What would you do if, one day, someone told you that you only had three months to live as you just turned 30? While everyone’s answer may differ, quitting was not an option for fashion designer Garlic Chan.
Garlic was a young, thriving fashion designer who went through a life-or-death crossroad 17 years ago.
At the peak of his career, Garlic Chan and Mr. Death brushed against each other’s shoulders several times.
In the past 17 years, Garlic Chan not only felt the love from his family and the luck of being alive but also became a dedicated private chef, studying nutrition religiously to share his health secret with others.
Vegan Slipper Toast with Japanese-style grilled mushrooms, tofu, and tomato by Garlic Chan (Courtesy of Garlic Chan)The Watershed of Big 30
“I was a Greater China regional fashion brand manager before I was 30. I made good money, about US$7,000 per month, with a career that allowed me to travel to different places for business.” Garlic recalled the past.
Everything seemed a smooth sail until he turned 30.
Garlic got sick.
As his health declined, Garlic visited his doctor’s office for an examination. He did not expect the news of only having three months to live.
It was Leukemia.
Leukemia is a blood cancer affecting the body’s ability to fight infection.
On the day the doctor told Garlic about his diagnosis, everything became foggy. “I was devastated for three hours. Then I thought to myself that I must get a haircut.”
As he sat in his silken robe, Garlic looked at himself in the mirror; slowly, he took off his glasses, and his vision became a blur, just as his mind was.
He sat woodenly in the salon to calm his nerves and contemplate how to tell his wife.
Life Without a View
After his diagnosis, the first thing Garlic did was quit his work and arrange his funeral and post-death matters.
Life was no longer what he knew.
He was preparing to depart from Earth as he thought his end must be near, when a new drug was discovered that could treat leukemia, but it is very costly and with severe side effects, such as liver cirrhosis and edema.
Despite the side effects from medications, Garlic was thankful he could be alive. He thought his life was about to end, but then a window of hope appeared.
After recovering from blood cancer, Garlic became more conscious of his health and food choices, which later became an important cornerstone of his career.
Garlic Chan becomes more conscious of his food choices post-leukemia. One of the dishes he created is a Taiwanese-style sponge gourd soup with vermicelli and dried seafood. (Courtesy of Garlic Chan)Do What You Love
Garlic worked endlessly and tirelessly to develop someone else’s passion and business before his diagnosis.
During his recovery, Garlic realized it should be time to fulfill his dreams: creating his own fashion brand to display his creativity in textiles.
So Garlic opened a boutique in Tsim Sha Tsui where he sold clothing designed by him or other independent local fashion designers.
His fashion boutique also had a cafe corner, offering a space for shoppers to rest while enjoying a cuppa and some gourmet food from Garlic’s recipe books.
Health Is Wealth
Garlic started studying nutrition and how to eat healthier. He enjoyed experimenting with different food combinations and test-driving new recipes with his customers. His interest in cooking and nutrition grew to a new height.
Good times did not last. Garlic’s vision deteriorated due to leukemia. Graphic design became an eyesore for him. Coupled with rent hikes, the blood cancer survivor quit fashion again and focused on nutritional health.
He found a place in Quarry Bay to start a private kitchen, where he could continue researching nutrition and organize private dinner and coffee events.
A French-style seafood and vegetable soup by Garlic Chan. (Courtesy of Garlic Chan) A view of Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. (TM Chan / The Epoch Times)
Garlic experienced leukemia re-occurrence, and his doctor repeatedly informed him about “how little time he had. ” But hopes often flickered with glimpses of miracles.
Garlic has no clue how much time he has left in this life. It is hard to imagine that it has been 17 years since Garlic was first diagnosed with blood cancer.
Making promises is a snag when you don’t know your best-sell-by date.
But, cooking in his private kitchen is a possible promise, “I dare not promise our guests anything long term, but I can promise them a meal now.”
Come What May
Garlic neglected his family in the past as he was hardly home due to long work hours and busy traveling schedules.
Since his diagnosis, Garlic has become more appreciative of the time he gets to spend with his family. He only opens his private kitchen from Fridays to Sundays. Other times, it is by appointment only so he can reserve the time for his family.
He was particularly appreciative of his wife, who is a medical worker. She was always there caring for him whenever he was hospitalized, about four times a year. Thanks to the good doctors, he is still alive.
In the face of repeated deadly health threats, Garlic has become composed and more open to sharing his experience with others. He hopes that he can encourage more people to face life more positively.
Garlic firmly believes there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Some people may have given up long ago if they were in Garlic’s situation. It may sound
cliché but no one knows what the future holds. So why not hang out just a little longer?
The dawn will eventually and always rise.
New Found Love in a Hopeful Place
Garlic and his family moved to Bournemouth, the United Kingdom. The picture depicts Bournemouth Beach. (Courtesy of Garlic Chan)
Garlic, like many Hongkongers, witnessed the downhill battle for freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong during the 2019 Anti-extradition Protests and the devouring tears of One Country, Two Systems by the Chinese Communist Party. Unsure of the future, leaving Hong Kong was not an option but a necessity for his children.
The Chan family followed foot. He loves the sea, so he and his family settled in Bournemouth, a beach town in on the South coast of England, in August 2022.
Garlic felt right at home with the warm climate and the endless sight of the ocean.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Four months after his migration, Garlic surprised himself by being alive in another country.
He wrote something to remind himself his life became a canvas of miracles,“I cannot imagine being here if you asked me six months ago.
It is a miracle, I know, that I have been able to move and settle in the UK with my family in under six months, and that I am able to communicate with locals with the limited English I know when I was not even an eloquent speaker in my own language.
Once easily lost around my own neighborhood, I am now a master rider of UK buses.
Once socially anxious, I now adapt to any gathering like a chameleon.
Once a lazy bug, I am moving at the speed of light in the eyes of my neighbors.
Once sleepless, I arrive in dreamland as soon as the moon hangs.”
Taking the first step is always hard, but if you don’t take it, you will never know what awaits you on the other end. So strive bravely. When you stop forcing and start going with the flow, you will be surprised how many obstacles suddenly ease in and fade.”
The sunset in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Courtesy of Garlic Chan)
Once Garlic arrived in the UK, he continues to work as a private chef in his new environment, “cooking on the house” or inviting guests to his home for private tastings and selling homemade sauces when conditions permit. Most recently, he picked up a job as a server in a hotel to learn Western table manners and British dining flare.
He also plans to apply for a local catering license to open a restaurant.
Whether in Hong Kong or the United Kingdom, he is grateful for everything and everyone around him. He tries to live purposefully daily with his love for food and cooking.
Many past events were inevitable for Garlic. No one can predict or manipulate what will happen, so he accepts gracefully whatever may come.
Today, Garlic learns to be grateful for everyone around him.
Leukemia has made Garlic more openly affectionate—he is not holding back from giving encouragement and praise after surviving his blood cancer.
Garlic is overjoyed to view such a calming view whenever he works at the hotel. (Courtesy of Garlic Chan)