Considering others' needs has been ingrained in Palisa Anderson ever since the restaurateur and self-made farmer was five years old.
Anderson tells SBS Food, "I remember as a child, if you left a room to get a glass of water for yourself, if there was an adult in the room, you would never walk it back without having a glass of water for them as well."
It's not about unreasonably sacrificing yourself, she clarifies. Rather, it's about living by a Thai principle. Nahm-jai, which translates to "water of the heart”, means overflowing others with your kindness.
"I think nahm-jai is inherent in all of us, but it's also a muscle that you need to build." Driving around the city is a good place for her to exercise this muscle, Anderson says, laughing. "I have to remind myself that because I've had the kindness done to me when I'm driving, and I try to pass this on."
"Nahm-jai is inherent in all of us, but it's also a muscle that you need to build."
Anderson works to ensure this principle guides her food choices too, carefully considering what and who have been impacted when putting food on her plate. Boon Luck Farm, a supplier of rarely seen Asian produce to top restaurants in the big cities, was birthed out of a desire to serve their own restaurant patrons authentic Thai dishes and using produce that would avoid harming their customers' wellbeing.
Boon Luck Farm commits to supporting sustainable farming practices. For example, she's been forming a cooperative with other farmers to help sell their produce at her stall in a Sydney farmers market. So, during the filming of her upcoming SBS Food TV series Water Heart Food, Anderson was struck by how farmers aren't always supported this way.
"It's something my mum has always instilled in me: community before profit," says Anderson. "Of course we understand we need to operate as a business and survive, but my mum always focused on raising up her staff and caring for the community she was feeding, I remember her giving away so much for free."
Indeed, Anderson looks up to her late mother, Amy Chanta, as a model of genuine kindness. For example, Chanta, who founded popular institution chain Chat Thai, is even known to check in on former staff.
"It goes beyond social responsibilities, the people who are in your world become your family. That mindset becomes fostered in our staff, and then they become amazing managers. And they pass on that generosity to the people who look up to them and who are working under them."
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