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Meet Anna Thatsanaphonh of The Epicurean Bunny in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna Thatsanaphonh.

Anna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I actually used to be afraid of going near a hot stove, splattering oil and had no patience for cooking or baking! I come from a large family where we didn’t express our emotions for each other with words, it was through food. Cooking for someone or inviting someone to one of our gatherings was our way of welcoming others into our family. I guess you could say cooking is our love language. I didn’t start learning how to cook until I moved away from home and worked in my aunt’s restaurant in Canada when I was 18. It was a family-owned diner that served Canadian food and some generic Asian dishes like orange chicken and fried rice.

One day, during a breakfast rush and on my day off, I was called to the kitchen to help cook and that’s when it all began. I learned my basics there and because there weren’t any Asian restaurants or grocery stores around, I began to miss home and looked up recipes on Youtube to try to fulfill my cravings. My love for cooking and learning new recipes began then, but my passion for perfecting and recreating traditional recipes didn’t start until about three years ago. Once the pandemic hit and I was out of a job, I one – had to find a hobby during quarantine so I didn’t go crazy and two – I had time to practice and perfect my skills. I’ve always loved hosting dinner parties and cooking for friends and family and always had an interest in food photography. Once I started posting food pictures on Instagram, I received tons of positive feedback about starting a catering business.

As harsh of a critic as I am on myself, it took me a while to build up the courage and confidence to just go for it. My love and passion for food and cooking has grown immensely, especially recreating traditional Laotian dishes for people who have never had it let alone knew about the country! My menu has a variety of dishes on it, from French-inspired pastries to traditional Lao and Thai dishes. Cooking is one of the most personal and intimate things you can do for someone. Providing them with a creatively plated dish that was made with your own hands. Of course, eating is essential to human beings but it is the one common bond that connects all races, nationalities and backgrounds. There’s something so special about people sitting down together, sharing a meal and just being present with each other. I know I can’t take all the credit, but what makes good company and good conversation even better? A damn good meal.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There has definitely been a long road of trial and error! I used to hate baking. In fact, when my wife and I first starting dating, I told her “I’ll handle cooking the meals, but I absolutely will not bake!” I’ve never had the patience to follow recipes and measurements. And to be honest, I still don’t! But through quarantine is where I’ve learned and practiced to be able to perfect certain dishes. By no means have I mastered any of it since I have no professional training but I am still learning!

Please tell us about The Epicurean Bunny.
My menu has wide range of selections. From French-inspired pastries to authentic Southeast Asian dishes. I mean, where else are you able to get gourmet style entrees, rustic desserts AND authentic Lao and Thai food? I not only cater large parties that are “family style” but I am also launching a special events and “date night” menu with a more gourmet selection with filet mignon, handmade pasta and more with vegan, vegetarian, keto and pescatarian options. Apart from being a queer, Asian American woman and a self-taught cook, I literally have something for everyone.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My family immigrated here in the late 70s-early 80s during the secret war in Laos. I have a huge family and we had people in and out of our house constantly. My grandpa mainly cooked our meals which we enjoyed together. We sat on the floor and ate off of a traditional Lao table made of bamboo called Kantok. Most of our dinners were quiet but at the end of the day, being able to sit with each other (even in silence) was always so special to me.

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