Former Employee Accused Martha Stewart of Stealing the Recipe that Launched Her Career

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By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 04, 2024

Martha Stewart is a chef, author, and TV personality, who is undoubtedly one of the most famous people on the planet. And a new docuseries by CNN shows all the highs and lows of Martha’s life with over 50 years in the spotlight. 

Martha Stewart attends the CHANEL Tribeca Film Festival Artists Dinner, 2017

Source: Nicholas Hunt/WireImage/Getty Images

“The Many Lives of Martha Stewart” tells of Martha’s rise to fame, time in prison, and her magnificent comeback. But one of the juiciest details included is that Martha apparently stole a recipe that essentially launched her career. 

The Recipe in Question

In 1982, Martha Stewart released her first book, “Entertaining,” and in it, she included a beloved recipe for a cranberry nut tart.

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Martha Stewart’s book “Entertaining” published in 1982

Source: Amazon

And now, more than 40 years later, one of her former employees is claiming that the recipe was her creation, not Martha’s, and that she never got any credit for it. 

Sarah Gross’ Story

Within the first episode of CNN’s “The Many Lives of Martha Stewart” docuseries, ex-employee Sarah Gross gives an interview and tells the world her story.

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Screenshot of CNN’s docuseries “The Many Lives of Martha Stewart”

Source: @AllLifeCommercial/YouTube

Gross claims that she showed Martha her own recipe for a cranberry nut tart when she first applied to work for the then-caterer. And for years, the two made the delicious treat for a variety of events. 

Martha and Sarah Have Different Versions of the Truth

When asked how Martha came up with the recipe for the famous cranberry nut tart, she responded vaguely, “Lots of these are recipes that I’ve been making all my life, and a lot of them are just created for the book.”

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Martha Stewart stands outside Federal Court after her sentencing hearing July 16, 2004, in New York City

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

And while Sarah Gross claims that the recipe was undoubtedly her own creation, she also gave Martha the benefit of the doubt, saying, “[It] became so much part of the repertoire that who knows if she even remembers that it was my recipe.”

Martha Has Specifically Mentioned Sarah Gross but for Another Recipe

Interestingly, Martha Stewart called out Sarah Gross by name during an episode of her podcast in 2023. However, it wasn’t to credit her for the cranberry nut tart. It was within a story about “Alexis’ famous chocolate chip cookies.”

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Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on a cooling rack

Source: Freepik

Martha 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.” And continued, “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.” Finally, Martha said, “You know, it could have been Sarah’s famous chocolate. Sorry, Sarah, but it’s Alexis’.”

Sarah Claims She Left Martha’s Employ Because She Wasn’t Compensated Fairly

During the interview, Sarah Gross tells CNN that she eventually stopped working for Martha as she wasn’t being fairly compensated for her work.

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Payroll paperwork with a paycheck, hundreds of dollars, and a calculator

Source: Freepik

Gross reported, “I was working for Martha, getting paid eight to 10 dollars an hour max. I don’t think I ever got paid more than that, and I was doing so much for her.”

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“Martha Is Gonna Be as Big as McDonald’s”

Sarah Gross continued, “So I set up a time to talk to her. I got there, and Andy Stewart was there, and I asked Martha… 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.”

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Martha Stewart and husband, publisher Andy Stewart, outside their home, 24th March 1980

Source: Arthur Schatz/Getty Images

To which Andy Stewart, Martha’s husband, apparently replied, “Martha is gonna be as big as McDonald’s, and we’re not giving that away.”

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Andy Stewart Was Right

Sarah also said, “That’s Martha. She had a vision of where she wanted to go, and nothing, and nobody was going to get in her way.”

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Martha Stewart poses in a kitchen with her four Emmy Awards

Source: The Martha Stuart Blog

And it turned out that both Andy Stewart and Sarah Gross were right: Martha Stewart made it all the way to the top

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The Unmatched Success of Martha Stewart

Martha became a television star, a beloved personality, a best-selling author, and a successful business mogul.

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A collage of Martha Stewart's cook books and magazines from over the years

Source: MarthaStewart.com

Stewart has released more than 48 books, many on the best-seller list, several TV shows, and a wildly popular website and newsletter with 12 million subscribers. 

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The Cranberry Nut Tart Is Still One of Martha’s Favorites

More than 40 years later, Martha Stewart added her famous cranberry nut tart recipe to her website, MarthaStewart.com, in 2019.

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Screenshot of the homepage from MarthaStewart.com

Source: MarthaStewart.com

The caption below the recipe explained, “Martha made this recipe on episode 701 of Martha Bakes,” which aired in July 2016. And since the recipe was clearly within the chef’s 1982 book “Entertaining,” it’s clear that Martha seems to have forgotten where the recipe originally came from. 

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Martha Didn’t Really Reach This Level of Success on Her Own

Although Martha always wanted to be, and therefore was, the star of the show, she constantly had a team around her. 

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Martha Stewart carries a basket of greens as she walks through a vegetable garden on the grounds of her home, Westport, Connecticut, August 1976

Source: Susan Wood/Getty Images

Michael Skott, a former employee, said in an interview, “[Martha] worked hard for it, and she was driven, but everything was a team effort, and there were a lot of people that worked with Martha when I was involved with her, that also came up with ideas.”

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In the End, It Was Always Martha’s World

Skott also explained that in the end, it really was Martha holding the reins, saying, “How it worked that it ended up being Martha’s idea? Well, that’s another story.” 

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American media mogul and businesswoman Martha Stewart kneads flour in a fully-stocked kitchen, August 1976

Source: Susan Wood/Getty Images

Stories and comments from Martha’s former employees, like Sarah Gross and Michael Skott, have certainly shown a different side of the superstar. Throughout her entire climb to success, it really was Martha’s world, and everyone else was just living in it. 

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