers are prone to do, what is the sum up? You probably can't force him to write these recipes for you, even if you were to avail yourself of the courts and/or arbitration. You may be able to recover some measure of damages from him, but only if you can point to his failure to have written these recipes down in the past as a breach of your mutual agreement of the terms of his employment. There is probably no ownership over these recipes as a matter of law, so his notion of you "buying" them from him sort of goes out the window. This leaves you with a simple disagreement over how much he should be paid for the time it would take to write these down - if it's 6 hours, then you think it should be $23.75 per hour, and he thinks it should be $1,066.67 per hour...just a small discrepancy. So, your options are to (a) try to convince him to write them down for you. To this end, you could mention the possibility of litigation or arbitration, but it is never advisable to make an empty threat so only do this if you're serious about it; (b) actually litigate - this one doesn't seem to make sense cause it's not likely youd get out of it spending less than $6,400 in legal bills if he's willing to go all 12 rounds with you; or (c) suck up your pride and "purchase" the recipes from him. If you select (c) you can likely negotiate him down to a much smaller number than his initial asking price, and you can contractually try to prevent him from using them in the future. Even though our foregoing analysis says you can't do that with recipes, if he wants to treat them like IP, then he should take the bad with the good. Something like when Kramer sold his stories to J. Peterman.
Phew! Sorry if that was much more information than anybody reading this thread ever wanted. I suppose I was glad to be able to give a little back to a forum where I rarely have more than questions and am often in awe of the vast amounts of cooking knowledge out there which I could not likely amass in multiple lifetimes!