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26 Nov 2019


Sri Lankan restaurant supporting refugees and asylum seekers seeking employment


Violet Roumeliotis and Naushin Rahman at the Colombo Social grand opening

Colombo Social has partnered with Settlement Services International (SSI) to provide vital employment opportunities to those from a refugee and asylum seeking background.

New arrivals will play a vital role in preparing delicious Sri Lankan fusion dishes and fruity cocktails. In fact, the talented chef cooking up a storm on Colombo’s opening night was Chandra Ravi, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka who was recruited through SSI’s Employment Services program.

Colombo Social is also working with SSI’s Ignite small-business start-up program to source from refugee businesses as such Aunty’s Ginger tonic, as part of a commitment to an ethical supply chain.

Colombo Social is the brainchild of Australian-born Sri Lankan Shaun Christie-David and friend in hospitality Peter Jones-Best. The restaurant’s move to recruit and train asylum seekers and refugees was inspired by Christie-David’s experience of feeling like an outsider during his childhood.

“Colombo Social’s whole ethos is one of inclusivity. Growing up as an Australian-born Sri Lankan, I remember being embarrassed by the dahl sandwiches my mum packed in my lunchbox and similar small moments of isolation that made me feel different. Colombo Social is about embracing all backgrounds in a venue that celebrates the community-driven nature of Sri Lankan cuisine,” he said.

SSI CEO, Violet Roumeliotis, who attended the launch believes that Colombo Social is paving the way for the Australian business community to take action to support asylum seekers.

“This is a game-changer – businesses like Colombo Social have the opportunity to change people’s lives while tapping into a plethora of talented, hard-working candidates that are genuinely going to appreciate the opportunity to be part of this team,” Roumeliotis said.

The team has also engaged Chamara Pathiranage, who comes from Sri Lanka and has trained under Siro’s Restaurant Executive chef David Britton, to lead the kitchen. He has planned a menu that celebrates the bold flavours and colours Sri Lankan cuisine with playful nods to western favourites.

‘In-betweener’ dishes include soft shell crab roti tacos with homemade stretchy roti and a punchy mango salsa and traditional meals such as their traditional chicken village curry. The cocktail list is a definite crowd pleaser, feature zesty concoctions that offset the spice-driven dishes including The Invisible Mango Lassi.

Last year SSI’s Employment Services program helped place more than 5,000 refugees like Colombo Social chef Chandra. SSI with hopes more restaurant staff like Chandra will be recruited through the Employment Services program in future.

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