A former MasterChef contestant has had her cookbook withdrawn from circulation after another writer accused her of plagiarism.
Elizabeth Haigh, 33, who has won a Michelin star for her work at east London restaurant Pidgin, released her book 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.
However, a lesser-known author – Sharon Wee – now claims many of the recipes and anecdotes in Makan are suspiciously similar to ones she published in her 2012 book, Growing up in a Nonya Kitchen.
Elizabeth Haigh, 33, is a former Masterchef contestant and 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
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.
Yesterday 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.’
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.’
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.
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. 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 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.’
Mrs Haigh did not respond to requests for comment last night.