The lawsuit that Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar brought against Ed McFarland of Ed's Lobster Bar last summer—the case that transfixed the entire restaurant community—was finally settled out of court yesterday according to Times. Though Charles said she would have liked to have set a legal precedent by winning the case against her former sous chef Ed McFarland in court, both sides were happy to be done with the whole ordeal.
For those who don't remember, Charles sued McFarland last summer for plagiarizing her restaurant concept and for stealing her recipes for his restaurant in Soho. The lawsuit was the first of its kind in the restaurant world, and if it went to court, it would have decided once and for all if recipes and design ideas count as intellectual property and if sous chefs have fiduciary duty to a restaurant. Restaurateurs and bloggers debated the topic left and right and wondered what the repercussions would be for future businesses and spin-offs if Charles won. But no matter. Case is closed, and the Times lays out the changes McFarland has made to the restaurant and the menu to appease Charles:
"The suit had demanded that Ed’s Lobster Bar, at 222 Lafayette Street, stop using visual elements that Ms. Charles claimed were copied from Pearl. On a visit Friday afternoon, though, Ed’s Lobster Bar looked much the same as it had last June, except for several small details of décor that were singled out in the complaint as being virtually identical to those at Pearl. The wainscoting on the walls, once gray, and the stained-wood backs on the chairs and bar stools are now painted white.McFarland has claimed innocence throughout, and the details of the settlement, both in terms of menu and decor changes and in terms of a financial sum, haven't been revealed and probably never will be. On another Lobster Bar note, McFarland is still planning on expanding on his restaurant, perhaps to the Avalon Bowery this year.
...A few weeks after the repainting, Ed’s Lobster Bar had new menus printed, introducing several new dishes and changing the names of others. The lawsuit had charged that Ed’s menu consisted 'almost entirely of dishes created by Charles.' Now the Lobster Bar’s bouillabaisse, an item long offered at Pearl, is called 'New York Shellfish Stew.'
But 'Ed’s Caesar' is still there. Ms. Charles had been particularly indignant about it, claiming that Mr. McFarland had stolen a recipe passed down to her by her mother. Distinctively, it is made with English-muffin croutons and a coddled egg."
· Chef’s Lawsuit Against a Former Assistant Is Settled Out of Court [NYT]
· Pearl v. Ed's: On Fiduciary Duty; Plus, What Joe Bastianich Thinks About All This [~E~]
· Pearl Oyster Bar v. Ed's Lobster Bar: Day 2 [~E~]