Former Black Tap Social Media Manager Says She Actually Invented Those Giant Willy Wonka Ass Milkshakes

As previously established, those monstrous, cake and cookie-smothered Black Tap milkshakes are bullshit. But even if they’re bullshit, whoever actually invented them should get proper credit for their Frankenstein creation. And according to the restaurant’s former social media manager Brittany Stark, she is the real creator of the signature Black Tap shake, not restaurant owner Joe Isidori.

Advertisement

Isidori has previously said that he created the milkshakes after his wife asked him to create a crazy shake one day. “I did it, and 72 hours later, we went viral on Instagram. It’s a true story, true story, and we’re opening up restaurants all over the world now,” he’s quoted as saying. But in a thorough and deliciously dramatic story up at Eater, Stark lays out exactly how she thought up the idea for the now wildly popular and profitable shakes and has significant documentation, including approved sketches for the shakes, emails, and text messages, to prove it.

Isidori approached Stark while she was working as Black Tap’s part-time social media manager in 2015, asking her to help him come up with a way to reach female diners and influencers. She then created the idea for the Black Tap milkshake, designed specifically for Instagram, and it became so popular with customers that it was added officially to the menu. And while Black Tap does tell Eater that Stark helped Isidori finalize recipes, the restaurant seems to have significantly understated her involvement. Several former employees credit Stark with basically inventing the shakes:

Former employee Debbie Yu — who worked as a shake maker, bartender, and maître d’ at Black Tap from January 2016 to June 2016 — says Stark “conceptualized the idea of the crazy, extravagant milkshakes.” Stark trained staff whenever new shake designs were added to the menu, and some of the shakes still on the menu today — like the “sour power” and the cotton candy shake — are her designs, Yu says. Former Black Tap manager Charlotte Busa also says Stark was the “creative force behind the now-famous shakes.”

As Black Tap expanded, Stark tells Eater that she felt like she was being shut out of the business. She pitched an idea for a shakes-only restaurant and went to look at spaces with Isidori, but she tells the site that she heard he was interested in opening the shop without her. She eventually quit in 2016 and upon doing so was reportedly asked to sign a contract giving Black Tap all of her milkshake designs or she wouldn’t get the last two weeks of her paycheck, which she refused to sign.

Stark says she’s coming forward with her story now because she wants other young people working in the restaurant industry to protect their work. “I don’t think young, powerless people should have powerful people take their creative work away from them,” she told Eater. “People in similar situations should ask for a contract, keep records of their work, and speak up when necessary.”

Hazel Cills is the Pop Culture Reporter at Jezebel. Her writing has been published by outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, ELLE, and more.

DISCUSSION

theghostofjimmadison
The Ghost of James Madison's Rage Boner

This sucks for her, but it’s an illustration of something I think a lot of people don’t realize: There is no practical way of protecting recipes beyond keeping the ingredients/preparation process a secret. Neither trademark nor copyright law apply to recipes as recipes. While it is technically possible to patent a recipe, as a practical matter it’s usually impossible because of the amount of prior art you would be dealing with (also, it’s expensive and takes years).

If you publish a cookbook, I can take every single one of your recipes, put them into my own cookbook, and as long as I don’t copy any of your photos and prose, there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop me.

Even if you keep the recipe secret, if someone reverse engineers the exact dish and starts selling it, you can’t stop them either.

She should have insisted on a contract protecting her rights to the milkshakes and the revenue stream. That’s a tough thing to do as an employee, especially a young one, but it’s really the only good way to do it.