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Heaven Leigh grew up in a family where heritage and food was central to everything. She is a third-generation restaurateur and first Australian born member of a migrant family. Her grandparents came from Malaysia in the early 60’s and ran the Lady Jade Chinese takeaway shops in Dundas Valley and Chatswood through to the 1970s. Her mother, Lee-Leng Whong, founded the original Bodhi concept in 1988, Australia’s first vegan yum cha restaurant.
It was Lee-Leng’s spiritual journey and interest in vegan food that led Heaven to where she is today, as the owner and operator of Bodhi Restaurant Bar. And she is on a mission to make plant-based food fun and accessible for people to incorporate into their lives.
Opened by her mother in 1988, Bodhi has reached cult status under Heaven’s lead, amassing a devoted community of followers who align with the business’ philosophy of harming no living thing and #loveeverybodhi, regularly consuming not only its vegan yum cha and pan-Asian cuisine, but also the popular wellness and lifestyle-focused content across Bodhi’s social media, e-newsletters and widely read blog.
Heaven has extended this philosophy into her other business ventures, and her own day-to-day life, with a passion for creating and supporting a more sustainable, conscious, plant-based world for herself and her family. She is also very passionate about celebrating her multicultural heritage, and advocating for women supporting women in the workplace.
I'm Heaven Leigh, Entrepreneur and owner of the Bodhi Restaurant and Bar, Australia’s oldest and largest vegan restaurant.
I’m on a mission to help other people live compassionately, consciously, and naturally, and I’m driven by my passion for a plant-based lifestyle.
My philosophy extends beyond my business and into my daily life where I strive to inspire my team at work, my community, family and beyond to live more sustainably.
I love using my platform to share my honest approach and journey to living more consciously.
2. Tell us about Bodhi Restaurant, why is it so special?
Bodhi is Australia’s largest and oldest plant-based vegan restaurant apart from being vegan. Its what I call a legacy business as it has been run over multiple generations.
There is a real sense of love, joy, and community both within and around the business. The people that work there including myself have a real sense of responsibility to that community, many of whom are new, and many who have been coming for 2-3 generations.
We welcome everyone and are very inclusive as a business
3. What are some of your core values?
Bodhi was created on the core principle of ‘Do No Harm’.
I wanted to show people that it is possible to run a highly successful business that does not rely on the suffering of others (animals or people) for its success.
I sleep well at night knowing I can look my children in the eye when they ask me what did I do or how did I contribute to the planet and world around me from a compassionate and eco standpoint? I want to be on the right side of history.
I also wanted to have a working environment that encourages the celebrating and lifting of women in the workplace, so this has also played an important role in what we do.
4. Tell us your biggest learning when it comes to running your business?
Resilience and perseverance. Learning to listen to my team even if I don’t like what they say so I recommend surrounding yourself with good people who are really hard to find. Learning to listen and trust my gut instincts, the number of times I say I knew that wasn’t quite right and I wish I had listened to myself.
It’s important to also learn how to separate what you want from what will work from a business element. Often, I see people who are so wedded to the idea that they don’t want to change or adapt to be commercially viable and successful.
Lastly it doesn’t need to be perfect (I get caught out by this one all the time). Just go out and do it but please make sure you do set up your company structure properly!
5. How do you implement sustainability into your daily practice, what makes you a solmate?
Firstly, you need to sustain yourself. It might be feeding your soul or creating space for creativity. Mums and business owners often forget to look after themselves and put everyone else first. This is either not sustainable long term or you are not giving the best of yourself to those around you.
Then it’s about looking at all the different quadrants of your life and asking yourself what can I do better or more consciously.
I’m always hungry for learning so start there and then slowly make the changes you need to make to live the best version of your life.
Our business is always striving to find ways to incorporate sustainability, zero waste food or cocktails, joining environmental initiatives, reducing, or eliminating single use plastics, finding ways to control our power consumption.
At home it’s about what we eat, can we grow it? What products we use, are these renewable materials? Reducing our chemical use and our consumer footprint.