Actress, director, producer, and now, student baker. Jeanette Aw has been up to a lot since becoming a free agent in October last year, and her newest venture is the sweetest one yet.
The 39-year-old has since taken up residence in Bangkok, Thailand, as she returns to the carefree life of a student, studying baking at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School. Recently named the ambassador for the Bangkok branch, Jeanette has passed the basic patisserie course, and intends to complete the whole shindig, from intermediate, to superior.
We caught up with the actress on her whirlwind trip back to Singapore, at the press conference for upcoming Channel 8 drama, Till We Meet Again. In the contemporary drama, Jeanette plays Tang Xin, a psychologist that required a “multi-faceted performance”.
“It's a different challenge, Tang Xin is a deep role, and there was a lot of leeway for me to develop the character,” she shared.
The transition from a busy celebrity actress, with long filming hours, and no weekends or public holidays to speak of, to the life of a student, may seem to be a drastic change, but it is one that Jeanette has fully embraced.
So, what’s a typical day like for her in Bangkok?
“I actually walk to school from my apartment everyday,” she revealed. “There, I’ll either have a demo, where my chef will show us what we’re learning today, or a practical session.”
“Usually, on weekdays, I won’t go out, I just travel from school to my apartment and vice versa. On weekends, I’ll go out, maybe go find some new places to eat, and explore a bit,” she recounted.
The actress, who is currently living in Bangkok with her assistant, Pauline, shares that she has had way more opportunities to meet up with her friends since moving there.
“Bangkok is actually a place where a lot of my friends like to go, so actually, I've met more friends here than I would have if I were still in Singapore. (I’ve had) so many meet ups! It might be because I’m a student now, and not filming, though. When I film, the hours are long, and there’s no weekends or public holidays as well, so there’s really no time for me to meet up with them Even if they ask me to meet, I'll reject them, because I'm too tired. But now, almost every other week, there’s someone coming, so it's really, well, pretty busy for me,” she laughed.
In fact, her Till We Meet Again co-star and ‘younger sister’, actress Julie Tan had just dropped by for a quick surprise meet up in Bangkok a few weeks prior.
"We went shopping at the night market, and ate some stuff. Originally, I had conspired together with Pauline, to surprise Jeanette, but Pauline said that it was better to tell Jeanette beforehand, as she might go to school on weekdays. So, we arranged to meet at night, and in the end, it was Jeanette who surprised me, (with a cake for a belated birthday celebration) instead of me surprising her,” Julie shared in an earlier interview.
However, life as a student isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. As a student, what one dreads the most would definitely be the stress of preparing for the final examinations, something that Jeanette experienced first-hand as well.
The actress recounted that the practical portion of the final exam for her basic patisserie course was a nerve-filled affair, with last-minute disasters.
For the two-and-a-half hour exam, the students would have to bake a specific sweet treat from scratch within that time frame. However, they would only get the recipe on the day of the exam itself.
“I walked in full of confidence (because I had always been pretty good at practicals). But, my choux pastry was not as good as i’d imagined it to be, so I decided to remake it, and it set me back, time-wise. I started getting nervous, and then I burnt my caramel, which has never happened before,” she shared. "In the end, my piping technique could have been better, and my final presentation could have been better as well, so it was not my best exam.”
"It's really like MasterChef, you might do well normally, but when it comes to the actual thing, you might wonder, 'Hey, why is everything going wrong?’. But in the end, I still managed to finish everything in the time allocated. My chefs actually gave me a lot of encouragement. They said, that it really depends on your luck that day, and that your marks might not accurately reflect how you perform in the kitchen everyday,” she shared.
Sadly, fans of Jeanette might have to wait a little longer to be able to see her on the small screen, after Till We Meet Again finishes its 20-episode run. The actress shared that she aims to complete her studies by April 2019, and will be based in Bangkok till then. As of now, she has no plans to take up any new projects, due to her studies.
“There's no way for me to do so, as the school has a really strict attendance policy. If you miss class more than three times, you’ll fail the entire course. So, I can’t take on jobs on weekdays, and have rejected quite a number of them. Since I’ve made the decision to study here, I should focus on studying,” she shared.
In her downtime, Jeanette keeps herself occupied by working on the script for her second short film, as well as working on her website.
“I hope to finish the script (for my short film) in December. I’ll start preparing to film after I graduate and return to Singapore,” she smiled.
The 39-year-old also revealed that she’s open to the idea of having a small pop-up shop to sell her sweet treats in Singapore, when asked if she might be entering the F&B industry.
“I’ve asked the opinions of (my) friends who have experience in the F&B field, but to be honest, in Singapore, a lot of things like renovations and rentals are really expensive. For many new startups and businesses, they fail not because their product is bad, but because the rental is too expensive. So, I’ve been thinking of a number of other possibilities, it wouldn’t be so soon, but I may explore a popup,” she said.
In the meantime, fans can look forward to Jeanette’s appearance as Tang Xin in Till We Meet Again!