Kalaya adds art and charity to the menu

The streetery at Kalaya.
Mike Prince

Flavor meets floral at one South Philly eatery.

Some may have noticed the colorful streetery while walking past Kalaya Thai Kitchen in Bella Vista, nestled beside Sarcone’s Bakery and the ever-popular Ralphs Italian Restaurant. That project isn’t just the effects of pivoting to outside dining during the pandemic, it also is the launch of an all-new art initiative for the establishment.

Recently, Kalaya Thai Kitchen has added multiple layers of fine art to its dining experience, with chef and owner Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon tapping Philly-based artist Tiff Urquhart to adorn the restaurant’s streetery structures with murals featuring tropical flowers outside, and a few pieces inside. This marks the start of Kalaya’s first-ever “Artist in Residence” series of exhibitions.


“When I launched Kalaya in April of 2019, I wanted to make this a beautiful space filled with joy and love,” said Suntaranon in a statement. “I want Kalaya to be welcoming and warm, even for people just walking by on a nice night. I asked Tiffany to paint the structures because her work is beautiful. Her art reminds her of her time in Thailand, and it’s a perfect way to launch this new initiative which we’ve been really excited to unveil over the past several months.”

According to the release, Urquhart, whose inspiration is drawn from landscapes and the natural world, is a contemporary artist who has practiced in the field of visual arts since childhood. With more than 20 years of experience, her achievements include hundreds of commissioned pieces, multi-piece projects, and murals. Her corporate projects include a collaboration with the Philadelphia 76ers, and a gallery window display for West Elm, a national home décor company located on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Urquhart has written and illustrated three children’s books, and is actively developing concepts for more books as well.

“With a recent focus on murals for local businesses in the Greater Philadelphia Area, I look forward to working on more projects which display public and accessible art,” she said.

This new initiative comes with a purpose: to give local artists a platform. All art on the wall will be for sale, with prices and artists listed next to each piece— all Philadelphians have to do is head to the eatery and get ready to feast with both their eyes and their tastebuds.

Kalaya’s second Artist in Residence series will feature local artist Dori Desautel Broudy in November.

Cooking for a cause

Kalaya has also been busy with another local service outside the restaurant walls. Local meal delivery service Home Appétit recently partnered with Kalaya to raise money for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, and it featured two of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Home Appétit started in 2014 after founder Lee Wallach made a career cooking for an array of clients, including a group at Penn Medicine out of his apartment in Center City.

Eventually, the entrepreneur started a website that allowed him to collect a payment, and with his financial success  the young entrepreneur was able to fund the whole new operation himself. Home Appétit now delivers every Monday on a weekly, non-subscription basis to Philadelphia, South Jersey, Delaware and the surrounding suburbs, including towns in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester counties.

When COVID-19 hit, the need for a service such as this boomed, and so did the need for a charitable initiative. According to a release, a portion of the proceeds from all of Chef Nok’s dishes ordered this past week were donated to the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. This collaboration is part of an ongoing charity initiative in which Home Appétit supports a local chef and their organization of choice. To date they have donated almost $10,000 to various organizations through the program. Past participants include: Nick Elmi, Jim and Kristina Burke and Dionicio Jimenez. More collaborations will come as well.

Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon and Lee WallachMike Prince

“I am a big fan of the company’s mission, especially considering they give back to the community in so many ways. Lee allowed me to pick a charity that is close to me personally, and it means a lot to me to be able to provide people with meals while also helping the cancer research center,” said Suntaranon in a statement.

The two dishes that were showcased included Suntaranon’s Nua Phad King (beef braised in coconut milk with ginger, onion, and scallions) and Tom Kha Gai (lemongrass soup with chicken, galangal, and mushrooms). But to check out more creations of Suntaranon’s will require a visit to Kalaya.

On the menu at both the Market (922 S. 9th St., stocked full of prepared food and ingredients to grab and go or cook at home) or the Kitchen (764 S. 9th St., available for indoor and outdoor dining), diners can sink their teeth into traditional and custom creations ranging from a selection of curries, wok favorites, apps, salads and much, much more.

For more information on Kalaya Thai Kitchen, visit kalaya.net

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