You wouldn’t guess it by looking at her lithe frame. But former beauty queen and Mata Mata star Cheryl Wee is a self-confessed foodie who’s especially fond of baking. As the face of Jean Yip Group – the beauty chain owned by her parents – she has to work extra hard at maintaining her figure. “I attend regular dance and wushu classes, and I also do yoga,” she shares.

Cheryl’s eyes positively light up when we talk about food. The 28-year-old counts chocolate, her dad’s hokkien mee and her mum’s pandan coconut cake among her greatest indulgences. “My parents are amazing cooks. My dad’s hokkien mee is so good that the supposedly famous renditions I’ve tried outside don’t even come close. I can polish off three plates in a single sitting!” she declares.

This culinary flair is genetic, it seems. Cheryl can whip up an array of sweet treats, including a mean banana cake. “When I bake, I try to make everything from scratch – from tart bases to caramel sauces. I’m a huge believer of fresh ingredients,” she says emphatically.

So passionate is she about food that she still finds time to bake despite her hectic work schedule. Cheryl has finished filming for The Journey: Our Homeland – the final instalment of the Channel 8 trilogy – and is slated to begin filming for the third season of Channel 5 crime drama Mata Mata. She’s also shuttling between here and Taiwan, where she’s currently based – she signed with a Taiwanese talent agency in June 2014.

Cheryl says she’s delighted to work overseas because it means she gets to experience unique food adventures at the same time. Her most exotic feat in Taiwan? Biting into chicken testicles in seafood broth. “Let’s just say that I won’t do it again!” she shudders.

Given the time, Cheryl would love to go on a food trip around the world – at the top of her list is to try fresh seafood from The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. But while she’s constantly on the lookout for new eats, she also keeps going back to a handful of dining spots here, as they hold special meaning for her. She recalls her fondest memories at these places:

“I’ve been coming to this hawker centre ever since I was a little girl, because my mum used to work in the area,” explains Cheryl. “I also studied at Victoria Junior College, which is a stone’s throw away. I was very involved in extracurricular dance activities back then, so my friends and I would head over after our evening practice sessions for barbecued stingray and duck porridge.”

“When I was younger, my mum had to work really hard to establish her business, so I rarely got to spend time with her. My parents would take me to Goodwood Park Hotel to dine as a treat, and I was always fascinated by the glamorous decor. I had my first taste of fine dining here,” reminisces Cheryl.

“To me, the best Thai food in Singapore can be found at Thanying at Amara Hotel. I first visited the restaurant in 2011 – it was after the photoshoot for my first album, and the production crew and I were starving. Needless to say, we ordered quite a feast!” she laughs.

“The Japanese fare here is great, and so is the service. It’s also especially meaningful as my parents held a cosy dinner party for me here last year, before I relocated to Taipei. The staff were really sweet – they specially prepared a cake for me, decorated with the words ‘good luck and all the best’. I was very touched,” says Cheryl.

“I’m a huge fan of seafood. My mum brought me to No Signboard Seafood Restaurant about ten years ago, where I had my first encounter with white pepper crab. I’m now a convert – no more black pepper variants for me!”

“I love how versatile home cooked fare is. I can enjoy a multitude of cuisines – Western, Italian, Thai or Cantonese, just to name a few. Plus, my mum cooks what’s best for my health. For instance, she makes really appetising claypot rice with liver, which is good for my anaemia. To me, there’s ultimately no place like home.”

This article was originally published in Simply Her April 2015.