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British celebrity chef’s cookbook withdrawn following plagiarism allegations by Singaporean author

SINGAPORE — A cookbook by a British celebrity chef has been pulled from circulation by its publisher after the author was accused of plagiarism by Singaporean author Sharon Wee.

Ms Elizabeth Haigh (right), whose book was met with widespread acclaim and buzz when it was first published, wrote that she had wanted to collect, adapt and understand the recipes and techniques used by her Singaporean mother.

Ms Elizabeth Haigh (right), whose book was met with widespread acclaim and buzz when it was first published, wrote that she had wanted to collect, adapt and understand the recipes and techniques used by her Singaporean mother.

SINGAPORE — A cookbook by a British celebrity chef has been pulled from circulation by its publisher after the author was accused of plagiarism by Singaporean author Sharon Wee.

The book, titled Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore, was written by chef Elizabeth Haigh who took part as a contestant once in the TV reality show MasterChef. It was published in May this year.

In a Twitter post on Oct 6, Ms Wee said that she was distressed to discover that certain recipes and content from her book, titled Growing Up in a Nyonya Kitchen and published in 2012, had allegedly “been copied or paraphrased without my consent in Makan by Elizabeth Haigh”.

Ms Wee said that she then immediately brought the matter to the attention of Bloomsbury Absolute, the cookbook’s publisher.

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

In a statement to American newspaper The Washington Post, the publishing company said that the book “has been withdrawn due to rights issues”.

In her Twitter post, Ms Wee said that her book is both a “cookbook and memoir” in which she recreated her mother’s personalised recipes.

She added that as part of the writing process, she had “interviewed older relatives, researched my Nonya heritage and recounted my family history”.

London-based Ms Haigh, whose book was met with widespread acclaim and buzz when it was first published, wrote that she had wanted to collect, adapt and understand the recipes and techniques used by her Singaporean mother because she “didn’t want them to be lost”.

Of her Singaporean-British heritage, Ms Haigh said that the recipes are authentic to her as “they are my history, my journey and the refection of my family as it has grown and developed over the years”.

Ms Haigh grew up in Britain with a Singaporean mother and English father.

Following the allegations, several bookstores around the world have pulled the cookbook from their shelves. Lifestyle website Coconuts Singapore also reported that Singapore publisher Epigram has removed Ms Haigh’s book from its listings.

Users on social media have since noted the alleged similarities between the two books.

Singaporean poet and author Daryl Lim said that he got a hold of both books to conduct a comparison and “ascertain the truth”.

“What I found was rather disturbing: It seems there are parallels not only in the recipes, but also in the structure of the cookbook and perhaps, most distressingly, allegedly personal recollections,” Mr Lim wrote in an Instagram post.

He also shared several images and comparisons that he said “will demonstrate my point”.

“There are many other instances, which I spotted, but I felt myself becoming a bit disgusted, especially when it seems the memory of someone else’s mother was being somewhat appropriated.” 

He said that the allegations against Ms Haigh are “a bit worrying” since she is a “much-feted chef and celebrity who has earned a Michelin star and even appeared on the famous ‘Uncle Roger’ videos”.

Uncle Roger, a character created by Malaysia-born comedian Nigel Ng, became a hit on YouTube after he criticised a cooking show done by British broadcaster BBC.

Related topics

lifestyle cookbook Plagiarism masterchef Elizabeth Haigh

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