Dear Grub Street,
I’m curious if you’ve heard goings-on about chefs selling their recipes to the restaurants where they work. I’m in the industry and coming across a situation where this could come up. Does this happen? Or are there chefs that walk away from recipes they’ve created and just leave them with the restaurants where they worked? Your inside knowledge is much appreciated.
Since the Great Oyster Bar War of 2007, intellectual property has been a hot topic in the restaurant business. We asked intellectual-property attorney Charles Valauskas, whose clients introduce new food-product lines, for advice. Watch what you sign, he tells us. A lot of today’s standard employment contracts give the restaurant the rights to whatever a chef creates while he works there. But if you keep that out of your contract, legal tradition favors the chef. “The inventor [of the dish] is the owner absent a written contract specifying otherwise,” Valauskas says. So if you want to keep your signature lardo ravioli, make sure you don’t sign away your rights to it when you get hired.