In our book, one guy is a genius and the other is a goniff.Illustration by Everett Bogue
Note: Readers with only a limited appetite for endless Talmudic hairsplitting over chef etiquette might want to quickly scan this exchange between us and the Gurgling Cod, a blogger even more fascinated by the Marcel Egg Scandal than we are.
While Marcel Vigneron certainly rips off Wylie Dufresne, the charge of plagiarism does not make sense. There’s no assertion of the work’s origination with Vigneron anywhere in the Wired piece that started this whole fuss. If you attend a musical performance, there is no such expectation that, say, Yo-Yo Ma wrote the cello suite he is performing. In this context, cooking is more like playing the cello than writing a book. If Dufresne wants to protect his intellectual property, he should write a book, which would be copyright protected. Like all artists, cooks rip each other off all the time. I suspect that the current mania for molecular gastronomy may work to create a notion of the molecular chef as auteur, rather than artisan, and thus these allegations of plagiarism.
The Gurgling Cod
Marcel may not have said he created the dish, but when a chef gives a recipe in a magazine or Website, it’s implicit that he created it, whether he says so or not. The better analogy, we think, would be Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello, and the audience expecting that the music they hear is actually coming from it, rather than from a Milli Vanilli–style recording. And now that you mention it, we do actually buy the idea of molecular chef as auteur. When you look at some of the other creative achievements that are granted protection — “Pop, Lock and Drop,” Grindhouse, the Geico cavemen, etc. — it’s preposterous to say that Wylie’s egg is less original, or less deserving of credit. Not that it matters; in the time it took to have this exchange, Wylie has probably invented three other dishes which the likes of Vigneron can ape, with or without giving credit.
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