MICHAEL CINCO SUIT, FROM PRIVATO. NECKLACE IN YELLOW GOLD, BLACK LACQUER, TSAVORITE GARNETS, ONYX, DIAMONDS; AND BRACELET IN YELLOW GOLD, LACQUER, DIAMONDS, TSAVORITE GARNETS, ONYX; BOTH FROM CARTIER.
JACKET AND PANTS, BOTH FROM MONCLER. BRACELET FROM TIFFANY & CO.
OUR COVER STAR
"Look at this, and this,” exclaims Jeanette Aw as she prompts me to look at her hands. She’s showing me her battle scars, wrought from episodes in the kitchen where the actress spent most of her time in 2018, pursuing an Intermediate Patisserie Course at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School in Bangkok, Thailand.
In response to my look of concern at her latest injury – that left her thumb and index finger numb for days – Jeanette quickly moves to lighten the conversation. “I had to do some chocolate work and I accidentally put a knife into the palm of my hand but, luckily, I didn’t sever any nerves. A lot of things happen in the kitchen but that’s part and parcel of being a baker. You’ll get burnt and all that and it gets really hot, but I can take the heat,” she says with a grin.
Girl On Fire
This fiery statement is a refreshing departure for the soft-spoken and saccharine-sweet Jeanette who has had viewers eating out of the palm of her hands ever since she won Route to Glamour, a talent search looking for the next big thing in show business back in 2000. She signed up with Mediacorp shortly after and her career took off with memorable roles in dramas like Holland V and The Little Nyonya.
She got a much deserved acting nod for her role in Dream Makers 2, which saw her finally nab the Best Actress gong at the Star Awards in 2016. It’s what she did after this that mystified Singaporeans and coincidentally caused her popularity to skyrocket. Jeanette left the security of her Channel 8 gig and talent agency Hype Records-Artiste Network to fly solo at what many considered the peak of her career as a leading television actress. Why quit showbiz at the top of one’s career? For Jeanette, the answer was as easy as pie.
“When people eat my bakes and are really happy, that’s the most fulfilling thing for me. With food, it’s either a hit or a miss, there’s no in between. Even when someone says, ‘Oh, it’s really yummy!’, but the cake is left untouched, you kind of know. There’s a very direct line of communication when it comes to food and I like that,” explains the 39-year-old.
“In entertainment, there are a lot of things left unsaid, and a lot of things said that have a lot of underlying meaning. But with food, it’s very direct, it’s either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’. Even when nothing is said, it speaks volumes when the box is left empty in five minutes. I think that’s very nice.”
"I do have dreams of opening my own pastry shop one day, and I didn’t want to do that and have to rely on a chef"
"MICHAEL CINCO DRESS, FROM PRIVATO. ORRO22 RING, FROM POH HENG."
Jeanette reveals her plans for the Year of the Pig
On how she’ll celebrate CNY:
“I’ll be in Singapore spending time with my family. I always associate CNY with rest and relaxation at home.”
On what food she’s looking forward to eating:
“Pineapple tarts of course!”
On her favourite CNY tradition:
“Staying at home! Because I’m so busy all the time, my parents give me a break and I don’t even have to go visiting. My relatives will come to my house.”
On what she wants to achieve in 2019:
“I’m looking forward to completing the Superior Patisserie course in Tokyo, Japan.”
On her hopes for the Year of the Pig:
“I hope those around me are healthy and happy, that’s most important.”
On the state of her love life:
“I like to keep my personal life very private but I can say that my relationship [with long-time boyfriend, Marcus] is all still good.”
Many people make major career changes in the middle of their lives. Some may make the jump for personal or profitable reasons, others simply follow their heart. For Jeanette, it is definitely the latter. As she describes it, there was no one moment that prompted this shift, only the realisation that change was inevitable.
“I never ate something and thought, ‘this is my calling’. I’ve always enjoyed baking at home. It’s a very therapeutic process for me. Sometimes, I’m so busy at work, but I can still wake up in the middle of the night and bake a cake because it gives me that kind of space to create something for myself,” says the actress, who is toying with the idea of opening a pop-up cafe here in March.
“I do have dreams of opening my own pastry shop one day, and I didn’t want to do that and have to rely on a chef. I wanted to equip myself with the proper knowledge and proper skills, so that’s why I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. If I were to stick to acting, there would be no end to the dramas that come my way, so there really was no right time to leave. When I decided to do this, I wanted to do it properly and focus on only this.”
To be clear, Jeanette has no plans to leave acting altogether. She simply wants to push herself to try new things, on her own terms. That’s part of the reason why she has also dipped her toes into the world of directing.
The move has paid off handsomely, with her directorial debut – the short film, The Last Entry – being nominated and selected to be screened in Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival last year. Jeanette’s project, which centres around the topic of Alzheimer’s, was selected from over 10,000 films submitted from over 130 countries and regions from around the world.
It’s safe to say that the recognition she received for The Last Entry has motivated Jeanette to do more. She hopes to add another directing notch to her belt come 2019, and is already working on her second short film, titled Senses. It will soon begin filming in the Japanese town of Takasaki. Jeanette was appointed tourism ambassador of the picturesque town last September.
And that’s not the only thing she will be doing in Japan. The actress-turned-director also hopes to up the ante when it comes to her culinary prowess. She’ll be enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu’s Superior Patisserie Course in Tokyo, starting July. The full course will take nine months to complete.
“Baking, directing, and acting all give me a different sense of fulfilment. Between acting and directing, I find more satisfaction in directing. So far with my work, I write the script, then I direct it too, so there are a lot of elements that I am able to control when presenting my vision to the audience. It’s different from acting. When acting, even though you’re contributing to the filming process, you’re still limited in a lot of ways,” she confesses.
“There’s only so much you can do when your director has his or her own vision, and as an actress you just need to be able to accommodate that. One day, I hope I will get enough expertise to do a full-length feature film. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, I want to test my own capabilities and do it my own way.”
"I hope I get enough expertise to direct a full-length film. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone… I want to do it my own way"
ASHION DIRECTION: JANICE PIDDUCK / PHOTOS: WEE KHIM/WEE KHIM STUDIO / STYLING: GRACE LIM, ASSISTED BY DOLPHINE CHAN / HAIR: DAVID GAN/PASSION HAIR SALON / MAKEUP: ELAIN LIM