Ex-Employee Says Martha Stewart Stole One of Her Recipes
Sarah Gross claims the lifestyle entrepreneur took credit for her work in the '80s.
A new CNN docuseries about Martha Stewart is called The Many Lives of Martha Stewart, and there's no denying that the title is accurate. The 82-year-old started out as a model, then became a stockbroker, then moved into the food business as a caterer, cookbook author, and eventually TV host, whose media company made her a billionaire. Obviously, she didn't do it all alone, and one former employee says that Stewart took credit for her work. In the docuseries, Sarah Gross claims that the lifestyle entrepreneur stole a recipe from her and published it in her first book, 1982's Entertaining, which helped establish her career in that industry.
As reported by the Daily Mail, the recipe at the center of the controversy is for a cranberry nut torte. In The Many Lives of Martha Stewart—which Stewart did not participate in—Gross says that she first brought up the recipe when she applied for a job with Stewart. She also claims that she and Stewart ended up making the torte together many times when they worked together as caterers. She was disappointed when she saw the recipe in Entertaining and when Stewart promoted the recipe on TV without giving her credit.
"They became so much part of the repertoire that who knows if she even remembers that it was my recipe," Gross says.
The docuseries includes a clip of a TV appearance by Stewart to promote the book. Asked about the recipes, the future mogul says, "Lots of these are recipes that I've been making all my life, and a lot of them are just created for the book."
Gross says in the docuseries that she walked away from her job because she wasn't given enough credit, nor did she think that her pay or title reflected her position, which she says was managing the catering business.
She claims that she was paid $8 to $10 per hour when she worked for Stewart.
"I don't think I ever got paid more than that, and I was doing so much for her," Gross explains.
She recalls setting up a meeting with her boss and her husband, Andrew Stewart. "I told her that if I was going to be giving my heart and soul, and by that point I felt like I was, that I needed a title. I needed something to call myself in relationship to this business that had been growing in front of me." Gross says that Andrew told her, "Martha is gonna be as big as McDonald's, and we're not giving that away." The ex-employee added, "That's Martha, she had a vision of where she wanted to go and nothing and nobody was going to get in her way."
According to The Washington Post, the issue with the recipe is likely not a legal one, because recipes can rarely be protected by copyrights in the U.S. The newspaper notes that Stewart thanks Gross in the acknowledgements of Entertaining, specifically for crudités. All that said, there is a Nut-Crusted Cranberry Tart recipe on Stewart's website that appears to be the same one Gross says she created.
According to the Daily Mail, Stewart talked about working with Gross on The Martha Stewart Podcast in 2023 during a discussion about a recipe she called Alexis' Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies, after her daughter, Alexis Stewart.
"Forty-five years ago, when Alexis developed the recipe for me, that recipe was an evolution," Stewart said. "Sarah Gross, who worked for me in my catering business. She had this delicious cookie recipe and I asked her for the recipe and she wouldn't give it to me. So I said to Alexis, I gave her the cookie and I said, 'Here, make this recipe.' And in two tries, she had the recipe. You know, it could have been Sarah's famous chocolate. Sorry Sarah, but it's Alexis."
A description of the recipe on Stewart's website reads, "The recipe for these brown sugar chocolate chip cookies comes from Martha's daughter, Alexis Stewart, who has been making them since she was about 12 years old."
Best Life has reached out to Stewart for comment on Gross' claims.