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Old Timer

Who owns the recipes?

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Here's my situation.

Recently, I have had some heated discussions with the owner of restaurant I work at.

Not shouting, name calling fights, just discussions.

Business is slow due to the seasonal nature of our place and I'm sure that is the reason for the owner's attitude.

He wants to go down to one chef and since my protegee makes less money than I, he is being fingered as the one to stay.

That's okay, I trained him from scratch and he has turned into a good cook who is just as passionate about his food as I am.

For my part, I have created many dishes that are now featured on the menu.

If things get really pissy, I'd like to tell the owner to remove my dishes from his menu and I will take the recipes with me to my next position.

There was no non-disclosure agreement signed, and I don't fell I am obligated in any way to give them up.

So who owns the recipes?

Me or the restaurant?

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Unfortunately, you would have to have the recipes in some form of printed and copyrighted material to claim ownership. If you have developed or even brought these recipes with you while being paid to do a job, you don't have much of a case. Besides, in my experience, there are no secret recipes that make or break an establishment, but rather it is a blend of the love and talent of the chef/cook, the ingredients and techniques used and finally the recipe last that make a dish. I have had to leave many recipes behind as I moved from place to place. I always considered them my legacy, not to the owners but to the cooks I taught! I always knew I could just develop new one's anyway.

Randy

@beingthechef

www.beingthechef.com


Randy

Site: www.foodproresources.com

Blog: www.beingthechef.com

Follow: @beingthechef

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Yep, that pretty much sums it up. You can take them with you but they can still do them if they know how. The only realistic way to pull off what you're wanting to do is by never letting anyone else know how you do the dishes. Even supposing some sort of copyright, they could still do the dishes. You'd have a hell of a time proving they were doing it exactly the way you did. It wouldn't be worth the stress to me. Your best revenge, if you really want to take those dishes with you, would be to take the customers who love them with you as well. Do the dishes wherever it is you're going next and do them better than the place you left behind can do them without you.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Unfortunately, you would have to have the recipes in some form of printed and copyrighted material to claim ownership.

Copyright protection of recipes is very weak. Lists of ingredients are not generally covered. Simple common instructions are not likely to be covered. If the written description involves "substantial literary expression" it might be covered, but it's unlikely that that would prevent anyone from making a workable copy of the recipe (note how many cookbooks contain essentially the same recipe explained in different ways). Also, copyright only controls copying the recipe, not reading or using the recipe.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Have the recipes been written down or do other chefs know how to make them (fully)?

If yes to either, then I don't think you have any rights. But if no to either, then you're under no obligation to give up the recipes and can do whatever you wish with them.

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Ok - lawyer hat going on for the briefest moment. As Moopheus said, copyright protection is weak and often inapplicable to recipes. As a rule, recipes are treated as trade secrets, rather than copyrighted, trademarked or patented intellectual property. Since you and your employer didn't allocate ownership of these trade secrets by means of a non-compete or other agreement, you certainly can make the argument that your recipes belong exclusively to you. But it is probably not worth the time, effort or money that would be involved in fighting over it. And the flipside of this is that your current employer can't stop you from making your recipes elsewhere.

All of this should be "food for thought" for the future - if you believe that you are creating original and valuable recipes, best to have an agreement in place that allocates the rights to them when you start employment. Unless, of course, that creates more "real world" problems than it solves. :wacko:


"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Who "owns" the recipies?

One question:

Did you invent the recipies at home, on your own time, with your own ingredients? Or did you invent at the work place, on the employer's time, with the employer's ingredients, and as part of your daily job duties?

Let it go, just let it go.

You are unique, you methods are unique, your choice of ingredients are unique and your management/supervision skills are unique. Give the same recipie to another cook and it will be different. Let the owner run the kitchen and more than likely he'll try to cheap out on ingredients or labour steps.

Let it go

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If you created the recipes while at work, the owner of the business owns the recipes. This is the same for any company (creating a product, process, etc.), unless you have a signed agreement that states otherwise.

I've created plenty of recipes while working for restaurants. Some made it into cookbooks, and of course I didn't get paid a penny for them. Of course, they're never as good as when I made them. :wink:


“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I've never heard of a case of recipes being protected as intellectual property, with the exception of copyright protection being extended to the wording of a written recipe. The ideas themselves seem to be a free for all.

While I haven't heard it put just like this, I think the solution of most contemporary chefs is the opposite of secrecy: they publish their recipes freely. This guarantees that they get credit for their ideas, since there's no practical way to stop other people from copying them.


Notes from the underbelly

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I kind of thought that the recipes were his to keep. Its okay, I'm just blowing off steam.

I actually researched and created the recipes in question on my own time at home with my own ingredients.

I even typed them out on my home computer.

Maybe I could try a bluff and say "take my stuff off your menu"! and see where it gets me.

One of the lines I created was a variety of crepes dishes that has proven popular.

No one else is serving crepes and we cornered the market. That's where I'd like to "stick it too him".

I never had a problem teaching others my cooking methods and sharing recipes with the kitchen staff.

Usually though, I held back an ingredient or two from the written recipe. Oh well, life goes on.

The irony here, is the other chef is hinting at leaving as well. I am the only one who knows so far.

If he does, the owner will literally be screwed.

He is not very well liked in the business community and there are not a lot of chefs/cooks in the area.

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A restaurant owner's lot can indeed a lonely one. Unpopular and soon to be literally screwed and chefless. Maybe he will be forced out of business. That will teach him. At least he will have a few crepe recipes to nourish him through his misery.

Pete Seeger said of a folk musician who adapted one of his songs, "He just stole from me. I steal from everyone." Restaurant recipes, like folk music are handed down and passed around, with the occasional improvisation. Except for some of the molecular innovation going on, just about any "new recipe" probably has been previously prepared by someone, somewhere, at some time.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Recipes aren't copyrighted material.

The reality of this situation is that once the person who created and watched over the recipes leaves, they will change (and likely worsen) over time. Besides if the young chef is passionate, how long do you expect him to reproduce your old recipes, especially in a seasonal environment.

For me, even if I put a lot of time and effort into recipes at an old job, such a situation usually means it's time for me to modernize, improve and change them. Once I have made better recipes I rarely miss the old ones that are now being mangled by staff that don't truly understand what made them great.

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If you created the recipes while at work, the owner of the business owns the recipes. This is the same for any company (creating a product, process, etc.), unless you have a signed agreement that states otherwise.

Actually, the default is the other way around in the US. Unless you sign a specific work-for-hire contract, any copyrighted works are owned by you by default.

cite


PS: I am a guy.

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If every chef had been able to take his or her recipes with them and have them struck off menus, then we would all know very little.

take pride in the fact you created them, take them with you and re-visit each one when you start your new job and make them shine more, that way everybody wins, including you as you will have an opportunity to develop yourself along the way.

to quote a previous post, let it go


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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If you created the recipes while at work, the owner of the business owns the recipes. This is the same for any company (creating a product, process, etc.), unless you have a signed agreement that states otherwise.

Actually, the default is the other way around in the US. Unless you sign a specific work-for-hire contract, any copyrighted works are owned by you by default.

cite

"Works Made for Hire. -- (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment"

No, if you're an employee of a business, it's assumed work-for-hire. Where it gets tricky is with freelance and contract workers. In which case it is best for all concerned to have agreements explicit on paper.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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If you created the recipes while at work, the owner of the business owns the recipes. This is the same for any company (creating a product, process, etc.), unless you have a signed agreement that states otherwise.

Actually, the default is the other way around in the US. Unless you sign a specific work-for-hire contract, any copyrighted works are owned by you by default.

cite

"Works Made for Hire. -- (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment"

No, if you're an employee of a business, it's assumed work-for-hire. Where it gets tricky is with freelance and contract workers. In which case it is best for all concerned to have agreements explicit on paper.

Moopheus and NancyH are spot on. I believe the creation and execution of recipes by an employed full time chef definitely falls under the works for hire category. As such, if the owner has them he can use them. As previously mentioned, even if this were not the case the legal hassle and expense to prevent your recipes from being produced would likely be prohibitive. If these items are popular, and you go somewhere else, you should advetise the fact that you created the "original" items popular at so and so and turn his popular, customer getting dishes into an advert for you and your new locale.


Edited by Doc (log)

-Doc

"Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on." ~George Bernard Shaw

My link

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