She’s a mother of three who shot to fame on Instagram with her bento making skills. We caught up with the super creative Jean Yap to find out what she’s like as a parent.
As a child, were you ever chided by your mother for playing with your food? Jean Yap’s three children, Zed, Zoe and Zander, aged eight, six and five respectively, will probably never have to deal with that since their mother herself enjoys playing with food. We mean that she creates stunning bento art inspired by popular cartoon characters. See all of her lovely creations on her Instagram profile, @bentodays_!
Jean, who is in her thirties, is the founder of Bento Days and is currently a teacher by profession. We spoke to her about what motherhood has been like so far and her love for bento making.
How has becoming a parent changed you?
I tend to feel guilty if I spend too much time away from my children. On most nights, I try my best to rush home early so that I have enough time to help the kids with their schoolwork or spend some quality time with them. I prefer this to staying out for leisurely dinners or chats with friends.
What’s a typical family day or weekend like?
We hang out together if the kids are not having any enrichment classes. We usually take the kids out on weekends. If they have a specific place in mind to go to, we try our best to oblige and enjoy a nice dinner outside.
What have you learnt about yourself as a parent?
That I have a lot of patience!
How did the inspiration to create bentos come about?
About four years ago, I saw lots of pictures on Pinterest of cute bentos made by Japanese mothers and I wanted to try making some too! That’s when it all started.
How do you make time for bento making on a daily basis?
I tend to make bentos before lunchtime while the kids are still in school. However, due to time constraints nowadays, I am only able to make bentos or food art about three or four times a week.
What was your first experience creating bento art like?
I think my first few attempts at bento making were horrible! I then proceeded to browse through lots of pictures and thought about how I could improve before starting to experiment. Looking through tutorials shared by other bento bloggers also helped me tremendously!
How did your kids react to your bento making? Do you let them help out?
They thought it was cute at first. They don’t help out much unless the process involves baking. Then my two younger children will want to chip in (and play).
How would you describe your parenting style?
Loving but firm. I dote on the kids but at the same time I discipline them if I find that they are out of hand.
Has bento making helped you to bond with your children better?
Yes! This is because my kids recognise almost all the characters I make, especially characters from Disney or Totoro. It is nice to know that my children also love the same characters that I do! They even love Gudetama!
How do you ensure that the bentos you make have nutritional value?
I make sure all my bentos contain the main food groups – carbohydrates, proteins and fruits and vegetables. I occasionally include fried items in my bentos as everyone at home loves them. It’s alright to indulge sometimes!
How do you decide on which characters you are going to create?
It depends on what characters I feel like making that day. It also depends on the ingredients I want to use, or have available at home. Sometimes I draw inspiration from characters or ingredients I see in photographs shared by other food bloggers. But I always tweak the recipe to make it my own unique creation!
What’s a challenge you have faced as a bento making mummy with a huge following on Instagram?
Creating bentos or food art is purely a hobby to me. Hence, whether or not I post photographs on Instagram on a daily basis does not really matter to me. I have had many requests to work with various companies regarding promotions or workshops, but due to time constraints I have stopped accepting such requests for now. This way, I can focus on making what I feel like making and not what I need to make for a particular campaign.
You post such lovely pictures of your bentos on Instagram! What’s the secret?
The key here is to capture the photographs in the presence of natural daylight! The type of camera you use does not matter as much as the lighting, in my humble opinion.
What’s your top tip for other aspiring bento mummies out there?
Just be creative and have fun!
Complete the sentence: “The best thing about being a parent is…”
“…the joy it brings. “