Nadia Liu Spellman, who opened a Chinese dumpling restaurant in Weston with the help of her mother, Sally Ling, this week sued two former workers on charges they stole her concept and some of her recipes to open their own dumpling joint in Millbury.
In the suit, filed this week in US District Court, Spellman alleges the two worked at her Dumpling Daughter just long enough to make note of some of her recipes before departing for the Worcester suburb to open their own restaurant, called Dumpling Girl. The trademark and trade-secrets suit also names a third person involved in the Millbury restaurant.
Spellman charges the offending restaurant copied not just her recipes but even her exact menu wording. She cited these entries from the two restaurants's menus:
Three Day Pork Ramen
NOT the instant kind!!!!!! Classic pork broth, fresh ramen noodles, pork belly, soft egg, bamboo, red pickled ginger, kombu seaweed, scallions.
NOT the instant kind!!!!! Classic pork broth, fresh ramen noodles, pork belly, soft egg, bamboo, red pickled ginger kombu seaweed, scallions.
Spellman says she carefully came up with her dumpling recipes through the experience she gained as the daughter of both Ling and her father, Edward Nan Liu, and through years of travel in China and that
Each recipe used at Dumpling Daughter is unique and was carefully formulated by Spellman who tested and refined each through taste, texture, aesthetic appeal, and careful control of ingredient portions. The recipes used at Dumpling Daughter are further distinguished from other restaurants as Spellman was assisted in their creation by Sally Ling, whose culinary successes are well-known and who only assists Spellman and Dumpling Daughter, thus making Dumpling Daughter's menu offerings truly unique.
She emphasized the proprietary nature of the recipes:
Dumpling Daughter is careful to protect its proprietary recipes by allowing only one current employee - Dumpling Daughter's Kitchen Manager - to possess the recipes. The Kitchen Manager retains Dumpling Daughter's recipes on his smart phone; the recipes on his phone are only available to the Kitchen Manager and he does not distribute them to any other staff members. Rather, the Kitchen Manager instructs various kitchen personnel, including the Defendant Lin before she left the restaurant, on what to prepare and how to prepare it. The Kitchen Manager, Spellman, and Sally Ling are the only individuals who possesses all of Dumpling Daughter's recipes.
Just as bad as the theft of the recipes, the suit continues, is that the copycats aren't very good at what they do - which is harming Dumpling Daughter's reputation because people think it has something to do with Dumpling Girl:
While at Dumping Girl on September 21, 2015, [Dumpling Daughter's manager] also immediately observed that the restaurant immediately appeared messy, staffing was inadequate, service was slow, and overall the Defendants did not appear ready to operate the restaurant. Therefore, if Dumpling Girl was to be confused with Dumpling Daughter, it would bring discredit on and tarnish Dumpling Daughter and the Dumpling Daughter Mark.
Spellman is asking a judge to order Dumpling Girl to stop using the name and recipes and to pay damages.