Palita Sriritana
Photo: Lisa Predko

A week after Palita Sriratana opened Pink Salt in the new food hall Fulton Galley in June, repeat customers were already craving her fried bananas — a sweet, custardy concoction on a menu inspired by the northeastern Thai cooking of her aunts and grandmother. The 32-year-old West Loop resident, who worked in medical research for seven years before stints as a line cook at Au Cheval and Nico Osteria, tries to keep her daily routine methodical to balance the chaos of restaurant life.

Hydration habits

“I try not to start the day with coffee because, on an empty stomach, it stresses your system. I drink hot lemon water, then a green smoothie — spinach, frozen pineapple I chop myself, coconut juice, a small chunk of ginger, a squeeze of lime, and a hint of cayenne if I’m feeling spicy. I used to juice, but then I got a Vitamix.”

Eating plan

“My breakfast typically consists of whatever is left over from the night before with some rice. Sometimes I’ll top it with a Thai-style fried egg — that’s called kai dao, or ‘star egg.’ I don’t mind eating a heavier breakfast because I know I’ll burn it off throughout the day. For lunch, I’m big on eating whatever I want but portion control. If I get hungry later, I’ll eat yogurt. Siggi’s Icelandic skyr is my favorite. They have fun, fresh flavors that aren’t too sweet. Dinner is something like gai pad krapow — Thai spicy chicken and basil — which is super easy and relatively healthy.”

Day drinking

“If I know I’m going to be in front of the camera a lot, like for special events, I drink carrot juice. The beta carotene is really good for your skin.”

Pliability strategy

“At the start of the shift, I encourage everyone in the kitchen to stretch — a heart opener, like the one where you interlace your fingers behind your back and pull your shoulders down. Once you start to feel relaxed, you can offer a much better level of customer service.”

Training routine

“I used to work out early in the morning, but now I try to get a jump-start on work and go to the gym at 9 p.m. instead. It clears my mind and helps me sleep better. Typically in a week, I go three to four times. I start with 10 minutes of yoga to wake my muscles. Then I do three sets of a few different strength moves: dead lifts, weighted lunges, hip thrusts, Turkish get-ups, and kettlebell swings. I had back issues in my 20s, so core strength is important, especially since I’m on my feet in the kitchen all day. I make sure to do shoulder presses — I have to keep my right shoulder cup mobile, because chopping takes a toll. Then I do five minutes of cardio — ropes or rowing — and close with 10 minutes of meditation in the sauna. I also love to box, and my friend John is an incredible muay thai instructor, so I spar with him on occasion.”

Beauty in a bottle

“I used to work in a lab and now I work in a kitchen, so I’m always dunking my hands in water. My nails were breaking, so I started taking collagen supplements — this brand BioSil. I’ve noticed that my skin looks plumper and my nails are super strong — now they’re kind of crazy and talon-shaped.”

Decompression tactic

“I like to sweep when I’m stressed out. The visual of seeing the floor clean internalizes something in me. Sometimes — like when we ran out of fryer oil during our friends-and-family night — I have to tell my team I’m going offline for a few minutes to sweep.”