Selling her house, no fine dining: How local actress, host and CEO Irene Ang made it to where she is

8 September 2016 / 1 month 2 weeks ago

Lisa Twang
The New Paper
Sep 7, 2016

Local actress, host and lady boss Irene Ang is known to juggle many projects, with her latest one probably taking the most out of her.

The CEO-founder of artist management agency Fly Entertainment is the executive producer of My Love Sinema, a retro romance film starring Tosh Zhang and Cheryl Wee.

In the film, which opens here tomorrow, Zhang plays Kheong, an aspiring film projectionist in 1950s Singapore who falls in love with a Chinese teacher, Wei (Wee).

"My Love Sinema took five years to make, and it has been a rocky road," Ang, 48, told M over dinner at The Skewer Bar in Geylang Road.

To finance the $1.2 million film, she sold her terrace house in Joo Chiat and stayed in a rented room in a friend's house for 1½ years, before moving on.

Read also: Irene Ang: My neighbours thought I was going to become a prostitute...

For the next two years, she worked hard to save up, asking her artist manager every day when her next event hosting and stand-up show were.

Ang said: "I was quite sad to leave Joo Chiat actually, because it is a food paradise. To save money, I cut back on holidays, but not so much on eating out.

"I don't really track what I spend on food, but it is not much because I don't go for fine dining.

"I don't get those modern gastronomy restaurants where you pay $800 for 12 courses, because they put all that work into the food, and then you just eat it in one mouthful, and it is gone."

Why do you like The Skewer Bar?

I love yakitori and satay.

It is like shiok comfort food, and I don't feel guilty eating because the portions are all tiny. A former staff member from Fry Rooftop Bistro & Bar (at Club Street), which I own, runs The Skewer Bar, so I often support it.

Honestly, this is the first time I've actually sat down to eat here. I usually 'da bao' (Mandarin for take away) my food, or it'll be delivered specially for me.

My usual order includes my favourite squid, which is really tender and juicy, prawn, chicken and bacon-wrapped quail egg and enoki mushroom.

Everything here is a mix of local and Japanese flavours, and it is fresh and well seasoned.

What are your favourite food haunts?

I am like Joseph Schooling, I love carrot cake. My favourites are Heng Carrot Cake at Newton Food Centre and Chey Sua Carrot Cake at Toa Payoh Lorong 1.

I have a bad habit of buying carrot cake in bulk; I'll get 20 packets for the people in the office because I believe food is best eaten with a big bunch of people.

I also like River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles near MacPherson Road, and tapas bar Lepark at People's Park Complex.

Read also: Joseph Schooling flying home to Singapore: "Just want chye tow kway"

Do celebrity-owned restaurants face more pressure to succeed?

Not really, Fry is actually doing well. I am surprised people actually want to climb all the way up the stairs to eat there.

We've built a community of regulars and it has a family feel; my mum helps out in the kitchen sometimes. In the beginning, clients and friends expected us to 'belanja' (Malay for treat) them, but now four years on, things are going well.

Is there anything you don't eat?

I don't take chicken gizzard, pig's liver and kidney because I find innards scary. And I am allergic to seafood that isn't completely fresh; it makes me break out in rashes.

My friends get me to taste-test seafood when I eat with them, so they know whether it is fresh.

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