How to legally protect your unique recipes if you’re a chef

Do you know who created the most famous culinary recipes? Probably, you don’t. And that’s the beginning of the long-lasting question that circles the culinary world reflecting the old “which came first” philosophy. This store’s Halloween Cupcakes recipe, for example, could be easily copied which would mislead the buyers into the belief of the recipe originality.

Why is important to protect your recipes?

In the culinary world, the recipes are more than an art – they are treated as an asset. Most professional chefs spend countless hours crafting and mastering their recipes before they even take the courage and add them to their menus. And this is precisely one of those moments of high vulnerability for every chef – whether their recipe will be compromised or not.

If you were asking yourself how to protect the most valuable thing you got, there are several ways to do that. Let’s read more about each one of them.


The first step you can make to protect your unique recipes is to put a copyright label on them. This will protect the written form of the formula, meaning it will help you to preserve the shape of the recipe. However, recipes are more than a written letters on a piece of paper. The decoration is also a part of the recipe, but it can’t be protected with a copyright label. So, copyright works only in cases you publish or publicly share your recipe, and someone tries to recopy it without adding anything distinguishable.


This store's Halloween CupcakesYou heard about patents in engineering or science, so it’s a normal thing to ask can a recipe be considered for a license. As a matter of fact, it can but only in regards to the process of making a certain dish. If you as a chef, for example, come up with the unique method of preparing the dish (like Heston Blumenthal and his method of freezing food), then you might be able to apply for a patent. However, this option comes with downsides: it’s only valid for 20 years, after that anyone can use your license without any legal consequences. That’s because you have to fully describe the process or methodology you want to apply with, which makes your recipe available for use after 20 years of protection.

Trade Secrets

Major brands like Coca-Cola or KFC had to find another way to protect their recipes. The way they did it is known as “trade secret,” which means all the employees who came in touch with the recipe had to sign the NDA. They signed an agreement to be pressed with legal charges in case they reveal the secrets of the recipe. Did you ever hear about such a case where an employee told the recipe for Coke? No, you didn’t because their way of protecting the recipe is among the strongest ones that are available.