Sri Lankan Restaurant Supporting Refugees And Asylum Seekers Seeking Employment

Sri Lankan restaurant supporting refugees and asylum seekers seeking employment

Post Series: SSI Stories 2020

Colombo Social, a restaurant in Enmore dedicated to employing asylum seekers and dishing up colourful Sri Lankan cuisine, has partnered with Settlement Services International (SSI) to provide vital employment opportunities to refugees and asylum seekers. 

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

Colombo Social is also working with SSI’s Ignite® program to source refugee businesses such as Aunty’s Ginger Tonic, as part of a commitment to an ethical supply chain.  

The restaurant is the brainchild of Australian-born Sri Lankan Shaun Christie-David and friend in hospitality Peter Jones-Best, and 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, said that Colombo Social is paving the way for the Australian business community to take action to support people seeking asylum. 

“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.” Ms Roumeliotis said. 

Chamara Pathiranage, who comes from Sri Lanka and has trained under Siro’s Restaurant Executive chef David Britton, was engaged to lead the kitchen. He has curated 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 punchy mango salsa and traditional meals such as a 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. 

In 2018, 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. 


This blog appeared originally on the SSI News Blog here.