From hotelier to holistic health advisor, newcomer to Macau Kelly Tsoi is inspired to share her stories and advice on a pathway to healthy living.
“I don’t do calories, I don’t do portion measurements”, Kelly Tsoi starts to explain, “the important thing is to know what works for your unique body, as we are all bio-individuals, no one diet fits all.”
Founder of fledgling company, Root Matters, the genesis of Kelly’s interest in better eating and lifestyle habits came from experiences with family and friends’ illnesses. “I was born and raised in England and brought up in a culture that if you’re sick, you go to the doctor, no questions asked, he’s the guru, you take the medicine prescribed.” It was when her daughter was sick with pneumonia in her early years that she looked at alternative medicine and found remedies. And while living in Xiamen, her church pastor, who has lived with cancer for the past 10 years by using alternative and natural remedies, inspired her to challenge the status quo even more.
At about the same time Kelly’s 89 year old father was diagnosed with cancer and she was shocked at the advice he was given by his oncologist who was unaware of the benefits of Vitamin D and encouraged him to eat sugary things … “and sugar feeds cancer! I felt extremely uncomfortable with this, and remember trying to incorporate lots of smoothies and whole foods into my dad’s diet that summer to help him build up his overall immune system.”
“I started to research, to really dig in, to learn how one can live more holistically, more naturally. And I studied with the New York based Institute of Integrative Nutrition pioneered by Joshua Rosenthal. It examines the primary foods of spirituality, relationships, career and physical movement. It all boils down to balancing these four pillars and in doing so, the secondary foods, which is actually the food on your plate will naturally be better choices because of where you are at.
Now having been in Macau for the past 10 months, Kelly has started to share her learning, and her experiences with others; she offers 1 on 1 health coaching (two 50-minute sessions per month over six months, “one needs time to change habits”), group coaching (“say in an office with 3 or 6 employees looking for tips to a more healthy lifestyle”), and she gives both corporate talks and topical talks. “I speak at schools – I’ve given a talk recently on Healthy Habits for Teenagers … to educate them about forming good habits, as well as why does sugar get such a bad hype?”
One of 6 children, Kelly’s nomadic Hakka heritage seems to have had a strong influence on her life as an adult; she has traveled often and widely. Starting her career as a trainee with the New World Hotels International Group, within the space of 6 years she had quickly climbed the ranks through various management roles to that of director in public relations. She then spent a further 4 years with Island Shangri-La Hong Kong in the same capacity. After 10 years in Hong Kong, she yearned for something new and was invited to join the pre-opening team for the JW Marriott in Shanghai as their director of marketing communications. It is there where she met her hotelier husband Chris. After six and a half years in Shanghai she became the trailing spouse. “I’m a workaholic and a perfectionist – I realized that I probably couldn’t do two things well so I quit working to focus on raising our now 13 year old daughter Lauren.” The family moved from Shunde, Guangzhou, Xiamen, then back to Shanghai for the opening of the St Regis. And now Macau.
And their choice of home? “Well we settled on Ocean Gardens after having seen a number of other alternatives. We liked One Grantai for its proximity to The International School, but we didn’t want to be too in the midst of the lights. One Oasis had nice clubhouse facilities, but the lobbies made Lauren feel too much like living in a hotel.” This 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment in Aster Court is light and bright, “it has a great, spacious kitchen. We love the view, the surroundings, the waterfront walking-cycling track, it’s close to Chris’ work, and the reception team is excellent. I’m quite an introvert and I appreciate calm and a strong sense of home. In every apartment we’ve lived in I make a special effort to create a home, with regular home cooked meals and lots of family photo collages on display”, a testament to this close knit and loving family.
Kelly and Chris have filled the apartment with treasured furniture that they’ve collected on their various work assignments and holidays. The dining table comes from Shunde (“a virtual furniture town!”) and the coffee table has been custom designed and built in Guangzhou to serve as Kelly’s wrapping table, with lots of compartments for paper, ribbons and tapes. “The low sideboard in the living room from one of the Shanghai furniture warehouses was tailor made to our size, the little white 2-seater sofa is from Ou Mei in Taipa and the larger grey sofa is from Tree in Horizon Plaza in Hong Kong.” The leather armchair is an old favorite of Chris’, from Shanghai.
A wine cabinet in the dining room is filled with a sizeable collection of Riedel glasses. “It’s a throwback to my hotel days” Kelly laughs, “when it comes to wine, the sommelier in Petrus in Hong Kong’s Island Shangri-La taught me so much.”
Holding pride of place at the front entrance is a large porcelain pig, painted in a 4-leaf clover design. “I think it was made in Germany but we bought it in Shanghai.” A family favorite, “it goes wherever we go!”
And what are Kelly’s thoughts about Macau? “I’m pleasantly surprised; the locals are lovely. I’ve got lost so many times and people go out of their way to help me. People give you their time; once a newspaper seller took the time to check his Google map to give me directions and even though he had a queue starting of customers, he took me to the end of the street to point the way. In Hong Kong you don’t get that”. The downsides? “The traffic … the city is always in construction mode and this really has a negative impact on the traffic! But the good thing is everything is so close in Macau, very manageable compared to Shanghai. And when it comes to food shopping, in Shanghai for example you can get a lot more organic, natural ingredients plus there are so many supermarkets with on-line shopping; you order in the morning and things are delivered in the afternoon … I hope this could be improved in Macau over time.”
Kelly and her family are happy in Macau and she’s clearly excited about how her business will evolve here. “Food is like a catalyst for conversation, for getting people together. My hope is for Root Matters to branch out into the community; whether it’s through topical workshops, talks, introducing healthy snacks and sharing recipes at bible studies gatherings or meetings for a picnic, or hosting weekend retreats, when one shares it creates that ripple effect.”
Root Matters website: www.rootmatters.net
Photo credit: Suzanne Watkinson. Photos for the magazine: Eduardo Martins