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'Jumping into the deep end of the pool': Jeanette Aw on opening patisserie pop-ups in Japan during Valentine's season

'Jumping into the deep end of the pool': Jeanette Aw on opening patisserie pop-ups in Japan during Valentine's season
Jeanette Aw is holding pop-ups in three Japanese cities for her patisserie Once Upon A Time.
PHOTO: Instagram/Once Upon A Time

She's an actress, a film producer and runs her own patisserie — but there's a similarity between all these roles to Jeanette Aw.

In a recent interview with AsiaOne, the 44-year-old said: "They share something in common — creating a story. It's an extension of myself, expressing a different aspect of myself in different ways.

"My films kind of reflect deeper, darker and heavier subjects and concerns. My cakes are creations that are happier and prettier. When I do dinner collabs, I create with a theme in mind and want to bring an experience to the customer.

"As an actor, I create a character and I hope to bring it alive."

Jeanette was a full-time actress from 2002 to 2017, gaining recognition for her roles in, among others, Holland V (2002) and The Little Nyonya (2006). She also won Best Actress at the 2016 Star Awards for her role in The Dream Makers II.

She is also founder of the production company Picturesque Films, with her short film The Last Entry selected to be screened at the Tokyo Short Film Festival (SSFF) & Asia 2018.

Jeanette also opened her patisserie Once Upon a Time in Singapore in 2021, and will be running pop-ups in three Japanese cities — Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya — between mid-January and Valentine's Day 2024.


When asked if the pop-ups were a way for her to test the waters to open up a permanent store in Japan, Jeanette disagreed.

"The pop-ups during Valentine's Day in Japan are a pretty big event. They run for a month starting in January," she explained. "I don't think it's testing waters, it's jumping into the deep end of the pool."

Jeanette has previously said that she'll be competing with about 200 other chocolate stores during the period, so we asked her how she'll manage to stand out among the competition.

"It's tough breaking into a different market so it's really taking baby steps and I put all my trust and confidence in my partners and PR team in Japan," she said. "And of course, I hope my recipes won't disappoint too."

'This kind of chemistry is so precious'

Jeanette's latest role is in the Mediacorp English drama Come Closer, where she reunites with her The Little Nyonya co-star Qi Yuwu.

Set in the 1980s, Jeanette plays Lim Mei Kwan, a trophy wife married to John Lim (Yuwu), with a 19-year-old stepson Kiat (Raynold Tan) and a 14-year-old daughter Hui (Lim Shi-An).

Hui accuses the family's chauffeur Siva (T. Suriavelan) of molesting her, but he gets murdered and the investigation leads to the family's dark secrets and lies being exposed.

"I found the storyline really interesting and Mei was a character who intrigued me. She was mysterious, flawed, fiercely protective yet vulnerable at the same time. It just felt right," Jeanette said.

She added that her favourite scene is the final one where her character breaks down.

"She was trying so hard to hold it all together, trying to be perfect but finally she just falls apart," she explained.


Despite the dark themes in Come Closer, Jeanette said that filming together with Yuwu is "still very much the same" after all these years.

"It's always a breeze working with him. There's a kind of unspoken understanding between us such that when we act together, we don't have to have any discussions on the scene, instead we just play off each other's character intuitively.

"This kind of chemistry is so precious."

Come Closer also marks both Jeanette and Yuwu's first English-language dramas, but it was not for a lack of interest on Jeanette's part.


She explained: "I'm actually more comfortable conversing in English. Taking on an English series was just a matter of time.

"Previously, when there were offers, my Chinese dramas were all back-to-back so my schedule didn't allow for it."

She didn't find much of a difference between shooting English and Chinese dramas either.

"The biggest difference would probably be the filming style for Come Closer," Jeanette said instead. "It feels very much more like a film, like we're doing an extended movie shoot."


Come Closer, directed by K. Rajagopal (A Yellow Bird) is available to view on meWATCH. It also stars Udaya Soundari, Shane Mardjuki, Farah Ong, Shrey Bhargava and Liz Sergeant Tan.


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