Cooking show host Gigi Wong Suk Yee on learning about Singapore’s wet markets and local ingredients

Actress-host Gigi Wong spent a month filming a new cooking show in Singapore that will be broadcast on StarHub‘s E City next month.
Actress-host Gigi Wong spent a month filming a new cooking show in Singapore that will be broadcast on StarHub‘s E City next month.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Actress Gigi Wong, one of TVB's biggest stars in the 1970s, finds a new niche in show business as a cooking show host

8Q

Actress-host Gigi Wong Suk Yee does not regret her decision to put her glittering showbiz career on hold for her family.

The chatty 66-year-old was one of Hong Kong's biggest TV stars in the 1970s but she left the limelight and relocated to Vancouver in 1983 to live with her doctor husband.

The star of such classic Hong Kong TVB dramas as Passenger (1979) and Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre (1978) says: "I don't wonder whether my acting career would have taken a different turn if I had stayed on because I don't think about the 'what ifs' in life.

"My husband moved to Vancouver to pursue a postgraduate degree and asked me to go with him, and I didn't even think twice about saying yes. My family's important to me."

Away from Hong Kong, however, she continued to receive offers to return to the city to act. But she declined them each time because her children were still young and she wanted to spend time with them.

"It was only when my kids were older that I thought it would be okay to go back to the entertainment industry," says Wong, who has four children aged 26 to 45.

She made her small screen comeback in 2000, but instead of playing the leading lady in TVB shows, she was cast in supporting roles.

Opportunity, however, came knocking again and since 2007, she has found her calling as a cooking show host, beginning with the popular TV programme Secrets Of Soup.

Her upcoming cooking TV show, Eating Well With Madam Wong In Singapore, is a 10-episode series where she visits various wet markets here to source for local ingredients and cook dishes with them.

Wong, who spoke to The Straits Times last month when she was filming here, says: "I've been to Singapore to perform in concert in the 1970s, but I have never filmed any programmes here.

"So I've been having tons of fun doing this, learning about local ingredients such as candlenut and tamarind. Hopefully, I'll get to return more often."

1 How did you make the transition from acting to hosting cooking TV shows?

Whenever my show business friends visited me in Vancouver, I would cook for them. So I guess word spread that I enjoy cooking. Then some TV producers wanted to do a show about soup and some of my friends recommended me to them, and that's how it all started.

2 Would you say that you are the best cook in Hong Kong show business?

No, no, no, I could never say that. I just really enjoy cooking. I'm not a professional by any standard. Look at singer-host Maria Cordero, she is also an excellent cook. I am far from claiming to be the best.

3 Which do you prefer, acting or hosting cooking shows?

At this point in my life, I definitely prefer doing cooking shows. I love to cook and I feel I can make my cooking shows very personal. As for acting, I am just a small part of a huge production, so my sense of involvement is not the same.

4 You filmed in Singapore for one month. Did your family come to visit you?

Yes, my husband came to visit me a couple of times. I've been away from home for so many weeks that he has no choice but to go to the kitchen and learn to cook his own meals. He has actually become quite good at cooking too (laughs).

5 In the past decade, you have acted, on average, in one drama serial each year. Is that deliberate?

Yes, because I want to have time to do other things such as my cooking shows. If I am lucky enough to get a really fantastic role in a drama serial, then that's great. If not, that's okay too. When I act, I just treat it as having fun with a big bunch of young people on the set.

6 While your children were growing up in Vancouver, were they aware that you were a TV star?

The older two kids grew up in Hong Kong, so they had seen some of my shows. But my two younger sons had no idea and I never told them either. I didn't really feel the need to.

7 Your youngest son Shaopin, 26, is now a host with TVB. Did you help him make the necessary work connections?

He has been a guest on some of my cooking shows before, so he has some exposure. But otherwise, I think he should be able to take care of himself. TVB has said that he is at a disadvantage because he speaks English and cannot read Chinese, but I'll let him work on that on his own.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I don't need to be remembered. I don't even need people to remember my programmes because acting and hosting are just jobs to me. I'm just a regular person.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Eating Well With Madam Wong In Singapore premieres on E City (StarHub TV Channel 111/825) on Feb 2 at 8pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Actress returns as TV cook'. Print Edition | Subscribe