Michelin star chef is accused of plagiarizing a Singaporean nonya’s recipes and personal stories in cookbook

Michelin star chef is accused of plagiarizing a Singaporean nonya’s recipes and personal stories in cookbook

October 13, 2021
A British Singaporean-born Michelin star chef is in hot water after a writer accused her of plagiarizing her cookbook.
The accuser: On Oct. 6, Singaporean and New York-based author Sharon Wee blasted out a statement across her social media platforms accusing Elizabeth Haigh’s debut 2021 cookbook “Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore” of having striking similarities in recipes, personal family anecdotes and memories to her 2012 cookbook, “Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen.”
  • Wee claimed 15 or more recipes were “copied or paraphrased” without consent and immediately contacted book publisher Bloomsbury Absolute for answers.
  • On Oct. 7, New Zealand bookstore Cook the Books condemned the plagiarism and said Bloomsbury “quietly” asked them to remove Haigh’s work, and proceeded to withdraw it from circulation while removing “all traces of it from their social media.”
  • Just two days later, Singaporean poet and critic Daryl Lim Wei Jie brought more attention to the issue by posting on Instagram near-identical comparisons for an Otak-Otak dish, an almond jelly with lychees in syrup recipe, along with two sections on cooking and finding inspiration.
  • The first post received enough traction that more users came forward to claim and share other recipes from cooks and bloggers who they believed also had their content lifted and put into Haigh’s book, which Jie then compiled into a second post.
  • By Oct. 11, a Bloomsbury spokesperson told The Bookseller, “This title has been withdrawn due to rights issues.”
The accused: Neither Haigh nor Bloomsbury have issued any formal statements or apologies since.
  • The debut book from Haigh, a former “MasterChef U.K.” contestant, was published in May of last year and sold 2,691 copies in the U.K., according to Nielsen BookScan.
  • Eater London gave even more alleged examples of plagiarism in “Makan,” further adding to the belief that Haigh’s book is a Frankensteined culmination of recipes from lesser-known Singaporean cooks and authors.
  • Haigh’s plagiarism scandal rocked the world of the cookbook publishing industry, because of how Bloomsbury’s stature as a publisher and the subsequent questions raised about the publisher’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of their previously published book titles.
  • Eater London also noted that East and South East Asians (ESEA) in the food realm feel betrayed because of the lack of platforms given to the diasporic group.
  • Wee has been reportedly unable to respond to any questions from the media due to legal reasons., 
  • “Growing  Up in a Nonya Kitchen” is set to be republished in November.
Featured Image via Chef Elizabeth Haigh (left), nonya.global (right)
      Maina Chen

      Maina Chen is a contributor at NextShark




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