Michelin star chef faces criticism over plagiarism claims

Michelin star chef faces criticism over plagiarism claims
Elizabeth Haigh, a former Masterchef contestant, allegedly lifted recipes and personal stories from a Singaporean cook’s 2012 book

A former Masterchef competitor and Michelin star-winning chef is facing accusations that she plagiarised recipes and personal anecdotes from a Singaporean cook.

Elizabeth Haigh, who has Singaporean Chinese heritage, published her cookbook Makan in May, which received widespread praise from high-profile figures including Nigella Lawson.

But New York-based Singaporean cook Sharon Wee has claimed that Haigh “copied or paraphrased” recipes and anecdotes from her 2012 book, Cooking in a Nonya Kitchen, in Makan.

Both cookbooks are based on the respective authors’ childhood and Singaporean heritage. But Wee claims Haigh lifted at least 15 recipes and personal stories from her book.

In a statement, Wee said: “My book Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen, first published in 2012, is both a cookbook and a memoir in which I recreated my mother’s personalised recipes, interviewed older relatives, researched my Nonya heritage, and recounted my family history.

“I was therefore distressed to discover that 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 matter to the attention of the book’s publisher, Bloomsbury Absolute.

“I am grateful that Bloomsbury has responded to my concerns by withdrawing Makan from circulation.”

However, The Independent found that Makan is still available to purchase through Waterstones, Foyles, and Amazon.

A spokesperson for Bloomsbury told The Bookseller: “This title has been withdrawn due to rights issues.”

Haigh has not released a statement addressing the matter. Social media posts promoting Makan on both Bloomsbury Absolute and Haigh’s accounts have been removed.

Social media users have expressed anger over the accusations, with many pledging to buy Wee’s book, which is now out of print, in solidarity.

One person wrote: “Binning my copy of Makan and hoping Growing Up in a Nonya Kitchen will be swiftly reissued so I can buy that instead”

Several instances of the resemblances between Wee and Haigh’s books were shown side-by-side in an Instagram post by Singaporean poet Daryl Lim.

One example included an explanation for the health benefits of ginger, an ingredient frequently used in Southeast Asian cooking.

Wee wrote in her 2012 book: “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’.

Haigh wrote in her 2021 book: “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 Independent has contacted Haigh for comment.