A Man With Muffin Secrets, but No Job With Them

A Man With Muffin Secrets, but No Job With Them
A Man With Muffin Secrets, but No Job With Them

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By William Neuman
The New York Times
August 6, 2010

Bite into a Thomas=E2=80=99 English muffin and, it turns out, you are about to 
swallow one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world of baking.

The company that owns the Thomas=E2=80=99 brand says that only seven people know 
how the muffins get their trademark tracery of air pockets =E2=80=94 marketed as 
nooks and crannies -- and it has gone to court to keep a tight lid on 
the secret.

That leaves one of the seven, Chris Botticella, out of a job =E2=80=94 and at 
the center of a corporate spectacle involving top-secret recipe files, 
allegations of clandestine computer downloads and an extreme claim of 
culinary disloyalty: dumping English muffins for Twinkies and Ho Hos.

Mr. Botticella, 56, delved into the mystery of Thomas=E2=80=99 muffinhood (hint: 
it has nothing to do with the fork), after Bimbo Bakeries USA bought the 
brand early last year. At the time, Mr. Botticella was a Bimbo vice 
president in charge of bakery operations in California.

But he left the company in January, apparently allowing co-workers to 
believe he was retiring. But he had accepted a job with the rival baker 
Hostess Brands, which years ago had tried to crack the muffin code.

Bimbo obtained a federal court order barring the move, and late last 
month an appeals panel in Pennsylvania upheld the order. Mr. Botticella 
is now contemplating his next legal move, his lawyer, Elizabeth K. 
Ainslie, said.

Neither Mr. Botticella nor a Bimbo spokesman would comment for this 
article, but the legal papers in the case suggest a muffin culture more 
reminiscent of Langley than Drury Lane. Recipe manuals are called code 
books. Valuable information is compartmentalized to keep it from leaking 
out. Corporate officials speak of sharing information on a =E2=80=9Cneed-to-know 


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