Michelin Star Chef Elizabeth Haigh Accused of Plagiarism in Cookbook

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Michelin star chef and former Masterchef UK participant Elizabeth Haigh has been accused of plagiarism by American chef Sharon Wee. In a tweet shared last week, Wee mentioned how Haigh’s cookbook Makan copied or paraphrased recipes and anecdotes from her 2012 book, Cooking in a Nonya Kitchen. Both Haigh and Wee share Singaporean Chinese heritage and the books do feature some stories from Asian roots.

Soon after the allegations were made by Wee, Makan’s publisher Bloomsbury pulled the book from circulation. Makan was released this year in May. In her tweet, Wee mentioned, “I wrote my book in loving memory of my mother. I credit her and her peers for their anecdotes, recipes and cooking tips. This was their story. Here is my statement.”

Wee’s statement further mentioned that My book Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen was first published in 2012. She described it as both a cookbook and a memoir in which she aimed to recreate her mother’s personalized recipes. For the contents in the book, Wee interviewed older relatives, researched her Nonya heritage, and recounted her family history, read the statement.

Expressing her thoughts on Haigh’s book, Wee said that she was distressed to discover that certain recipes and other content from her book had been “copied or paraphrased” without her consent in Makan. The American chef said that she immediately brought the matter to the attention of the book’s publisher, Bloomsbury Absolute. Wee also expressed her gratitude to Bloomsbury for responding to her concerns by withdrawing Makan from circulation.

Netizens have reacted strongly to the issue. Commenting on Wee’s tweet one user wrote, “Hi Sharon, this is an awful situation, I’m sorry this has happened to you. I’m looking forward to trying some of your recipes and reading your book.”

Another chef Zoe Adjonyoh commented, “I am (not) surprised this has not been more widely reported on in mainstream food media. A darling under fire. I do wonder if this was the ‘author’ or a ghostwriter stretching for credibility – either way, some public comment and apology by @BloomsburyBooks at the very least.” Zoe also wrote in another comment, “And well done for going public – no mean feat to go up against a celebrity chef and a publishing behemoth.”

After competing in the MasterChef 2011, Haigh went on to win a Michelin star at the London restaurant in Pidgin. The 33-year-old currently runs Mei Mei restaurant in the London suburb of Borough Market, which she opened in 2019 to present the Singaporean Kopitiam food. Since the allegations were made against her book, Haigh has not released any statement.

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