For Co-Founder Tammie Tsang, her career in food and nutritional science is somewhat of a third coming. Born in Hong Kong to a teen runaway and triad member, her humble beginnings have never held her back. Taking influence from her Chinese roots, Western education, making MTV music videos and the business of Sports, her work is as fast-paced, exciting and varied as she is. 

Deliberate in her choice of ingredients, precise about the science of nutrition and fiery as the pan she cooks in – this is one hot Mumma-of-(almost!)two who’s armed to the hilt with knowledge and determination to make a difference to the way we eat and the world we grow it in. 

Let’s start at the very beginning

T: Sure, well, where do I start? It’s so hard talking about yourself when you’re not used to it, isn’t it? I was born in Hong Kong to very humble beginnings. My Dad was not around – he was a triad member – and my Mum was a teenage runaway. It was a typical ‘Hong Kong movie triad love story’ which didn’t really work out… so it probably wasn’t what you’d consider the happiest childhood. Mum and I eventually moved to Canada when I was 9, where I learned English, and kind of became a different person altogether… more Western-influenced. That’s where I started taking care of all the cooking as my Mom was working 7 days a week. I spent six years there, but they were formative years. So many things about me changed. That was the seed sown: a Western influence on very, very Chinese roots.  You know, the Chinese look at things in a more holistic way. While the Western way is to be a lot more specific. I do both.

When I turned 15 my Dad got lung cancer. They said he had a month to live but it ended up being six months. I came back to Hong Kong thinking I was going to return to Canada to finish school and go to Uni – that was what was expected of me, but I ended up finding a job in TV Production. So there I was, sixteen years old hanging out in Lang Kwai Fong with my production colleagues, making MTV music videos. I got a taste for ‘adult’ life and ended up staying. I never went back to school and carried on working in production for 10 years. Eventually I was asked to head to Singapore to start my career in Sports Marketing. At first I was in Technical Services and then selling Sports Media Rights which as you can imagine was a very, very male dominated industry. I spent 10 years in that – survived – but not completely emotionally unscathed… *laughs*

From the outside the Sports Marketing industry seems so glamorous, traveling all around the world, having dinners, events and conferences in Monaco… on the surface of it, it seems great. You do business and that’s all good. But there have been times when I’d be at a party – with some of my female counterparts in the industry and we’d be asked if we were “the special delights for the evening” – it all made for an interesting 10 years. I think at some point, actually around the same time of the FIFA scandal, I realised I had been chasing the money and not really doing anything that contributed to bettering this world.

So what made you decide to make the change?

T: Well all at the same time, there seemed to be a lot of cancer diagnoses around us, family, friends, friends’ parents. My then partner, now husband, we were living on a boat in Wong Chuk Hang with a great entertaining space and a great kitchen. I did a course on raw vegan cooking and really enjoyed it. It was the first time I was thinking that entertaining people, bringing them over for dinner if I’m serving them with the most expensive meat, the best seafood and not thinking about the source – am I giving them a meal with love or am I actually poisoning them? So putting all of those thoughts together with being dissatisfied with work brought me to my next milestone. That’s what brought me to the decision to get re-educated in nutrition and go to culinary school. Which was a big deal because I never finished high school when I should have. You know, I didn’t get my GED until I was in my mid-thirties.

Where did that reeducation take you?

T: Well I did my courses in New York, worked in some really cool places like New York’s first and only sustainable sushi restaurant Mayanoki. It was amazing, I loved it, I wasn’t there for long but I learned so much. The Chef Jeff Miller would take locally caught blue fish, which is such a cheap fish and widely available, and do funky things with it, like cure it, dry-age it and make it into this really flavoursome sashimi-grade omakase dish. That had a really big impact on me. Recently we had a demo with a prospective partner [Sub Zero] and we took locally and sustainably farmed, chemical-free tilapia fish and cured it and made it fine-dining-worthy. 

I learned so many amazing things and then came back to Hong Kong. When I was pregnant with my first, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and did work providing nutrition consultations for private clients, some of whom were quite ill and needed special attention. Then I met Larry [Tang, Co-Founder of the FAMA Group].

There seem to have been a lot of surprises along the way that defined your milestones…

Yes, well ultimately you learn to be surprised along the way. But one thing that I did learn was that you come out of any education thinking “right, that’s it, I’m set”, when in actual fact you’re not. That was a surprise.

Anything you would have done differently?


… that’s great. So no regrets. 

Now on to what you’re doing now with FAMACY. How did it all come about?

T: It was a build up over time, talking and working with Larry to develop FAMACY’s three pillars: 

FOOD – using nutrient dense, well sourced ingredients; SUPPLEMENTS – topping up on what they get from their meals using clinical grade, evidence-based science; and LAB TESTING – to ensure our clients are getting what they need to achieve optimal health. There was no ‘aha’ moment, but we definitely agreed, based on our experiences, on the problems with the modern day food system. We shared goals in terms of knowing what we need to work towards, both being in F&B, taking the evidence-based science and combining it to fight the issue.

We know some of these bigger issues, but anything people at home might not know about the industry, but could and should change about their habits?

You know a lot of people look at me and think “You’re a Mom. You’re nice.” But I’m not. I’m angry. I’m angry with what the food industry has been able to get away with. Everyone STOP eating vegetable oil NOW. They’re all hydrogenated, highly refined and full of trans fats, with all nutritional value stripped out of it for the sake of longer shelf life. There is zero nutritional value in it. STOP buying commercial bread. “The best thing since sliced bread?” It really isn’t. Again, created to extend shelf life and benefit the producers so that they could make more money out of us. Stop buying sugar, white, brown, muscovado, whatever fancy name they give it. Anything you can find in the supermarket is bad for you. We’re being lied to.

Cows are not the enemy, it’s the factory farming that is the enemy.  Vegetables… YES great to eat your greens but are you really eating healthier if you’re also eating all the chemicals and pesticides on them? We work with local farmers who yes, are organic, but they’re also no pesticides which is the next level up.

Don’t tell me you’re being healthy because you didn’t eat that bag of chips or cake. If you really care about your health let’s reexamine and readjust what you’re putting into your body. By doing that we are voting with every single dollar we spend. All the mono cropping and factory farming is eroding our top soil which is the most valuable resource we have in farming. It’s causing the climate AND health crisis of today. I could go on… it’s like opening Pandora’s box and is the reason why I’m doing what we are doing. I want these messages to be heard loud and clear. I want to inspire people to do something about it.

What do you wish more people knew about YOU?

T: *laughs* Well I suppose we all feel somewhat misunderstood! On a personal level, I wish more people knew two things. The first is that I came from very humble beginnings. Especially somewhere like Hong Kong that can at times be quite superficial, people make assumptions about who we are based on appearances. I’m married to a Westerner, I live a comfortable life… But nothing was just handed to me. You can make anything happen as long as you see opportunities and work hard for it.

And the second is that I’m highly sensitive.

Emotionally sensitive or sensitive to others’ opinions of you?

T: Both. Everything. All of it. And there’s also sensing what’s going on around you. What’s come out of this has actually turned out to be a good piece of life advice. Young females especially seem susceptible to finding faults in ourselves. For such a large part of my life I knew I was highly sensitive. I never knew why, but I certainly didn’t see it as a good thing. What I did eventually find was that being highly sensitive ended up being advantageous at certain points in my life. It set me apart in a male dominated Sports industry, particularly in Japan where cultural sensitivity was so important. It allowed me to navigate the nuances of an unknown world. So my biggest piece of advice is as you learn about yourself and find any weaknesses, turn them around and use them to your advantage.  

“Umami” features a lot in your work. Why?

T: It’s the best flavour there is! I’m not a sweet person. Savoury is my world. Maybe it’s the mixed culture thing. In Chinese we’ve always had this flavour. It’s how we describe the aftertaste of that chicken soup your grandmother makes. It’s this beautiful, warming flavour that hits the back of your throat. I thought we should feel the same way about our health. We chase that optimal flavour, the one that gives us the most love and satisfaction in return. Similarly, we should pursue optimal health. And just because there are no obvious symptoms, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. You want your body to function as best as it possibly can: absence of disease, energy, vitality. Umami is the symbol for all these things. We can have it all.

And it features in your recipes?

T: Every recipe. It’s not just me, it’s what we all do in the kitchen as chefs developing a menu. We seek out that umami. In Chinese it’s sin mei 鮮味. Sometimes it’s challenging when you’re cooking mostly plant based. You have to find a way to extract and recreate the flavour in every dish, not just your signature dish.

And what is your signature dish?

T: My ginger scallion crab is pretty good. All my best dishes are Cantonese classics… but done in a healthy way.

Do you have a wonder ingredient?

T: That’s like picking a favourite child. I’d have to say kombu. I love kombu. It’s so representative of umami. Umami came from the Japanese Dr. Ikeda extracting and isolating that glutamate from the kombu back in the early 1900s which eventually led to the creation of MSG. Kombu is very high in iodine, very high in minerals, exceptional for detoxification, very good for digestion, very nourishing – it’s a superfood. It’s a wonderfood.

So where do you stand on MSG?

T: Well MSG is a chemically produced product that replicates the flavour of glutamate. I’m not for anything that is chemically treated. But natural glutamate extract that’s been taken from food or fermented variations of it then that I’m ok with. However, these strong flavours over-excite our brains, our neurotransmitters, so we have to be wary. It’s all about using it in moderation.

What do you want to be remembered for?

T: I just want to be remembered as someone who loves food and ensures that the rest of the world eats only the healthiest possible version of it.

Ok finally, if you could host a dinner for three people dead or alive who would they be?

T: The first would be Julia Childs because she’s the OG of female chefs. There was something I saw online recently that was a quote from Jessica Simpson of all people. She said something along the lines of “Being underestimated is my superpower” and I find that so true for so many iconic female figures of our time. Another dinner guest would be Lady GaGa. She’s another highly sensitive individual – to the extreme. She’s someone who has played that to her advantage. And then I thought of Anthony Bourdain. I mean jeez wouldn’t You want to to eat with him, drink whiskey and talk sh*t dee into the night?  

I think  there would be so much wisdom around that dinner table. So much inspiration, so much hope and so much love, and so much collective thought on how we can make this world a better place. We can all do more and every single one of us has that power.

So much of food is about love for me. Food is about sharing and the satisfaction of flavours that make you want to moan and then go quiet for a couple of minutes. So I would make a classic Cantonese style multi-dish dinner to share: herbal chicken soup, steamed ginger scallion fish, ginger crab, stir fried pea shoots… although I think Lady GaGa might be vegan so she can just have the pea shoots to herself.