Food Plagiarism……Why?

Upon eating at a high end restaurant in Los Angeles, I was flabbergasted to find 2 dishes on the menu.  I proceeded to read it over and over again as if by doing this I would magically find that it was a figment of my imagination.   I know these 2 dishes!  I know of the chef who created them and further more, I have the cookbook and can tell you the page numbers of the recipes.

I had to order these dishes plus others.  The first dish was an exact replica of page 44 of the book.  It had a slight alteration with an additional topping but still the same.  Then the other “stolen” dish came and I just laughed as he changed the presentation of the original.   I ate it in disbelief, “what the hell is this chef thinking?  I later had the pleasure of meeting the chef as he danced from table to table collecting accolades.  We were introduced to him with others and had a quick conversation.

Then I said, “The one dish “blank” and the other dish “blank”,  reminds me of Chef *******”…There was silence as his eyes widened and embarrassment cloaked his body.  He wasn’t expecting me to know this, but I did.  He fumbled for an explanation and rested on his final quote “I was inspired by the chefs dishes”.  The last time I checked “Inspiration” in the dictionary it did NOT  read “Taking someone else’s sole creation, changing or adding something and then calling it your own”.  He walked away unamused.  But I can assure you I left that restaurant even more unamused.

I can see why some of the worlds big chefs get equally frustrated when it happens to them.  As do I.  In the modern world of new techniques and seasonal ingredients, we all learn and use these things to create our own voice.  After all, all musicians use the same notes but once again create their own songs to define themselves.  Learning another bands song and changing two cords doesn’t count as writing your own song.

I really admire chefs who honestly conduct themselves and seek to create their own cuisine.  After all, we who cook all have a rich past and inspired palate and history.   These elements alone are prerequisite enough to do something new, I just wish they would find it in themselves to find it!