Most kids learn about cooking by making inedible concoctions in their parents’ kitchen, but restaurateur Palisa Anderson wasn’t most kids. Her mother, Amy Chanta, ran Sydney’s Thai food institution Chat Thai, and gave Palisa a head start in the food business.
“I learned how to do all sorts of food prep, starting with peeling garlic and prepping herbs, and then graduating onto shelling prawns and learning how to differentiate between cuts of meat and filleting fish. So I had the whole works,” she says, laughing. “My mum was a big believer in child labor.”
Young Palisa also gained an appreciation for growing your own food. “If we went to the Asian grocers and she bought some basil, we de-stemmed the basil, she'd always stick the stems into a glass of water and stick that by the window,” Palisa recalls of her mum’s kitchen gardening. “And lo and behold, a week later it just threw out these roots and we'd plant them out in the garden... Just seeing life is a really beautiful thing.”
This philosophy has extended to Boon Luck Farm in Byron Bay, where Palisa and her husband Matt and their kids grow organic produce that supply the kitchens of Boon Café, Assamm and Samosorn.
Palisa and chef Darren Robertson in her kitchen in Byron Bay.
For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have access to an idyllic farm, Palisa is encouraging: a few pots, a windowsill, maybe a balcony, and you can have your own mini Boon Luck Farm. “I think if you buy all your food in plastic you don't get that experience. I think you really lose out,” she says. “Not only do you get to nurture something, you also get to see something in full cycle and then you realize when you put it in our body, you feel so much better.”
If you still think you’re doomed to a brown-thumb life, think again. “If you put out a pot of soil in your garden and don't sow any seeds into it, just wait. You will see some weeds come up, because nature loves a vacuum,” Palisa says with enthusiasm.
Bottom line, home-grown herbs and veggies simply taste better. “It's delicious and it's nutrient-dense food because it's been grown in soil. That soil is alive.”
Palisa Anderson grew up in the kitchens of Sydney’s Thai institution Chat Thai, and has expanded the family business to include Boon Café, Jarern Chai Asian Grocers, and the hawker-style Samosorn. These eateries are stocked with produce from her organic Boon Luck Farm in Byron Bay. Palisa is also host of Water Heart Food on SBS. Now she’s sharing her Thai favorites with you.
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