Meet Anong Ferguson, Head Chef at A-Thai-5
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
From humble beginnings operating a food stall at a roadside market in the north-east of Thailand, to becoming the proud owner and certified chef of a thriving Thai restaurant in Mitchelton, Anong Ferguson has come a long way.
Tell us a little bit about our story…have you always wanted to be a chef?
Thai cooking has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a poor rice-farming family where it was normal for girls to learn to cook from a very young age. Being the middle child of seven siblings, I became a second mother to my younger three siblings and learned about hard-work and cooking very quickly. I also left school at age 12 to help with the rice farming.
After marrying and leaving the farm, part of my contribution to my new family was establishing my own food stall at a roadside market where I specialised in making ‘Som-Tum’ – the famous hot and spicy green papaya salad. I later developed a business making and supplying nearby factory workers with traditional Thai meals. 12 hour days, seven days a week was the norm and I did this for many years before moving to Australia in 2006.
When did A-Thai-5 come about?
After working at several well-established Thai restaurants in Brisbane, expanding my skills and learning about the Australian restaurant business, my husband and I eventually opened our own Thai restaurant in November 2010 so that Brisbane could experience true Thai cuisine – not ‘dumbed down’ to suit western tastebuds. Four years on we continue to grow from strength to strength, delivering monthly specials and an ever-evolving menu that is becoming more unique each year.
Can you tell us more about the style of Thai you serve?
There is only one word that aptly describes our meals and that is authentic! While Thai cuisine has its own well known dishes including Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai noodles and the famous Red and Green curries, we strive to also introduce some of the lesser known, yet delicious regional dishes. All our meals bear the distinctive flavour of the north-eastern region of Thailand known as Isaan, which favours a drier and slightly spicier style. What truly stands out however is how we utilise the famous five Thai tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot (which is the ‘5’ in our business name!). I enjoy the inter-play of these tastes that deliver mouth-watering taste experiences.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I take pride in delivering authentic Thai food that people enjoy! I also love offering interesting dishes to our patrons that are not found elsewhere other than in Thailand. Thai culture abounds in great food experiences and anyone who has travelled there knows that everything socially revolves around food. Seeing the smiles of satisfaction on the faces of our customers and their encouraging comments is my biggest reward.
Why do you think A-Thai-5 has done so well?
I think we have developed quite a loyal following because we really care about our products and the dining experience as a whole. Our “Chef’s Specials” bring unique dishes into the mix which customers love, and we offer genuine gluten free and vegan meal choices. Our reasonable prices and generous serving sizes also keep customers satisfied. Fortunately this has proved to be a recipe for success and we have been able to grow from a humble 22 seat venue to a 56+ seat venue with indoor and all-weather outdoor dining options.
Three ingredients you can’t live without?
Chilli, basil and coriander! Thai cuisine cannot exist without these three ‘must haves’. That's not to say these ingredients are always used but they must always be on hand.
Top tips for home cooks?
1. Successful Thai cooking demands fresh ingredients, especially the herbs and spices. Buying off-the-shelf curries and soups can only go so far. There is no substitute for the impact that fresh ingredients makes.
2. When cooking coconut milk based curries, keep a careful eye on the temperature as too much heat can cause the milk to separate, leading to a very watery end product.
3. Lastly, Thai food is not about spiciness and chilli – it’s all about flavour.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that despite having no real formal education and being almost illiterate, I have been able to own and operate this business that has been peer-recognised as a good Thai restaurant. This tells me that life really has no limits.
A-Thai-5 Restaurant & Takeaway
1/28 Blackwood Street
Mitchelton QLD 4053