Amy Chanta's Profile

As a single mother, Amy Chanta knew she could build a better life for her babies in Australia. So after two years after arriving from Thailand with only $300 in her pocket, she had made enough money for son Pat and daughter Palisa to join her. She was working in the kitchen at U-thong in Cammeray, one of the Sydney's first Thai restaurants. After five years at U-thong she began working with McDonald's in Cremorne where she was able improve her English and learn management systems.

In 1989, Chanta and a Thai friend opened the first Chat Thai in Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst. "We would come home from school and there'd be nobody home but there'd be a big pot of food on the stove," says Palisa, now 30, remembering how her mother toiled around the clock to establish the business. The Darlinghurst restaurant failed but Chanta was undeterred. There are now five restaurants in the Chat Thai chain, the highest profile being Chat Thai Campbell Street in Haymarket, where crowds queue for a table as teams of chefs prepare desserts in a streetside galley kitchen.

Amy opened Chat Thai in Randwick in 1993, which earned a huge fan base from the locals, and followed that up with outlets at The Galeries in George Street in the city and at Manly Wharf. By 2006, when Chanta was offered the lease on a rundown shop in Campbell Street, Haymarket, son Pat had graduated as an architect. Now 32, he put a contemporary face on the Chat Thai brand, which most recently opened in Westfield Sydney. Palisa and her husband, Matt Anderson, are now also part of the business. "The pull of a family business is strong," says Palisa.