Litigious Lobster Rolls

Oh, those crazy New York chefs! If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Today’s entry in the Chronicles of Chef Craziness comes from the New York Times, which reports that chef Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar is suing chef Ed McFarland of rival restaurant Ed’s Lobster Bar for intellectual property infringement. Prior to opening Ed’s Lobster Bar, Chef McFarland spent six years as the sous chef at Pearl Oyster Bar.

Chef Charles claims that Ed’s Lobster Bar copies “each and every element” of Pearl Oyster Bar, right on down to the oyster crackers in the place settings. The charges are further detailed on Serious Eats, where Charles tells writer Ed Levine that “thirty-one of the 34 dishes on [McFarland’s] menu are simply lifted from Pearl.” Now. This is certainly a startling fact. However, a quick glance at the menus of both restaurants reveals that many of the dishes that McFarland allegedly “lifted” are seafood shack basics like clam chowder, PEI mussels with a dijon cream sauce, and lobster rolls. Is Summer Shack ripping off Pearl Oyster Bar as well? What about the entire state of Maine? Charles’ case is further undermined by her major point of contention: that the “Ed’s Caesar” item at Ed’s is identical to her “Pearl’s Caesar.” The Times article reveals that not only has Charles not sampled McFarland’s salad, but that she herself got the recipe from her mother who “extracted it decades ago from the chef at a long-gone Los Angeles restaurant.” Hmmm.

We’re inclined to agree with law professor Mike Madison, who thinks that Charles’ case is “thin gruel.” To mix our food metaphors, it seems awfully like a case of sour grapes. We have no doubt that what McFarland is doing is rightfully annoying to Charles, but it is by no means unlawful.

Chef Sues Over Intellectual Property (The Menu) [New York Times]
Pearl Oyster Bar [Official Site]
Ed’s Lobster Bar [Official Site]
Rebecca Charles Is Mad As Hell and She’s Not Going To Take It Anymore [Serious Eats]
All The IP You Can Eat []

[Photo: Roadfood]

Litigious Lobster Rolls