Selena Tan launches online cooking series

Selena Tan.
Selena Tan.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Selena Cooks Up A Storm is actress Selena Tan's YouTube cooking series and she promises a dose of satire with her dishes

Selena Tan acts as one-third of stage trio Dim Sum Dollies and is part of the supporting cast of the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians movie, based on the book by Kevin Kwan.

She also writes for and directs numerous theatre productions.

Earlier this year, she helmed an orchestral tribute - complete with an afterparty with strobe lights - to nightclub Zouk.

But for her next act, Tan will play an entirely different role - that of YouTube personality and cook.

From Sept 4, she will front a new YouTube cooking series titled Selena Cooks Up A Storm.

This is a project under her arts and theatre company Dream Academy.

I have no real objective. I just hope people like it and get some relief for just a few minutes, even if it's just a little smile to themselves.

ACTRESS SELENA TAN on her new YouTube cooking series, Selena Cooks Up A Storm, which will offer recipes with a side of humour and social and political satire

There are 20 episodes that will be released weekly. Each is about five to eight minutes long.

During each episode, Tan will present simple dishes that are easy to make at home, such as lightly fried cod fish with kai lan.

"I am not a chef. These are things I actually cook at home and recipes I already have," says Tan, 46.

She enjoys cooking, though she says she does not "do it enough". Doing this show has allowed her to get back to it.

And for those who enjoy her brand of offbeat humour onstage, her dishes come with a side of humour and social and political satire.

For example, one episode features a recipe for oxtail stew with sago - an apt opportunity to talk about the Oxley Road saga.

In another, she presents a "presidential" nasi lemak dish, with all halal-certified ingredients, an obvious reference to the upcoming presidential election, which is reserved for Malay candidates.

"That was the first time I bought halal chicken," she says. "I thought it came out quite well."

She says the idea for the cooking series came suddenly, "as with all the ideas that come to me".

"I was observing all the things that were happening around us and, nowadays, it's so easy to make an online commentary, which is great," she says.

She was also inspired by the lively social and political satire coming out of the United States and the United Kingdom, such as American actor Alec Baldwin's take on US President Donald Trump in the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.

She felt that this was missing in Singapore. "There's something lacking here and I don't know why. I don't know why we cannot laugh at ourselves because I think that makes us human," she says.

She cautions, however, that those who want to comment on current affairs in a non-comedic way should "be responsible about it".

"But if it's satirical and funny, then, hey, the sky's the limit," she adds.

Filming for the show takes place outdoors in the premises of a private home.

Some of the food items and kitchen equipment are sponsored and Tan hopes that more corporate sponsors will come on board.

Dream Academy is the rare theatre company that is not an arts charity, but a private limited company.

"It is difficult to keep a private theatre company running doing theatre work because our theatre- going audience is finite and there are so many shows coming in from overseas all the time," she says.

But she adds that as a private limited company, Dream Academy can be more fluid and diversify into other projects such as this YouTube show, or doing a movie, which it is currently in talks now.

"It allows me to be fast as well because I don't have a board to answer to," Tan adds.

She admits that she is scared about the response to the show, which she will know only after the episodes are released.

With YouTube, she is also dealing with a new medium.

"On stage, I can hear the audiences' response immediately, so I know if they're taking to it or not. This is really testing ground for me," she says.

But she adds that she just wants to have fun doing this "cook show".

"I have no real objective. I just hope people like it and get some relief for just a few minutes, even if it's just a little smile to themselves," she says.

Of the political satire, she adds: "Whoever gets it, gets it. Whoever doesn't get it, can get a recipe."

•Selena Cooks Up A Storm debuts on YouTube on Sept 4, 7.30pm, on the Selena Tan Official channel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Recipes with spice and humour'. Print Edition | Subscribe