Author plagiarised by chef Elizabeth Haigh 'set to re-release' book

Little known author who accused chef Elizabeth Haigh of plagiarising her 2012 memoir cookbook gains thousands of new fans, with HER book now set to be re-printed – as publishers remain silent

  • Rising star Haigh, 33, was accused of plagiarising recipes and anecdotes from a 2012 book written by little known Singaporean writer Sharon Wee
  • Restaurant owner Haigh, a Masterchef contestant in 2011, holds a Michelin star and released her book Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore this year
  • The book was pulled by publisher Bloomsbury this week after Wee pointed out it contained a host of recipes that appeared strikingly similar to her work  
  • Wee has gained thousands of followers and her book is now set to be re-printed
  • There is speculation that Bloomsbury has ‘settled’ with Wee – both publisher and Elizabeth Haigh haven’t commented publically 

A little known author who last weekend accused celebrated British Singapoean chef Elizabeth Haigh of plaigiarising her memoir cookbook has gained thousands of new fans – and is now set to re-publish her own out-of-print work.  

Sharon Wee, who lives in New York, published Growing up in a Nonya Kitchen in 2012, and has claimed many of the recipes and anecdotes in Michelin star chef Haigh’s latest book, Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore, are suspiciously similar to hers.  

The book was swiftly withdrawn from sale when the scandal broke but both Haigh and Bloomsbury, who published it, have remained silent on the matter. 

Singapore poet and critic Daryl Lim Wei Jie, who spotted Wee’s original post and shared it, said he believed Bloomsbury had ‘appeared to settle’ with Wee for an undisclosed sum. 

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Sharon Wee accused British Singaporean chef Haigh, a rising star in British cookery, of copying her anecdotes and recipes almost word for word prompting Haigh’s book, Makan, to be pulled from sale.

Elizabeth Haigh, 33, won a Michelin star for her work at east London restaurant Pidgin. She released her book Makan – which means ‘to eat’ in Malay – earlier this year to high praise – but has been silent since the accusations of plagiarism were made by Sharon Wee 

Haigh’s book Makan was pulled this week from stores following Wee’s claims that it copied her work Right: Sharon Wee’s 2012 book Growing up in a Nonya Kitchen

Singapore poet and critic Daryl Lim Wei Jie shared some of the similarities between the books’ content on Instagram – and speculated Bloomsbury had now ‘agreed a settlement’ with Ms Wee

MailOnline has contacted Bloomsbury for comment.  

New fans of Ms Wee have called for her book to be re-published globally. 

On Instagram, cookthebooksnz wrote: ‘Thank you for silently standing up for the countless writers around the world who have experienced what you did and were ignored. Please may there be a reprint…’ 

Another, loveleluu added: ‘Thank you! Would love to buy your book! We’ve all been rooting for you.’

Haigh, who has won a Michelin star for her work at east London restaurant Pidgin, released Makan – which means ‘to eat’ in Malay – earlier this year.

It was widely praised, with Nigella Lawson even proudly posting Mrs Haigh’s recipe for the Chinese dish Mapo tofu on her website.   

Both books contain memories and recipes relating to the writers’ Singaporean heritage.

The word Nonya refers both to a woman of Chinese or mixed ancestry and to a spicy Singaporean cuisine combining Malay and Chinese ingredients.

Miss Wee said there were striking resemblances between the two titles – and Mrs Haigh was accused of lifting 15 recipes and reminiscences from her work. 

On Sunday, Miss Wee said Bloomsbury, the publisher of Makan, assured her that it is withdrawing Mrs Haigh’s cookbook from sale.

She said: ‘I was distressed to discover certain recipes and other content from my book had been copied or paraphrased without my consent in Makan by Elizabeth Haigh and I immediately brought this to the attention of the book’s publisher, Bloomsbury Absolute.’

Mrs Haigh (pictured centre) has become a respected voice in the industry, recently hosting a BBC Radio 4 programme about the MeToo movement and bullying in the kitchen

Miss Wee added: ‘I am grateful that Bloomsbury has responded to my concerns by removing Makan from circulation.’

Bloomsbury has removed all reference to Makan, pictured, from its websites.

Online bookshop Cook the Books said it was asked by the publisher to ‘quietly withdraw’ the title from its site. 

Mrs Haigh, who now runs an award-winning Singaporean street food restaurant called Mei Mei in central London, has become a respected voice in the industry, recently hosting a BBC Radio 4 programme about the MeToo movement and bullying in the kitchen.

The 2011 MasterChef contestant has also hit out at other chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White for their comments about female cooks. 

Miss Lawson previously wrote of Makan: ‘I just threw myself into this engaging, welcoming and rewarding book.’

 The chef has not published a statement on Ms Wee’s claims since the scandal broke on Sunday

But many of the recipes and prefaces are claimed to be barely changed from Miss Wee’s publication.

For example, a recipe for sweet potatoes in ginger syrup seems to be directly lifted from the earlier cookbook.

Miss Wee writes: ‘Ginger is thought to ‘pukol angin’ (beat the toxic gases and dampness out of you to relieve aches and pains). Hence, post-natal mothers were given lots of ginger to ‘beat the wind’.’ 

Meanwhile, Mrs Haigh’s entry reads: ‘Ginger is thought to have healing properties – ‘pukol angin’ (to beat the toxic gases and dampness out of you to relieve aches and pains). This is why postnatal mothers were given lots of ginger to ‘beat the wind’.’

The ingredients listed are also exactly the same. At no point is Miss Wee credited for her work.

Asked if she felt pressure to be ‘authentic’, Mrs Haigh said in an interview earlier this year: ‘There is a constant pressure… I am Singaporean-born, I am British, I live in the UK, I run a Singaporean restaurant. I use English chickens, I don’t use kampung [Malaysian] chickens – how can anything be authentic?’

The chef added: ‘At the same time, I do everything with respect, which is how I have approached the topic of authenticity. It is food from my heritage, and it has a story to tell.’ 

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