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Food fight: Chef accused of plagiarism

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2012 | Intellectual Property |

A popular food television network fired one of its hosts after allegations of plagiarism began to swirl.

The woman, who hosts a show on cable television’s Food Network, was accused of stealing intellectual property belonging to other famed chefs. Producers for the show, which featured numerous desserts, investigated some of the woman’s recipes and methods of preparing certain treats to determine that many of them were almost identical to previously published recipes.

One such instance of this involved German chocolate cupcakes that the host prepared on the show. However, the frosting she used on top of the treats was eerily similar to a recipe found in a cook book written by ultra-famous chef and craft maker Martha Stewart.

The host was also deemed guilty by network executives of producing other dishes that were too close to recipes used by other chefs.

While this might have damaged the chef’s reputation among the food world, it remains to be seen whether she will face any criminal penalties. After all, proving plagiarism or theft of intellectual property is difficult to do in the world of cooking. Many chefs use portions of each other’s recipes and apply their own personal touches. Furthermore, recipes are not covered under United States copyright laws because they are simply a list of ingredients. Copyright laws protect work with literary expression.

Officials for the Food Network did not seem interested in discussing the details of the allegations, but rather claimed that they did not renew the woman’s show because the ratings were sagging.

The accused woman learned her cooking craft at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education and worked as a pastry chef in establishments throughout that city. She debuted on the Food Network in 2010 and her show ran for two seasons before executives discontinued it.

Source: ABC News, “Frosting Fraud: Did Food Network Pastry Chef Copy Recipes?” Lauren Sher, Feb. 16, 2012