Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
For many of us, we couldn't care less if Mom's apple pie is really Mom's or something she lifted from a cookbook -- we just know it tastes good. But for Valley chefs who are in the business of creating signature dishes for diners, when can they truly claim a recipe as their own? I asked a few of them and this is what they had to say:
Bernie Kantak Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House
A recipe is never yours. Sad that our intellectual property is out there for anyone to grab and there's nothing we can do to protect it. Meanwhile, we pay umpteen different companies to play music in our space. Chopped salad, anyone?
Romeo Taus Chef and Owner, Romeo's Euro Cafe
All food has been invented, we just rediscover it. Changing, adding, or omitting ingredients, quantities and techniques, and using cook's intuition will yield different results. If you give 10 chefs a recipe, you'll get 10 different dishes. The key is execution and consistency. No trademarks on recipes!
Christopher Gross Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
When it's an original -- like the chocolate tower or the ABC foie gras terrine that was published in Michael Ginor's book, Foie Gras: A Passion. After the book came out, it told me my recipe had become a modern-day classic.
Chef Charles Schwerd, Arrowhead Grill
Never. Recipes are like trading cards. You can buy, sell, and possess them, but other people have the same trading cards. Consequently, you think that you're the only cardholder but fail to realize that other chefs also may own the same recipe. That said, a talented chef can deconstruct any food item and write a recipe that re-engineers the item.
Rita French, Chef de Cuisine, Province
When you put your imprint on something, it's yours. There are like a million mac 'n' cheese recipes out there, but to my family and friends, mine is the best, so that's all that matters.
Chef Eric O'Neill, SmartKitchen.com
A recipe is yours if there are at least three ingredients that have been changed/altered and two methods have been changed/altered.
Chef Christopher Nicosia, Sassi
Some say all you have to do is change one ingredient or measurement of a recipe and it's a new recipe. I'm not sure I agree with that. A recipe is truly yours when you don't start with a base recipe and just put something together according to your personal taste, then keep adjusting until it is right for you. Even then, you may have duplicated what someone else may have done.
Chef Jeremy Pacheco, Lon's at the Hermosa
A recipe is mine if I develop it from start to finish. Often, recipes are developed with help from the other chefs in the kitchen, from researching recipes of other chefs, or even tweaking recipes from chefs we may have worked with in the past.
Justin Beckett Chef and Owner, Beckett's Table
A recipe is always just a recipe, but I think you can be recognized for a dish -- a dish that is talked about and people crave. When you mention a chef or a restaurant, people often associate them/it with a dish. "Oh, you work at Beckett's Table? I love the short ribs." I clearly did not create the short ribs, but my version of it -- or my recipe -- is a staple in the restaurant.
Joe Johnston, owner, Joe's Real BBQ, Joe's Fresh Farm Grill, Liberty Market, Agritopia
I think the saying "there is no new idea under the sun" is correct. Whether you've seen an item you liked and tried to make it or looked up a recipe, once you've made it and significantly modified it to your liking, it is very loosely "yours." In nearly all situations, a recipe is not really "yours"; it is an amalgamation of the work of others you have pieced together.
Chef Stephen Jones Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
A recipe is mine from conception to plate.
Chef Taylor Domet, NoRTH, Kierland
There are very few original thoughts when it comes to cooking. If you think that nobody has made that dish like yours before you're probably wrong. Every chef has the opportunity to make a recipe theirs even if its root origin isn't from their own sketch pad. It's important to evaluate your recipes/techniques daily and continue to tweak them. The day you stop evolving your recipes is the day you should hang up your apron.
Christopher Costantino Chef and owner, Costantino's Kitchen
Many of the recipes I use have either been in my family for years or I have completely made up myself. Occasionally, I'll get an idea from an existing recipe, but I make so many changes that it is unrecognizable from the original. I consider all of these recipes to be mine.
Chef Rory Hewitt, Phoenix City Grille
I don't usually claim a recipe as my own unless the idea and concept originated with me, and I am always trying to find ways to perfect a recipe or make it better. To me, a recipe is your own when a recipe is not needed and you can taste the finished product in your mind and you can make it consistently, without a recipe.
Chef Steve "Chops" Smith, Kelly's At Southbridge
When my name is on a can of spaghetti sauce -- ha! There have been many times I thought I came up with something new only to find out hundreds of chefs are doing it, too. There's only a few chefs who are breaking new ground, the rest of us are just followers.
Chef Jimmy Hernandez, Monti's La Casa Vieja
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After a couple of taste trials of mix-matching Southwest ingredients to perfectly balance sweet and spicy flavor, the dish finally becomes one I am happy with and proud to say is my own recipe. From that point, I print it and put into my top secret black book.