The Straits Times
July 12, 2015
While most hosts have only tasting portions of dishes when filming television food shows, actressdirector Michelle Chong continues to stuff her face after the cameras stop rolling.
The 38-year-old remembers her days hosting such shows on Channel 8 with a laugh:
"When I started out, I was quite greedy and was known as 'eating monster' among the crew. I couldn't stop eating as I did not want good food to go to waste."
However, she met her match recently in theatre actress Audrey Luo, 32, who plays her K-pop-loving mother in the comedy, Our Sister Mambo, which opens in theatres on Wednesday.
During the filming of themed dinner scenes, which stretched up to five hours, the cast were treated to scrumptious dishes which included bibimbap, duck curry and Korean barbecued meats.
"Audrey has an iron stomach, she can eat the dishes in between takes and even after the director has yelled 'Cut'."
Chong, who plays the titular character, Mambo, a driven lawyer- turned-chef, took cooking lessons from chef Willin Low of Wild Rocket.
"I picked up some chopping skills - slicing onions, garlic and cucumber till they were paper-thin."
In real life, she is a big foodie. She co-owns Mischief, an American street-food eatery at the Esplanade, with actress Cynthia Koh and former radio DJ Daniel Ong.
Her Instagram account (@immichellechong) is filled with photos of food and elaborate meals cooked by her father, Steven, 68, who runs a company distributing aromatherapy products.
Chong, who is single, is one of four children.
She says she looks forward to family meals her father whips up at least once a week. "These meals are feasts fit for an emperor. When I was younger, I was more into eating out. Perhaps because I am older now, I appreciate home-cooked food more."
Why did you decide to co-own a restaurant on top of your already hectic schedule?
I have been friends with Daniel and Cynthia for a long time and we had always wanted to do something together. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations so, for me, it's fun.
What was the most difficult kitchen skill to master when filming Our Sister Mambo?
It was tossing tom yum pasta in a skillet as it can be quite heavy. I was over-confident and splattered everything all over the stove during a practice session.
How did your interest in food start?
When I was 13, I bonded with my parents by having supper with them. We went to Chomp Chomp Food Centre for Hokkien mee and Kembangan for Seng Kee Black Herbal Chicken Soup's mee sua.
What are your favourite Singapore foods and where do you have them?
I like the wonton noodles from Eng's Noodle House in Tanjong Katong Road, the coin-shaped roti prata at Block 22 in Sin Ming Road and the Hokkien mee from Xiao Di Hokkien Mee in Serangoon North.
At food centres, do hawkers recognise you and give you extra food?
Hawkers always give celebrities extra food. Recently, the stall owner of Hoover Rojak in Whampoa Food Centre added a century egg to my order as he is a fan of The Noose (TV comedy show). However, I make it a point to queue.
Last year, I was with a friend who wanted to try claypot laksa at Alexandra Village Food Centre and there was a long queue. As the stall displayed a recommendation label from a television food show that I had hosted, my friend suggested that I make small talk with the stall owner. I went reluctantly and was given a bowl. I posted a photo of the laksa on Instagram and received a comment - "Who do you think you are? My mother queued for 20 minutes and you took her bowl of laksa away?" I apologised to her.
With such a big appetite, how do you stay trim?
I do 10 star jumps before I shower sometimes. I also have a high metabolism rate.
Do you have any eating quirks?
I need to have chilli padi when I am dining at my parents' home. I will drink Coke only from chilled cans. I also cannot eat fishball or bak chor noodles with tomato sauce.
Do you cook?
I used to have themed dinner parties for six to eight friends when I had more free time. I prepared Japanese bento boxes with tempura, sashimi and salad or had Thai nights with pomelo salad and steamed fish with spices.
If you could choose anyone to have a meal with, who would it be?
The late Michael Jackson as I was his No. 1 fan. When I was 16, my older sister, classmate and I queued overnight and were the first to buy tickets at the Hard Rock Cafe for his concert here in 1993.
This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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