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Owner Sues Chef Over Missing Recipes

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Owner Sues Chef Over Missing Recipes
Photo Fraiche Bakery

Header: This piece has since been updated in the footer

It's the dream of every chef to have that secret recipe that's loved by everyone. The one dish that people visit their venue for every time - the one recipe everyone asks for and the one plate of food that makes their place stand out.

That's exactly what Susan Davis Friedman had at her Fraiche Bakery Cafe in Evanston, Chicago, with her secret recipe for 'Cinnamon Bombs' (a muffin / doughnut creation that made her cafe the talk of the town.) The bomb was listed as No. 87 on TimeOut Chicago’s list of 100 Best Things We Ate (and Drank) In 2011 and Friedman claims the recipe was more than three-and-a-half years old, a unique feature to her bakery and one that made it stand out from the crowd.

All that is until her chef resigned and decided to take the only copy of a book containing all her recipes, including The Bomb, with him. Now Friedman has been forced to take the chef to court to try and force him to hand the recipes over. It's a strange case of ownership, intellectual property rights and chef/owner relationship. It also serves as a warning to other proprietors and chefs that ownership of kitchen creations is something not to be taken lightly.

Speaking to theChicago Tribune, Freidman claimed that the recipes were developed by her, the chef and kitchen assistants and maintains they are restaurant property. A point she will have to make this week to a judge when the trial goes to court.

In an affidavit, a sworn statement of fact made under oath, the chef is quoted as saying: “If she wanted the recipes, why didn’t she make copies?”. A good question and a mistake Friedman must be regretting but one surely counteracted by her claim that the chef was made to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

The trial will go to court this week with Susan - represented by Benson Friedman, her husband and attorney  - hoping to lay claim to the secret recipe that made her cafe so famous.

The results of the case and chef's defense will be both be interesting points, but whatever the outcome when the two face off in court, one question will remain: Just how safe are your secret recipes?

Update: The case has been settled out of court with the pair reaching an agreement before the trial. Friedman's lawyer said:  "The Cinnamon Bombs are back and everything we once offered we now offer again." The actual settlement reached between the owner and chef has not been disclosed but it seems the recipes have now been returned.

The chef, Maryann Huppert, said the whole case has been 'ridiculous' and claimed that she always saw the binder of recipes as her property and that she brought the creations in from home, adding: "They told me to come get my stuff, and then they sued me to get it back."

The case really highlights the issue in ownership of culinary creations and with no specificic copyright or patent law to protect recipes it seems this won't be the last time chef and proprietor face off in the courts... 

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