From Farm to Table: The Thai chain growing its own produce
Chat Thai cares so deeply about your health, so they took it into their own hands - literally.
We chatted to Chat Thai who pioneers the grow-your-own movement to find out what they are producing, how much they harvest and why they are so passionate about sustainable farming.
The Chat Thai restaurants frequently struggled to source the increasingly large quantities of the speciality ingredients they needed, and they were fed up with chemically grown vegetables that are widely available. The solution to Chat Thai’s dilemma was simple: They would grow it all themselves.
In 2016, the Boon Luck Farm was established, and Chat Thai now supply all their restaurants with as much organic produce as they can from this 107 acres of Certified Organic farmland in Byron Bay, NSW. The ability to grow rare and unusual varieties with integrity was the driver.
The woman behind Chat Thai's secret ingredients: Palisa Anderson
Anderson is a young woman with a passion for growing organic Thai herbs and vegetables. Anderson is the daughter of Amy Chanta, who is best known for starting the Chat Thai restaurant chain. After opening her own cafe and grocer, Anderson saw a huge gap in the market for traditional, healthy ingredients. She now runs the Boon Luck Farm, growing her own organic produce, which is cooked in Chat Thai.
The Boon Luck Farm grows dozens of different fruits, vegetables and herbs for Chat Thai's aromatic curries, vibrant stir-fries and refreshing salads. Currently, the farm is growing chokos, lots of varieties of pumpkins and eggplants, Asian favorites like gai lan and bok choy, carrots, ginger, fresh turmeric, turnips, peanuts, persimmons, jujubes, mulberries, Brazilian cherries, and pandan. The farm also grows 30 kinds of citrus, including Japanese sudachi limes, kaffir limes and Australian finger limes. There are also exotic fruits, such as peanut butter fruit and miracle fruit. While many of these plants sound like exotic one-offs, they're used extensively in Thai cooking.
Boon Luck Farm is a certified organic operation. They don’t have to buy in any chemical fertilisers, but they do have to manage their mulch, their compost, and their rotation of crops. This requires a lot of manual labour doing it the way they do.
Farming has taught Anderson a lot about the value of good-quality food. At large chain supermarkets, people expect to pay as little as two dollars a kilogram for vegetables. “That’s just not feasible … I know how long it takes to grow a cabbage, and a cabbage should never, ever be two dollars a kilo,” Anderson says.
Palisa Anderson's success as a restaurateur-turned-farmer has given her a world stage. One of her biggest fans is Danish chef Rene Redzepi who called upon Boon Luck Farm to supply Noma Sydney, his six-month pop-up restaurant in 2016. He then asked her to address his Copenhagen MAD symposium for 1000 of the world’s best chefs and restaurateurs and has since invited her to open a pop-up Chat Thai in Copenhagen.
Chat Thai has spread their passion for sustainable farming by providing organic produce to individuals and organisations beyond their company, including Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky, the Fink Group (Quay, Bennelong, Firedoor), Merivale (Freds, Coogee Pavilion, Berts) and Momofuku, Poly, Ester, Icebergs.
Chat Thai feels glad and grateful that they've got this opportunity to expose to the mainstream what Thai food can be.