In this episode, Ragnar talks with chef, author, and survivor, German Lam. In his new book Dragon Turns to Water, German shares the incredible story of his battle with cancer, and how food, philosophy, and a fighting spirit got him through.
Born in Santiago, Chile in the Year of the Dragon, German Lam always had tenacity. It ran in the family. His parents, who had emigrated from China, moved to the US in his early childhood to give him more opportunities. His father, a master butcher, took a job as a dishwasher to make ends meet. He worked hard to learn new skills, becoming a talented self-taught chef. “Every meal, my parents prepared for me, there was not one bad meal. Not one bad meal for the past 50 years,” says German.
Nurtured by his parents’ heart and drive, German’s own cheffing journey began at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. There he found culinary mentors to teach him the foundations of luxury cooking and French cuisine. But perhaps his greatest inspiration came from Bruce Lee.
“Bruce Lee said ‘Be fluid.’ You take water and you pour it wherever it goes, you enjoy the ride. But if you try to control it and direct it, guess what happens – you apply a lot of pressure and stress in you.
So think about cooking. I always said in cooking it’s about the ingredients and the mistakes that you make, and when you bring them together, that’s the beauty of cooking. It’s not about preciseness. It’s not about organic. It’s not about using the best cuts.
It’s really understanding what happens when you just take basic ingredients and you put it together and form a team.”
Right from the start, German had this mind-body-spirit approach. “In our profession, no one really talked about conditioning,” he says. To him, the lessons he learned on the line were equally as important as physical and mental conditioning.
This proved essential. In 2017 German fought a nearly impossible battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. Starting as a thumb-sized tumor behind his nose, it soon spread throughout his body, robbing his sense of taste.
German’s Freestyle Cooking and Lifestyle philosophy gave him the tools he needed not only to survive cancer but to also survive the difficult recovery process. It meant both unleashing his inner dragon, and, channeling Bruce Lee, “becoming like water.”
Like the paradox of wu wei, how can you both fight and go with the flow? German has set out to help and inspire others to find that balance, sharing his story and philosophy as an author, speaker, and coach. Through his venture Glam Foods, his goal is to illuminate the path to good living through eating right.
Hear German’s inspiring story on this episode of World on a Plate.
About our Guest
German Lam is an award-winning chef, with a work history at top-rated institutions such as the 5-star Boston and Cleveland Ritz Carlton Hotels, Harvard Club of Boston, and Chatham Bars Inn. Additionally, he was executive chef at Mirabelle Restaurant located on Boston’s trendy Newbury Street and the Needham Sheraton Hotel. He has also served as the Executive Sous Chef at Marais Restaurant and Chef de Cuisine at the Charles Hotel.
Chef Lam graduated in 1986 from Newbury College with a degree in culinary arts and completed the prestigious American Culinary Federation Les Dames d’Escoffier apprenticeship program in 1990.
German’s awards include:
- 1989 Ritz-Carlton Hotel Employee of the Year
- 1989 Boston food Show Gold Medal
- 1999 Epicurean Club of Boston Junior Culinary Team Coach – Bronze Medal
For more on fighting cancer, read how nutrition can help our immune system battle cancer: article here.
You can order German’s book, Dragon Turns to Water Chef: German Lam Fights Cancer with a Freestyle Lifestyle, on Amazon: link here.
Find more on health and wellness lifestyle skills, consultations, coaching, and more at glamfoodsllc.com.
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Special thanks to German Lam for joining as a guest.
World on a Plate is supported by Nestlé Professional and our podcast sponsors.