I gave out recipes for a few years, and got the horrible feedback from cooks who had no clue of how to actually follow a recipe.
I have not given out my own versions since then. I know of very few people who put the effort into following a recipe including the detailed instructions.
There are a few people I'd give recipes to, but those are few and far between. There's a reason that you write "trade secret" on them when you turn them in to the health department!
But unless your recipe is built from the ground up your recipe is built on the work of others that they have shared. Seems odd on my view to keep something secret that is built on the work of others but that is just me. You are not going to put yourself out of business simply by sharing recipes with customers or even if a competitor manages to get a hold it.
My recipes are built from the ground up by myself, so when I put out a cookbook everyone will be welcome to buy it!
ChefAngie... I will bet that your relatives gave out those recipes to everyone who asked.
I'm from the south and recipe sharing is a way of life. I use my grandmother's pound cake recipe, but I will bet that hundreds of people my age in Tidewater Virginia call that same recipe theirs. She freely shared that recipe with everyone, as I know that someone once shared it with her. Now that recipe is "the" pound cake recipe of many.
I am of a completely different belief system on this where goodwill outweighs the value of a secret recipe.
Not one celebrity chef has been harmed financially by sharing recipes. Just the opposite happens in every single solitary case. Think of Warren Brown and his six bakeries in DC or Joanne Chang, who opened her second bakery in Boston after sharing her most prized and unique recipes. How about Cakeman Raven? Because of their generosity, I would love to patronize their bakeries if I was in the area. And our own snarkybaker who started the champagne cake threads still going on years later... I would go out of my way to visit her shop.
You can say these are recipes from a book, but I made sure I just mentioned recipes published on the web by the chefs themselves, free for all to duplicate. I could list a hundred similar situations where the author does not have a book but the recipe made them semi-famous just for sharing.
I don't believe that I need anyone's particular recipe to succeed and no one is going to put me out of business over a few recipes. I think in this web age that an abundance of fine recipes are available for either tweaking or to aid in the practice of creating completely new recipes. Not one recipe is the Holy Grail of recipes.
This is just my opinion, but if it was not for my southern upbringing of the mass exchange of phenomenal recipes at every family gathering, the south, including me, would not be the great bakers and cooks that we have become over the centuries.
Two things happen with competitors and your recipes... either they do not possess the skill to pull them off, or they are talented in their own right and would not use your recipes. Besides that, no two bakers bake the same unless one is tutored, like my daughter.
This is just my opinion, but it is backed up by fact. So many thing come into play with a business that a recipe, although vital, is not the only aspect.
I respect all who want to keep their recipes private and I don't feel this is a right/wrong situation. I just want to throw out there that goodwill goes a long way. I won't know until next week, but goodwill may have completely changed the course of my business, again.
I understand the arguments for both sides. But for small baked-goods businesses, I still suggest not sharing recipes for the products you sell. The good will you get from giving away recipes is very nice, but you don't lose that good will when you smile and say, "I'm so glad you like my baking. You can always buy them here."
I once had a customer who asked for my coconut chocolate chip cookie recipe. She loved them and wanted to give them away as Christmas gifts. So instead of buying them from me, she wanted to "save some money" and bake them herself. This customer worked full-time and lived with her boyfriend who also worked full time. I was a single parent and ran a small retail shop. I needed customers to buy my products so I could stay in business and support my family. And trust me, I have many more stories like this.
I've given a few recipes in the past and when they received good feedback re the recipe, they took all the credit for the recipe.
I've spent long hard hours on these cakes, i won't be handing them over to people on silver platters anymore!
I used to guard my vegan cake recipes like they were my children. I built them from the ground up and it took a very long time and a lot of experimenting to get them right. It felt wrong to just give them away. So instead I traded recipes. I got an awesome cheesecake recipe from a baker here who owns/ed a cheesecake only business. It is now my default cheesecake recipe and all others Ive tried fail in comparison to hers. Im very happy with my trade. Even if I did give out those recipes I dont think people would be able to get them right, with all the exotic and crazy ingredients that go into them and the processes it takes to make them.
My other cake recipes came from books. My beloved sugar cookies and the delicious-melt-in-your-mouth icing I use on them came from this website. I give those out to anyone who asks. Funny thing about that though, I have yet to have anyone actually make the recipe and it turn out just like mine. My SIL asked for my double fudge chocolate cake recipe with the chocolate mousse filling I use in it and I gladly handed it over to her. Then weeks later she accused me of leaving out an ingredient because he cake sucked lol.
The best was my old next door neighbor. I always give out my sugar cookies on pretty plates as Christmas gifts to our neighbors (before we moved to the country and not longer have neighbors lol). He BEGGED me for the recipe. He said he loved when Christmas came around because he knew he was going to get some of my cookies. So I gave him both the cookie and icing recipes. He called me a few days later and asked if he could bring some by. The cookies were NASTY. I told him what I think went wrong based on what I could taste in the cookies. Basically whoever had made them left out key ingredients and substituted others. It wasnt the same recipe at all. The icing wasnt even close. So he offered to pay me to make him batches of those sugar cookies every other month. Im not a legal baker and honestly I detest making those sugar cookies, which is why I only do them at Christmas. So I told him Id just make them for him as a gift when I had the time.
Since weve moved he has called me a couple of times and jokingly asked if I would mail him some of those cookies lol. I told him he had the recipes there, he just needs to follow them exactly as they were written if he wanted the cookies to turn out.
Ive also been on the other side of this argument too. My husbands old BFFs wife makes this amazing hash brown casserole dish. I love it. I begged for the recipe. She refused, said it was her special recipe and should couldnt give it out. I persisted. Finally one day her husband handed over the recipe to my dh but warned him to warn me NEVER make the recipe for an event that both us wives would be at. I complied. Not too long after that I was making the recipe for a family event and on the side of the can of cream of chicken soup (and ingredient in the recipe) was the EXACT recipe for this casserole. It wasnt some super secret, passed down through the generations, give it to you and Id have to kill you kind of recipe. It was off a freaking can of soup! After that I made that casserole every time there was a get together, even if she was there. She never said a peep about it either.