Cafe's plea to help cancer-stricken chef strikes a chord
Crowds appear at Strangers' Reunion cafe to support cancer-stricken chef
Their cafe may be called Strangers' Reunion.
But no one was a stranger when the owners put out a call for help and many responded.
Their aim: To raise funds for the cafe's head chef, Mr Sebastian Tan, 26, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer two weeks ago.
The owners of the cafe at Kampong Bahru Road posted a message on the restaurant's Facebook page on Sunday, saying that Strangers' Reunion and its sister cafe, Curious Palette at Prinsep Street, will be raising funds by opening their cafes on Tuesdays for at least eight to 10 weeks and donating all the proceeds to fund the chef's medical costs.
Both cafes serve western cuisine and assorted cakes and are usually closed on Tuesdays.
The owners also plan to set up a website for people to donate.
The plea was met with overwhelming support.
Mr Ryan Tan, 30, one of the cafe's co-owners, which has been at its current location since 2013, said a total of about 1,000 people came to both cafes yesterday.
Even before Strangers' Reunion opened at noon, more than 20 people were waiting outside.
The New Paper was there from noon to about 3pm. The cafe was constantly packed.
"Some of our customers had to wait slightly longer for their food but perhaps because it was a fund-raising event, our customers were patient and understanding," said Mr Tan. "And for that we are really appreciative."
Sixteen of his staff returned to work at the cafe yesterday - eight working the front and eight in the kitchen.
The news about the cancer hit the cafe owner hard.
"I couldn't believe the news at first, because he was so young," said Mr Tan.
"He is a good friend of me and my partners," he added.
Mr Tan said his chef was discharged from Singapore General Hospital on Monday after going through 10 rounds of radiotherapy. He is now back home in Johor Baru.
TNP could not contact Mr Sebastian Tan yesterday.
Mr Tan described his head chef as a warm, energetic and hard working member of the restaurant.
"A lot of our staff really looked up to him as a mentor," he said.
Echoing this sentiment was the cafe's senior barista, Mr Marcus Tan, 24.
"He is a selfless guy, so working on our day off is the least that we can do for him," he said.
They initially hoped to raise $100,000 for their head chef.
Now, even if they raise the amount, they will continue their efforts to ensure their chef and friend receives the best medical care available.
One customer who was there yesterday was a regular who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 35.
The civil servant used to frequent the cafe to get coffee four to five times a week before his office moved.
"I talked to (Mr Sebastian Tan) a few times before and he was always so cheerful, even after a long day," he said.
"So I think he deserves all the help he can get."
The crowd was made up of regulars and first-timers who saw the cafe's Facebook post.
One of them was Mr Lai Chie Kan, 72, a retiree, who was there for the first time with his son and wife.
He went down after his son told him about the cafe's post.
"Cancer is always a sad thing to happen, so I will hope and pray for him," he said.
For Dr William Wan, the general secretary of Singapore Kindness Movement, the response to the plea was heart-warming.
"I have always maintained that there is innate kindness in everyone of us," he said.
"We naturally reach out with a desire to help for we know that the challenges of human frailties and vulnerabilities are common to all of us," he said.
As for the cafe's owner, he had nothing but gratitude and hopes the response will continue.
"It's very nice to see so many people care for a stranger," he said.
He is a selfless guy, so working on our day off is the least that we can do for him.
- Senior barista Marcus Tan on volunteering to work on Tuesdays