We deliver Australia wide
Call 1300 303 307


The maximum quantity permitted for this item is , if you wish to purchase more please call 1300 303 307
Palisa Anderson and the benefits of home harvesting

Palisa Anderson home harvesting

Palisa Anderson on the benefits of home harvesting.

It seems inevitable that Palisa Anderson has ended up living the life she has, with one foot planted in the luxuriant soil of the northern NSW hinterland and the other in the frenetic Sydney hospitality scene. Her mother, the late Amonrat “Amy” Chanta, of Chat Thai restaurant empire, was both inspiration and influence.

“My mum was brought up in the city in Bangkok, but she had a strong connection to and love of the land,” Anderson says. “It sounds so colonialist, but she grew up with housekeepers and nannies, the oldest of many siblings, so during the holidays she was allowed to go off with the housekeeper, an indigenous Thai lady, to the countryside. She was the one who taught my mum about the rhythms of the agrarian lifestyle and inspired the passion in her.”

Chanta’s innate skill in the kitchen wasn’t formally recognised until she moved to Australia, a single mother at 25, determined to make her own way in life.

“She worked at low-paying, manual labour jobs and front and back of house in restaurants, before she got a job in the kitchen at a restaurant called U-Thong in Cammeray in 1985 and found that she had a real skill for cooking,” Anderson says. “She loved the pace of a busy kitchen and she just thrived.”

Palisa Anderson tending to her fruit trees in Byron Bay

Picking cherries on Boon Luck Farm with Palisa Anderson

Just a short few years later, Chanta opened her own restaurant, Chat Thai in Darlinghurst, a place that rapidly became an institution, a drawcard for lovers of Thai food and a second home for an appreciative Thai diaspora. As such, Anderson grew up immersed in the world of hospitality – “the typical restaurant kid.

“I tagged along with my mum from Friday to Sunday night, and every school holidays were spent in the restaurant with her, bugging her constantly,” she recalls. “I look back now and am thankful that I actually paid attention and watched her, observing how she did everything and her interactions with her staff and customers – it informed me on how to deal with the world.”

Acknowledged for her own talent in the kitchen, having cooked with luminaries such as Peter Gilmore, Skye Gyngell, Dan Hong and Kylie Kwong – even presenting her own food show, Water, Heart, Food on SBS – Anderson had initially distanced herself from the hospitality business with a corporate career, before conceding it was where she wanted to be.

My fields are my fridge.

- Palisa Anderson, Chef and farmer of Boon Luck Farm Organics, Chat Thai and Love Child

Sourcing produce for an expanding number of restaurants while building relationships with growers of speciality herbs and vegetables, Anderson would visit farms and smallholders with her mother – Hmong and Thai, Cantonese and Vietnamese farmers around greater Sydney, but also as far as Port Douglas and Darwin.

“We’d go out to the fields and pick the eggplants or the young jackfruit, and bring it in with the farmers and just cook something up and truly, I enjoyed those meals much more than the restaurant meals that we would eat later on,” she says.



In 2015, they were inspired to take over the food chain production for the restaurants themselves, buying Boon Luck Farm, a 43-hectare property in Tyagarah, just north of Byron Bay. With her farming experience limited to backyard herb growing and a weekend permaculture course, Anderson and husband Matt learnt as they went.

“It’s a matter of editing – just continuously learning from your mistakes and editing out what doesn’t work. And persistence figuring out how to best make it work the next time around,” she says.

From the start though, the couple knew they wanted to farm organically, and adopted some of the principals of both permaculture and biodynamics.

“Originally, the farm was just about getting the harder-to-find ingredients, but we soon found that the methods in which we were growing were producing food with better taste, due to the high nutrients, and the fact that we didn’t spray anything on our produce,” Anderson says.

As well as supplying around 60 per cent of the fruit, vegetables and herbs to their own five restaurants, Boon Luck Farm sells their produce; from pandan to holy basil and galangal, green peppercorns, breadfruit and bamboo shoots, as well as fruit like papaya and stonefruit.

Palisa Anderson harvesting salted plums from her farm

Boon Luck Farm shed in Byron Bay

And, of course, some of that produce ends up on the family’s table. “My fields are my fridge,” Anderson says. “The only things I do have in my fridge are condiments and accoutrements that I’ve made or processed into sauces, marinades, preserves or seasonings.”

Dinner planning starts at around 4.30pm. “I finish up on my chores around the orchard or field and start wandering around the farm gathering up a basket full of vegetables, herbs and fruit which I’ll prepare for dinner,” Anderson says. “Living like this I’m always connected to the earth – I know what’s hyper-seasonal because I see it growing and get to eat it at its peak. It comes with lots of sweat and painful insect bites and stings... working the land takes a toll on your body, but you’re also rewarded with the spoils.” Meals at Boon Luck Farm are taken around the table with the couple’s children Soraya and Arthur. And what’s on the menu?

“The kind of food I cook for my family varies,” Anderson says. “My husband started a diary of our dinners it’s super eclectic I love cooking slow-cooked batches of braises or soups and freezing that for my kids for when I’m not around.”

Her mother’s passing brought Anderson’s culinary heritage into fresh focus. “When my mum died, I started trying my hand at recreating the foods – mostly the Thai-Chinese she used to cook in my childhood,” she recalls. “Nostalgia forms a lot of our cravings, I think.”

Geese on the Boon Luck Farm

Harvesting fresh watermelon on Palisa Anderson's farm



While few of us have the luxury of hectares of arable land to plant out, Anderson believes that we all have the resources to grow something ourselves and that it’s restorative indeed, unmistakably good for physical and mental health to do so.

“I really wish that it could be ingrained into people that they have the agency to grow things in their own front yard. Start off with a bunch of herbs, some basil, or spring onions, or whatever you have on your window sill. And if it catches on, that one pot becomes ten pots. And then eventually you might plant a lemon tree. You might not get any lemons the first five years, but you might also get a hundred lemons by the sixth year... if you don’t practice it, it will never happen and you’ll just be on this treadmill of giving up your food sovereignty.”

Anderson’s currently in the process of writing a book to share what she’s learned with others, how to use what you grow and the sensibilities of the agrarian lifestyle, including her passion for regenerative farming. “It’s about the land stewardship. I want to make sure it’s in a good state for whoever takes it on next, my children, hopefully, so they continue to reap the benefits of eating off this land.”

Words by
Natascha Mirosch
Photography by
Michael Pham
Published on
5 Apr 2024


Discover more Australian chefs

Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
1 case has been added to your cart.
Cart total: xxx
1 case, 12 bottles, 3 accessories