Chef James Cochran, who left the restaurant — James Cochran EC3 — in Easter this year, before announcing the opening of a new Islington site called 1251, has been at the centre of a row on Twitter today after it was revealed that his former employers Rayuela Limited (who trademarked his name) have begun marketing his recipes. It comes ahead of James Cochran’s appearance on BBC’s Great British Menu (GBM) this evening.
The restaurant’s website still includes reference to the individual’s credentials, and does not state that the chef is no longer employed by the company. (He left in April.)
The team is highly experienced, having learned the craft of a top restaurant offering in such establishments as the two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury and the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms and have garnered such honours as having cooked for the Moroccan Royal Family on more than one occasion — about which they are entirely discreet, naturally.
The owners of James Cochran EC3 — the restaurant, the location for the GBM filming in September 2017, which has been renamed as 19 Bevis Marks — will offer three James Cochran recipe plans to would-be buyers, listed on a new website, which includes the strapline “trademarked for a reason.” Those plans — which include jerk chicken, scotch egg, and crispy cauliflower — are priced from £25 per week, for one recipe; £35 for three recipes; and £50 for five recipes.
Cochran himself responded to the announcement on Twitter, saying that if anyone was “so low” then he would provide the recipes free of charge.
Referring to the restaurant’s former name, the newly updated website states that the venue was a “testbed” for chef Cochran; a place where the chef and his “lauded recipes” evolved into a brand. “Between 2016 and 2018, under the moniker of James Cochran EC3, it served as the testbed where the chef James Cochran developed the lauded recipes of the James Cochran brand,” it reads.
Anyone wanna buy me...www.jamescochran.co.uk my ex-employers are the lowest of low trying to sell off my name as recipes plans??!! Wtf?? Who is going to pay £25 a week just to add my name in front of the recipe?? I will give you the recipes for free if your that low!!— Chef James Cochran (@cochran_ja) August 19, 2018
The internet reacted to the row, with critic Jay Rayner pointing out that the restaurant had trademarked the James Cochran name, meaning the chef was unable to do so himself.
Here's an interesting situation. The East London restaurant tweeting below trademarked the name of their head chef, James Cochran. He has now left to set up a new business but they are continuing to use his name, meaning he can't. https://t.co/nKoovpNybE— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) August 20, 2018
Chefs, former colleagues, and friends of Cochran joined in the debate, with Chef Ellis Barrie calling the situation “mad.”
This is mad .. my mate James who is on great British menu this week has his old employer using and abusing his name and selling it without James’ permission !! Any one out there who can help James fight this can have a free meal at the marram or any of my establishments !!! !!! https://t.co/bLH5G5qbRO— Chef Ellis Robert barrie (@ellisbarriebros) August 19, 2018
The James Cochran registered trademark handle responded to Barrie, asking he and others who jumped to the chef’s defence, to “refrain from giving advice if you do not know the ins and outs of the situation.” It referenced the UK Patent Act of 1977, despite the relevant piece of legislation being the Trade Marks Act 1994.
Please refrain from giving advice if you do not know the ins and outs of the situation. It's rarely black and white. Check out UK Patent Act 1977 which states that owner of all IP (inc trademarks) will be the employer. @cochran_ja was a paid employee, not an owner. End of story.— James Cochran (r) (@jcochranchef) August 19, 2018
No you spent that to promote your restaurant and your business .. I spend loads of money on PR to promote my restaurant and my staff .. it’s not for them to pay back when they leave .. that’s my risk as a business owner!!— Chef Ellis Robert barrie (@ellisbarriebros) August 19, 2018
I second that @cochran_ja top chef and top bloke that doesn’t deserve this... happy to look after anyone who can help the man out https://t.co/N50KBCl4MM— Tom Brown (@cheftombrown) August 19, 2018
Eater spoke with James Cochran, the chef, on the phone to seek clarity on the fall-out. The chef said that he left the EC3 restaurant in April, at Easter time, when he discovered that the restaurant had “trademarked my name and my brand without telling me.” The restaurant, of course, denies that Cochran, the chef, has any ownership of the brand, despite it being his name.
Cochran claims that the owners trademarked his name — and a number of variations of it, including Ja Cochran and J Cochran — in 2017. The new website states that the “venue”, less the chef, has been “Offering James Cochran® dishes since 2016.”
“I can’t do anything [with my own name],” Cochran told Eater.
“It was emotional,” he said: “You put your trust in these people who are directors, want to make money. It still shocks me to this day [that] people take advantage of chefs. All we know is how to cook; we’re not good businessmen.”
A spokesperson issued the following statement to Eater:
“On the issue of trademark where it is also someone’s name, this is hardly unusual. Most people are entirely familiar with how fashion designers are not able to design under their own name if it’s also a trademark and it’s not unknown in the restaurant industry.”
Cochran, who is now fully focused on his new venture, which is due to open this coming weekend, said that he had grown frustrated by the limitations of a city restaurant. And although the chef had trained at the Michelin-starred Ledbury and Harwood Arms, he admitted that he doesn’t really like Michelin-starred restaurants. “I don’t like to be in a stuffy restaurant where [waiters] push your chair in, and serve wine to the man etc.”
“I wanted to informalise [EC3], but it was in the City,” he said. He also claimed that the owners would encourage him to make menu alterations that were suitable for the clientele. “‘James we need to put steak on the menu’,” he claimed was the sort of directive he recieved. “It wasn’t my vision, I’d done everything I could do there. It got to the point where I wanted my own place.”
The restaurant, using the name James Cochran, and the chef’s recipes went to the Taste of London festival in June. The company also attempted to register for a competition hosted by KERB, the street food collective, until it was pointed out that the chef was no longer involved with the brand.
Cochran told Eater that he chose not to raise it with the owners. “I’ve not confronted them about it,” he said. “If I could be honest, I believe that with the restaurant, if i’m not involved, people aren’t going there. I hope the restaurant that I plan to open will mean that James Cochran EC3 [sic] becomes unsustainable.”
Regarding ownership in the business, Cochran says that the owners told him he had a 20 percent stake, from November 2016 — when the restaurant opened. “It was my naivety that nothing was put in writing,” he said. “Life goes on. [It’s been a] huge learning curve; you never think that people are like this.”
A spokesperson for the restaurant confirmed that the chef was never technically given any equity.
“James has never been an owner-chef,” they said.