Ex-Masterchef contestant accused of plagiarising Singaporean writer's cookbook

·Lifestyle Editor
·2-min read
Chef Elizabeth Haigh. (PHOTO: YouTube screenshot)
Chef Elizabeth Haigh. (PHOTO: YouTube screenshot)

SINGAPORE - British publisher Bloomsbury has withdrawn the cookbook penned by former MasterChef UK contestant Elizabeth Haigh for sale, after Singaporean cookbook writer Sharon Wee accused her of plagiarism. 

Haigh, 33, is a Singapore-born chef who competed on MasterChef UK in 2011. She went on to become a relatively well-known figure in the London culinary scene, winning awards and accolades for Singaporean street food restaurant called Mei Mei in central London, hosted a BBC Radio 4 programme, and even won a Michelin star for her work at east London restaurant Pidgin. Earlier this year, she released her book "Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore". 

Fifth-generation Nonya Sharon Wee wrote and published her book "Growing up in a Nonya kitchen" in 2012. She grew up in Singapore, worked in a global chocolate company in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai before settling down in New York to raise her family. The book started as a small photocopied binder for her family and evolved into a memoir that provides an insightful peek into the daily life of a Peranakan family heritage and culture from Wee's point of view and memories, as well as techniques and recipes from her mother and the other matriarchs in her family.

Wee alleged that there were striking resemblances between the two titles – specifically 15 recipes and anecdotes from her work. A post by Wandering Chopsticks on Facebook highlights some of the resemblances.

For example, in the 2012 book, Wee writes: 'It faced many challenges along the way. It first started with converting her handwritten recipe measurements from katis to tahils (Old Chinese measurements) and learning the different daun (herbs) and rempah (spice pastes). Recipe testing in New York could be challenging. Shopping for ingredients necessary for our cuisine often entailed trekking down to Chinatown by subway...'

Haigh's one reads: 'I faced many challenges along the way. It began with my having to translate hard-to-read handwritten notes, or convert measurements, and moved on to learning about the different daun (herbs) and rempah (spice pastes). Techniques aside, ingredients were hard to find, but thankfully I was just a bus ride away from Chinatown in central London.'

Responding to the alleged plagiarism, Wee has released a statement via Facebook. 

We have reached out to Wee for comments. However, she is unable to disclose further details related to the matter due to legal reasons.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to support a local writer, Wee's "Growing up in a Nonya kitchen" can be found on Kindle for the soft copy and Kinokuniya for the physical copy.

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