Whose dish is it anyway?

I recently read about a chef in Australia who had copied a dish from a chef in New York. A lot of debate surrounded the so-called copying, but I had to wonder whether you could actually copy a dish? If someone places their recipe in the public domain, is it then wrong for someone to come and take that recipe and add it to their menu if there is no trademark or copyright on it?

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By  Laura Barnes Published  May 7, 2006

|~||~||~|I recently read about a chef in Australia who had copied a dish from a chef in New York. A lot of debate surrounded the so-called copying, but I had to wonder whether you could actually copy a dish? If someone places their recipe in the public domain, is it then wrong for someone to come and take that recipe and add it to their menu if there is no trademark or copyright on it? It is a tough question, and something that a lot of top chefs must experience at some point in their career. I asked Gordon Ramsay what he thought about the issue, and although he said it was flattering that someone enjoys your food so much they want to create it themselves; he also added that copying like for like is frustrating, and not what being a chef is about. However, he also made a very interesting point; that copying 60% of a dish, and then adding the remaining 40% of your style into it, is acceptable. This is a fair comment, and I think it applies to every chef regardless of experience. But it is hard to say what constitutes an original food item. For example, take fish and chips; every pub will have fish and chips on its menu and claim it is theirs. But if you are being pedantic you could say it isn’t their dish. But then whose is it? Likewise, a small country pub in the UK that I regularly visit on trips to England has ‘Carol’s pudding and chips’ on the menu, and although she made the pudding, can she really say it is hers? I think she can, for two reasons. She made the dish from scratch, and so in that sense it is her dish. Secondly, surely she can call it hers as there is no way you can trace back who made it first, as the history of cuisine stretches as far back as the dawn of time. It would be impossible to create a dish that is truly original, just like it would be impossible to find somebody who created an identical dish; it is just one of those never ending circles. However, some recipes are more distinguishable than others, for example, food from Spain’s El Bulli — which won this year’s World’s Best Restaurant Award — and the UK’s The Fat Duck, have very distinctive menus and food styles, so taking a recipe and copying it from these restaurants would be a give away. But that doesn’t mean you cannot adopt their concepts. It is all about adding your own take on experimental food. But on the other side of the coin, some people will say that even if you copied a recipe to the line, it could never be an exact replica. Every chef will add a different amount of salt, they will let the vegetables cook for varying lengths of time, and no two pieces of meat could ever taste the same. This aside, for the diner no dish is ever the same. Even going back to the same restaurant week after week and ordering the same item from the menu, each time I go there is something ever so slightly different about it. Creativity is not just about creating an original dish; it is about what the chef does on the day, what the service is like, and more importantly, who you are dining with. And incidentally, the chef in New York was not too upset about being copied, as he admitted that he got the idea from Heston Blumenthal, who runs The Fat Duck!||**||

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