Different cups of tea
FAT CAT and EARTH TONE
Pai | Thailand
Pai, Thailand, is supposed to be a paradise for those who seek a balanced lifestyle, organic food, social and environmental awareness and a calm atmosphere. Well, it wasn't. When we arrived directly to the main street we were completely overwhelmed by the number of tourists, bars, hostels, and the hustle and bustle of this village. Quite disappointed, we decided to stay anyway, just for a few days, to see if we could find any changemaker. We walked about and once we went outside of the centre we started to meet some interesting initiatives, above all responsible organic restaurants. The first of them was Earth Tone.
Pimanchaya Aonsutti, Earth Tone founder: Earth Tone targets people who want to eat healthy, vegetarian or vegan food. Recently we also started with raw and gluten free food. We try to use healthy ingredients as much as we can. We prepare full meals, desserts and we also have a small shop in which we sell organic goods of local producers. At the beginning I wanted to open just a vegetarian restaurant, but today it became so much more. I keep thinking and keep listening to customers. Sometimes I try new food, visit other places similar to ours, get ideas and adapt some of them to my place. I have to be open to see things, ask people, listen to customers. I followed their suggestions, they told me to start doing gluten-free or vegan; So I did. I'm always thinking about how I can make good things to be better and better. More good products, more good desserts, healthier menu, but at the same time still delicious. Sometimes healthy food has a bad taste. I like when customers eat and feel like, wow, this is unbelievable! It’s vegan, has no sugar and yet it’s very good.
Just few hundred meters farther Earth Tone there is another restaurant with, as we thought at the beginning, quite a similar idea. It's called Fat Cat, and as they wrote on the board in front of their place, they sell local, organic food. Talking with them, though, we realized their business concept is fundamentally different.
Suvitcha Paggrasa, Fat Cat founder: We run this place according to one rule: this restaurant is not up to customers. Our idea is that the business chooses the customers not the other way around. We live here, this is our house, we create everything that supports us first. People complain about the stone floor, but we like it, so we keep it. We like this roof, so we keep it. I’m ok if customers don’t like the place and they don’t come here. Only customers that like it have the same idea. And then you run the business with that kind of customer. You are happy, people support it. I don’t like people coming and saying: I want to sit on a bigger chair… I’m sorry I don’t have it, but I can recommend another place, because most of the businesses around are run by friends. We know that if you want to sit on the sofa you can go to that place. If you want to eat vegetarian, I don’t sell vegetarian food, but I know Earth Tone is just a few hundred meters down the road. And if someone likes a place like this, my friends send him/her to me. Last 5 years we were stressed because of customers, we tried to follow their wishes. Not anymore. In the end, we live here, we have to feel good in the first place.
Suvitcha and her husband not only prioritise their own comfort over the convenience and wishes of customers, they also put their life before their work.
Suvitcha: We don’t live like… you get a job and you have to move. We choose the place to stay first and then we think about what we want to do there. Can it make money to support our life? If yes, that’s good; If not, it doesn’t mean we throw everything away. We try to have a balance. With what we are doing now we can pay the bills. I work here 6 hours per day. Sometimes 5 hours. That’s it. If I want to close, I close. Tomorrow maybe the weather is good, I want to go hiking? I close. It’s freedom. You cannot compare it with how much money you earn. A lot of my friends work in the city right now. They also try to be balanced. But the point is that if you have a job you cannot just say: I want a 5 days holiday. It’s impossible. You have something that controls you all the time. Come back! Work! You cannot turn off the phone. And if you have a baby - as we have - how do you live your life? After school you come back home, no garden, no outdoor and if you want to go to the forest you have to plan months in advance. No, I couldn’t live like that.
Although Earth Tone and Fat Cat are so different, this is what they have in common, together with many other people living around Pai: they decided to rebalance their life and find their own path. It's not an easy decision, but they prove it's possible.
Pimanchaya: You should do things you are passionate about. Trust your instinct. I listen to myself and I’m always honest with customers. If I tell them it’s organic, it has to be organic. Nobody will follow you to check if it’s real or not, you have to be honest yourself.
Suvitcha: There are a lot of young people who come here and want to stay. Don’t dream on. Think about real life first. Make a plan and try to make it come true. But don’t think you will throw everything away and just walk into the forest, it’s impossible. There is nothing wrong with making money. Just find the balance. Life is not that bad and dreams are not that far away. Find a way and try.
More about Earth Tone: facebook.com/earthtoneinpai
More about Fat Cat: facebook.com/FatCat-1484657631748094