Need some advice


Looking for Boost!
Staff member
Bit of a odd one for me, as I've always been either self employed or working for a friend/family member.

Anyways, out of the blue, my uncle called me yesterday asking for advice about his new(ish) job. Just a bit of background, he's always been self employed, but as he's getting on a bit(he's mid fifties old), he could no longer run his take away business fulltime, so sold it for a good price last year and started to help everyone else on a part time basis covering for people for 9 months or so, but then he got offered an opportunity to be the head chef of a new establishment that's not even opened it's doors for business yet!

The interview was simple, he just needed to turn up and make 5 different sauces for the owner to taste, which happened to be his specialiality. The owner was sold, he was offered the job there and then! A week later, the restaurant opened it's doors for business and within 2 weeks, it was hitting 5figures turnover!!

Here's the predicament, my uncle has kept the recipes for his sauces a close guard secret to protect himself from losing his job as he know he can't work forever, but the owner has demanded he gives the recipes to these sauces, so he can open a second one of these restaurants(that's what he's saying), and my uncle doesn't want to, but fears he's going to lose his job if he doesn't.

My uncle wants to know if he has to release these recipes by law? I personally don't see why he should give the recipes to the owner, but he's worried if he did, he would lose his job soon after, as he's hours have been cut back lately(he's easily the highest earner in the whole building), with the owner stating he needed rest since he worked so hard for the first few weeks!

Could he be sacked for refusing to give the recipes he wanted to know? I mean the owner has a lot to lose if he gets rid of my uncle, but my uncle has a lot to lose on giving away his recipes he's mastered over the years.



Staff member
Audi Main Dealer
Platinum Supporter
Bit of a difficult one Joe. By law, he doesnt have to reveal his recipes. Its not right that he has even been asked if im perfectly honest. I would say no. He has a few years of working life left yet, but that means nothing in todays workplace. They also cant pay him off if he doesnt give his recipes, the law is on your uncles side. May I suggest he seeks some clarification at consumers advice bureau.
Sandra. :)


Registered User
My understanding is that he doesn't have to to release the recipes by law.

However the owner could get rid of him any time within the first 2 years. New employment legislation states "only after working for the same employer for two years can an employee bring an unfair dismissal claim."

So it's a risky call for your Uncle.

I wonder if you can copyright a recipe?? I don't think you can.


Registered User
I'm no legal expert but this kind of thing is going to fall under Intellectual Property Rights, e.g. recipes for Coca Cola, Colonel's Blend of herbs & spices, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, and he should definitely get some proper legal advice either from the Citizens Advice Bureau and/or a laywer.

Your uncle alone knows the recipe and did so before his current employment so I doubt his employer could lay any sort of claim and force him to release the recipes in the way that if you worked for Coca Cola or Heinz and invented a new drink or sauce then that company would lay claim to the recipes as their Intellectual Property and guard them closely as trade secrets, the people with access to the secrets will probably have to sign some sort of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements to legally prevent them from quitting and doing the same thing at a rival company.

I think you'll find your uncle has the IP rights and can decide whether to keep them to himself or share them under licensing or some other beneficial arrangement with a 3rd party (lump sum, royalties, etc) or transfer the rights to someone else, i.e. sell his recipes for a lump sum. If these things have any other potential commercial possibilities (such as cooking sauces you could buy in a supermarket a la Dragons Den/Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce) then he needs to bear this in mind too.


W.Bro.Paul 2.0d Q5 Quattro
the 1st question is what law? there is no such a law,

my advise is to make your relative to make the source in bulk and send it out to the other restaurant in frozen form, the fact that your relative knows how to make something very good makes him valuable and needs to be kept hold of or made a partner of the business, What is interesting is what's to stop your relative from leaving the restaurant and working for another and taking the recipe with him?

i would think a contract of employment is what in needed or partnership,


Looking for Boost!
Staff member
i would think a contract of employment is what in needed or partnership,

I was thinking along the same lines as this, but he's getting on a bit, and his english is ok at best!

To be honest, there's nothing particularly special about his recipe's from my point of view, as I'm in the trade, and he's worked for me 6 months ago as a stand in. So I doubt he can put a claim to copyright to it. My uncle seems to be able to get the texture and mixture of sauce very accurate and consistant from experience over the years, which is what makes him a great chef!

Would it be wrong of my uncle to suggest to his boss that the recipe's are his, and that he's not willing to share them out, not without some agreement in place anyways? I'm guessing he's finding his position difficult due to being his own boss after so many years.


Grumpy Old Man
With the best will in the world, Jojo,and with all due respect to those who posted before me (clearly with good intentions) I think this is something about which your uncle needs to get specialised legal advice. Unless we have a qualified employment lawyer on the forum, I really don't think you should be relying on anything you read here.


poking badgers with spoons
My brother's a top chef and hes worked all over and he always said to me keep your recipes to your self because you never know what could happen with them, also its like telling someone your huge secret to your success. Personaly I wouldnt tell any one.

My mother makes hand made truffles (which are the best, if you don't believe me I might let you try some lol) she has people asking her what the recipe is and she would never tell, even after people trying to pay money for the recipe.

It would be a bit like wrighting a book and let some body else publish it and get all the credit.