The second I sat down across the table from Palisa Anderson, at one of her Chat Thai restaurants at Circular Quay, Sydney, the conversation went deep. No lighthearted chit-chat to get us there — we went straight in. Palisa told me about the profound impact of losing her mother last year, and how she is continually processing her grief.
Palisa grew up around food and restaurants, and inherently understands the link between sharing a meal and its contribution to a life filled with meaning: food, culture and tradition meet at our dining tables every day. Palisa extended this relationship seven years ago when she bought a property in northern New South Wales and called it Boon Luck Farm: what started as a project that would supply her Sydney restaurants with the more hard-to-find ingredients essential to great Thai cooking grew into a complementary passion. These days, you’re most likely to find Palisa in a field, planting, harvesting, paying attention. The organic and permaculture principles she practices at Boon Luck Farm contribute to the sublime taste you’ll find on plates at Chat Thai.
This conversation took place over two days and three locations: at Chat Thai in Sydney’s CBD, but later on a Sydney Harbour foreshore walk on a bracing winter morning, then on to Palisa’s Sydney home, where she showed me her impressive kitchen garden. This garden isn’t what you would expect in a quiet street: life gallops out of the fruit trees in her front yard, and with pride Palisa shows me how she has nurtured living soil in this small patch of cheek-by-jowl suburbia.
Our conversation traverses territories — the relationship between eating and meaning, the deep peace she finds in working the land, and her continuing work to make sense of her mother’s life. We parted with a giant hug, as new friends.