or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Pastry Chefs › ethical question about recipe-sharing in the kitchen from someone who owns a business outside of the restaurant.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

ethical question about recipe-sharing in the kitchen from someone who owns a business outside of the restaurant.

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

hello,

 

i am a pastry chef by trade, and i run a small retail/wholesale/catering business focusing on baked goods (but encompassing more complicated measures within catering projects). i also work part-time as a cook in a local restaurant. i'm essentially their pastry chef without the role in management; i conceive and prepare their desserts and breads from my own recipes cultivated within my business (in addition to whatever hot/cold prep and line work they need). they knew my status as pastry chef/owner of my own business when hired, and this was a motivator in my inclusion on staff as i live in a very small/isolated area and have been cooking locally for 10+ years and my business has been received very well by locals.

 

the executive chef, a former co-worker of mine from another kitchen, is now asking for my dessert recipes. some of them are very fundamental to my business, and i sell these products wholesale. i did not develop these recipes for this restaurant or under the supervision of anyone there. they are all developed by me and cultivated specifically for my brand. there are plenty of ratios and recipes i readily share, but some are distinct to my brand/ very fundamental to my salability as someone offering unique specialty foods, and i want to keep them to myself (for now anyway-- the business is not even two years old).

 

my question is this: is it outrageous or unbecoming to say that i do not want to share these recipes? i did not develop these recipes for the restaurant. these were fully developed on my own time. the restaurant in question even held a wholesale account with me before they hired me. now i just make everything with their product on their clock. 

 

am i being unprofessional, or indignant, or am i protecting my brand?

 

i have been in the industry for about a decade, have worked primarily as a pastry chef for the past four years, and have never been asked for my recipes; they have always come with me and left with me.

 

how do you feel, as professional pastry chefs, about this? i could really use some guidance. i don't want to be unreasonable or shirk the standards of what is the industry norm, but this is about my brand, which (with enough hard work) i plan on having to sustain me well beyond my time at this particular restaurant.

 

thoughts? opinions? experiences? 

 

thank you all so much in advance for any input. it is very much needed and appreciated.

post #2 of 9

A simple, straightforward explanation, as you've given here, to the executive chef should be sufficient. You'll provide a recipe for whatever dishes the chef wants, just not the recipes you use for your signature dishes. You could provide a similar recipe but be upfront that you won't be providing the exact recipe for the creations your business depends on. Followed by "of course not, Duh." 

He should not have a problem with your position and if he does, too bad. 

post #3 of 9
How is an executive chef supposed to accurately price out his dessert menu without recipes? Moreover, how can they do an accurate inventory if they don't know how much their desserts cost to make?

A restaurant owner or chef cannot be expected to have something on any menu that can't be reproduced if something happens to the employee that makes the product. That is an incredibly vulnerable position to be in, and not a smart business decision. Trade secrets aside, what happens to their dessert and baked goods if you get in a car wreck? Sure they can hire someone else, but then the product completely changes. Even if its still good, product consistency is incredibly important in the restaurant industry.

From their standpoint, they have to have those recipes or find another baker in my opinion.

There's obviously another standpoint to consider though, and that is yours. If you are trying to grow a retail or wholesale baking business, you can't be giving out your recipes. Your instincts on that are dead on. Why would you share, for free, the secrets to the products that separate you from other bakeries? Better yet, why would you devalue your product by giving them a way to get it below wholesale? You are hurting your brand by making your product that cheaply for them, as an employee.

What you have is a conundrum. Its certainly not in your best interest to share your recipes if you are wanting to keep your bakery business. Neither is it in your best interest to make those recipes for someone as an employee, for less than they could buy it at wholesale. Great deal for them, nothing to gain for you other than a job. Its also a horrible idea for them to put their bakery program at the mercy of an employee who could up and leave, or get in an accident and sacrifice their own baked goods program.

In my opinion, they should demand the recipes from you and you shouldn't give them up. This probably isn't an ideal situation for either of you.

If I were you, I'd do one of two things. I would either, 1) offer to start selling them baked goods at wholesale again and cease being their onsite baker, or 2) offer to only make recipes for them that you are comfortable sharing with them, making them give you recipes for anything additional they want and only providing your signature items at wholesale.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
post #4 of 9

Touchy subject.

This is going on right now at my boss' place.

They just lost their Pastry Chef and she took her recipes with her.

 

The company is saying that by law, anything conceived and written down as a recipe for an item served in the restaurant is restaurant property, and she is subject to prosecution for theft if she does not return them.

 

You need to strike a compromise with Chef.

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post
 

Touchy subject.

This is going on right now at my boss' place.

They just lost their Pastry Chef and she took her recipes with her.

 

The company is saying that by law, anything conceived and written down as a recipe for an item served in the restaurant is restaurant property, and she is subject to prosecution for theft if she does not return them.

 

You need to strike a compromise with Chef.

 

This is exactly how it was explained to me.

If you create it on the clock with the kitchen's ingredients it belongs to the house.

The willing placement of a signature recipe on the employer's menu is not a problem I have run across before.

I believe the claim of intellectual copywrite would only apply here if OP had previously included said recipes in a cookbook?

 

mimi

 

But then the boss would be free to use the recipe anyway.

Catch 22?

post #6 of 9

I think you need that talk with the chef before they decide its in their own best interests to get ugly and issue

you an ultimatum you may not like. And among other things make it clear that at no time did the recipes for product

youre making for them become their property.

And I also agree with Chefwriter, give them something in the way of products/recipes you can both live with and

start "weening" them off of your trade secrets. Also be sure to learn from the experience--once an item is "established"

you know they're gonna start thinking about needing to produce it without you, should the need arise.

IMO you've fallen into a bit of a trap, but it's not one you can't work your way out of diplomatically.

post #7 of 9

After further reflection, I'll offer this as well. Having created several popular "signature dishes" in my family's restaurant, I was frequently asked for the recipes. Despite initial reluctance, I began giving them out freely. The entire recipe and any appropriate techniques.

      Inevitably the requester came back to say the recipe didn't come out the same as what they had at the restaurant. After some discussion it always came out that one or more ingredients were omitted or something was substituted (low fat, we're cutting down on eggs) or an important technique was not followed or it was simply too much work.  

     While I'm sure you have put quite a lot of imagination and creativity into your recipes, a significant portion of the quality of the product you produce is simply you. Your execution of techniques, your high standards, your dedication to your craft; no matter what you write down, no one can replicate those things and most likely won't try. Following your detailed instructions to the letter won't necessarily produce the exact same product you sell. Every one, your chef included,  will most likely try to imprint their own identity on the recipe. 

     I'm not suggesting you hand over all your recipes, just that the situation probably won't turn out as bad as you may imagine. 

post #8 of 9

How does one become the executive chef without working knowledge of pastry?  Unless you are an avant garde cutting edge restaurant doing pastry is much like being a saucier, only with a steadier hand and a more careful attitude.  If any of your desserts are built up using traditional methods the chef should be able to figure it out.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for your input.

 

I realize that items conceived on behalf of a restaurant are traditionally considered property of the restaurant. As pastry, I've always taken my recipes with me, and luckily it's never been an issue. I was fairly up front about not disclosing my business's recipes to the restaurant, but I experienced a sudden, silent panic when she asked for a recipe.

 

As far as food cost goes, pastry is not a top concern. My recipes are all fairly low-cost, and as Kuan said, she could pretty easily guess just based on what I'm working with what an appropriate price point would be for my repertoire. 

 

And chefwriter, your thoughts mirror mine. And as far as folks not being able to effectively replicate your dishes (even with the recipes) this has been iterated to me by another mentoring baker; you can give away recipes, and the product still won't come out the same (in most cases, anyway). I've sent out recipes before to inquiring customers, and usually get no response at all, because once they take a look at the six-hour-labor in making swedish milk jam, they're no longer interested.

 

And as an update, I simply explained all of the components as the recipe, the chef said thank you; neither ratio nor technical ratio was disclosed and all were satisfied. But I so value all of your input. Thank you so much.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Pastry Chefs
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Pastry Chefs › ethical question about recipe-sharing in the kitchen from someone who owns a business outside of the restaurant.