We had the good fortune of connecting with Anita Lau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anita, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
I read The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) in my 20s, but recently (in the last three months) re-read it, 30+ years later. I enjoyed reading this the first time, but I realized, I was immature both emotionally and mentally to fully grasp what the book was trying to relay. When I read it again, the message was clear, and I believe it was due to the experiences I’ve had throughout my life, up till now, and the work I’ve done through therapy and self reflection, that has led me here. My interpretation of The Alchemist is that we are in control of our own lives, and that no matter what our childhoods might have dealt us, we have the power to change it. However, we need to have the proper tools in order to make these changes, so it is our job to gather these tools, to educate ourselves, and once equipped, we can then take the steps to make changes.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been a food writer for almost 30 years. I lived in Hong Kong during the 90s, writing about, and critiquing about food. Although the road to food writing started more by default rather than by choice, I’ve had a life-long relationship with food for my entire life. Growing up, food was the vehicle for pretty much, everything. It was a reward, a punishment, a method of relaying emotions, which took me decades to realize. When I was in college in Australia, I started a small catering business where I’d do private parties and dinners for friends. It was way before the whole concept of personal chefs became a household term, but I would go into people’s homes and create an intimate dinner for them. After college, I moved to Hong Kong, and spent almost 10 years there as a food writer before moving to the US. I’ve lived here for over 20 years now. It was difficult to establish myself initially because I had no work experience here, and especially because we moved around quite a bit. In 2006, we moved to southern California and for the first time in my life, I’ve lived in one place for this length of time. It took four to six years to establish myself again. Life is full of challenges, and personal growth means realizing that there are always obstacles that’s thrown in my path. Maneuvering through them, and learning to “go with the flow” is a huge part of that growing process. We can’t remain still, nor can we stay complacent. Regardless of where I am today, I know that it isn’t constant. The biggest example of this is the covid-19 pandemic, work came to a standstill, but I was unusually calm throughout. I know that personal growth played a huge part in how I react to situations. Right now, I have had to re-evaluate and think about what I’d like to do for the next chapter of my journey. I am extremely well versed when it comes to food, but as much as I love it, there is this desire to be of service. I’ve been feeling this for a while now, so I’m hoping to find a way where I can branch out to help women get back on their feet again. My voice as a person hasn’t always been heard, and while my professional life and career may be how others see me, I want to move past that and work towards helping those who don’t have a voice, or are too afraid to speak up. This is not something that stops. It’s an ever evolving journey that I plan to be on.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Barring the pandemic, we live in Orange County, so naturally, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm are a must. Whenever my friends from overseas visit, we also suggest Legoland, the San DIego Zoo, as well as various attractions in LA such as La Brea Tar Pits, and the various museums. The Sriracha Factory is always a fun excursion. Food-wise, Grand Central Market in LA, the Packing District and downtown Disney in Anaheim. Living in OC means we have the luxury of having easy access to LA and San Diego, so there’s a lot to choose from depending on where my friend would like to go. Since the majority of friends who visit are from overseas, most of the time, they want the quintessential American experience. When my best friend from Australia was here about a year and half ago with her kids, they pretty much experienced everything above, as well as having their very first American Thanksgiving complete with turkey and ham.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My personal growth is a journey that couldn’t have happened without a series of incidents which led up to it. There were many people who were instrumental in helping on this journey, but I wouldn’t have been able to get here without my friend Bryn, who introduced me to my therapist who has been helping me on this journey for the last 3+ years. Without understanding where I came from, it would be impossible to reflect, and make changes to become better. The teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn have also been extremely helpful in getting me to a place of understanding and growth. Recently, a friend introduced me to Alan Watts, so I am starting to explore his teachings as well. Ultimately, I don’t believe it is one person, one group, one organization who deserves a shoutout. Every single person who has crossed my path is responsible for bringing something to my life. Whether it’s good or bad, these experiences make up who I am as a person. So if you’ve crossed my path, no matter how fleeting, know that it meant something. My son is another person who holds me accountable for my actions and my words, and for this, I am truly grateful.