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Mystery Author Rips off Joanne Molinaro’s Award-Winning Korean Cook Book

Plagiarized Korean Vegan by Rachel Issy next to Joanne Lee Molinaro's The Korean Vegan Cookbook

A mystery author named Rachael Issy allegedly plagiarized author Joanne Lee Molinaro’s award-winning The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen, seemingly overlooking the fact that Molinaro is an attorney for Foley & Lardner LLP. Molinaro’s The Korean Vegan Cookbook was published in 2021 and marked her debut cookbook. Across 336 pages, Molinaro delves into Korean cuisine through 80 delectable vegetable-based recipes, stunning photography, and tales of her family and the food that punctuates some of her personal memories. All of these elements combine to create a work that goes beyond providing vegan Korean recipes, resulting in a book that delves into education, the immigrant experience, and invaluable life lessons.

Molinaro put three years of work into her book, and her labor didn’t go unnoticed. The Korean Vegan Cookbook is a New York Times Bestseller and also won the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Vegetable-Focused Cookbook. Aside from the Michelin star, James Beard Awards are considered some of the most prestigious awards one can receive in the culinary industry. Plagiarism in any form is abhorrent, but it’s especially appalling that someone is taking away from Molinaro’s award-winning work by publishing a rip-off of The Korean Vegan Cookbook.

Molinaro calls out the author who plagiarized The Korean Vegan Cookbook

Molinaro addressed the situation on TikTok and Twitter, where she presented the evidence that Issy had copied her work. On Twitter, she shared a side-by-side image of her cookbook and Issy’s Korean Vegan Cookbook. As you might have anticipated, the covers look almost identical. The fonts, text placement, black background, and cover photo are all very similar. The most notable difference is that Molinaro’s has its New York Times Bestseller and James Beard emblems which Issy wasn’t able to copy and paste.

However, the similarities don’t end there. As she explained in a reply to her original Tweet, Issy even copied her chapter names. Issy included a few subheadings between chapters to try to mask the plagiarism, but it’s hard to miss that she still copied the chapter names and also listed them in the exact same order as Molinaro’s work.

In a TikTok video, Molinaro explained that plagiarism was only part of the issue with Issy’s book. Not only is it a rip-off of her work, but the recipes aren’t even vegan. While she didn’t purchase the book, she found reviews and comments accusing the book of using eggs, dairy, and even meat in its recipes.


Note to Madame Issy: I still work for one of the largest law firms in the country.

♬ original sound – Joanne L. Molinaro (이선영)

In addition to providing non-vegan recipes, Issy’s book only comes to about 90 pages. So it doesn’t appear that Molinaro’s book was completely copied and pasted. However, the similar name, cover, and chapters are enough to create confusion and mislead consumers into purchasing Issy’s work instead of Molinaro’s. Meanwhile, when consumers realize that they’ve been ripped off, it’s going to reflect poorly on Molinaro’s brand, The Korean Vegan, a name that she trademarked. Plus, when Molinaro tried to research who Issy was, nothing came up. Her Korean Vegan Cookbook pops up on Goodreads and Amazon, but otherwise, there is no digital trail of Issy. No social media profiles, other works, or public records, which is very suspicious for someone living in the 21st century.

While the whole situation is frustrating and appalling, Molinaro does have one advantage over Issy. At the end of her TikTok, she reminds Issy that she is a lawyer. It remains to be seen what happens in this situation, but it is satisfying to see a scammer mess with the wrong person and be threatened with legal action and real consequences. Unfortunately, plagiarism remains a major issue in the publishing industry, especially with the rise of self-publishing and A.I.-generated content, which has inspired many scammers and cheaters to flood the market with plagiarized works. Many indie authors, unfortunately, often don’t have the resources to combat plagiarism. Hopefully, Molinaro’s situation warns these scammers that authors can and will take action against them, even if they’re hiding behind some pseudonym or an A.I.-generated book.

(featured image: Amazon / Avery Books)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.