Top Secret

To what lengths will a chef go to keep a recipe under wraps?

Good magicians know how to give their audience everything without giving them anything. Similarly, good chefs know how to put their secrets on your tongue only to have you keep coming back for more.

Sonny Pham is Edmonton’s own Colonel Sanders of Asian take-out. The creator and purveyor of the Oodle Noodle franchise is still the only one in his chain who knows the makeup of his secret sauces, and he works exhaustively in his North Edmonton factory to supply all five of his locations with sauce and noodles.

The recipes have been written down only once. Concerned with the state of the franchise should something happen to Pham – say he’s found one day floating face down in a vat of jungle curry or crushed under a literal ton of noodles (his factory can press out 2,000 pounds a day) – a lawyer advised he write out the recipes for the sake of posterity. Only Pham and his franchise owners have access to the lockbox in which they are kept.

While Violino’s head chef, Johnathan Gangur, is more open with his staff about his sauces, the new menu he created stayed under wraps until it was unveiled early in the new year. What the competition doesn’t know, the competition can’t copy. 

However, Gangur isn’t concerned with someone ripping off what’s inside each of the dishes. “The secrets,” says Gangur, “come from a person’s education, what they’ve learned. If it happened, I’d be honoured, really.”

Sometimes, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds. Duchess Bake Shop‘s owner, Giselle Courteau, has developed a make-it-yourself kit for Duchess’ top-secret macaron – a recipe she perfected through 200 attempts over four years. When a staff member is entrusted with the recipe, it’s practically considered a promotion.

Despite the kit being on shelves, that doesn’t mean just anyone can replicate this clandestine confection from scratch. While there’s a YouTube video showing the complex series of steps necessary to make them, the kit’s packaged so there’s no way to tell how much of each ingredient is included – keeping the exact recipe a closely held secret even though customers are making the macarons at home.

So while the food may be fantastic, maybe it’s the mystery that’s truly delicious.

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