Feeding Futures: Dan Hong and Shaun Christie-David
Merivale Executive Chef, Dan Hong shares a meal with Shaun Christie-David, co-founder of Colombo Social and the #plateitforward initiative that employs, educates and feeds Sydney’s most vulnerable.
Giving back to his local community has been ingrained in Shaun Christie-David from a young age. Being born in Australia and of Sri Lankan heritage, he has always been grateful for the opportunities granted to him and strives to create equal opportunities for the disadvantaged in his community. In late 2019, he launched Colombo Social, a Sri Lankan restaurant that provides employment and support to asylum seekers and refugees.
When planning to open Colombo Social, Shaun was sparked by his passion for Sri Lankan food, he recalls “wanting to showcase the food that I love… and how do we bring that to people while also doing something that has a social value and a social currency?” Since March his team has generated over 3000 hours of employment to eight asylum seeker employees. To top it off, his #plateitforward initiative via Colombo Social has delivered over 25,000 meals to those who need it most.
To say thanks to Shaun and his legendary work, we invited Merivale Executive Chef, Dan Hong to cook him a delicious Lamb dish. Dan has always been a big believer in showing love through food, something he learnt from his mum; “she always thinks about others and she has such a warm heart that she loves cooking for other people and seeing the smile on everyone’s face.”
Growing up around his mother’s Vietnamese restaurant, Dan was introduced to unique Asian cooking techniques and flavours that weren’t typical among his mates; “I grew up pretty much living the Aussie life, where I lived… in the early 90s, late 80s it was mainly more of an Australian neighbourhood [with] not many Asians around and all my mates were Australian and we would eat Lamb quite a lot but my mum would do her own take on Lamb.” Dan can attribute a lot of his career success to learning from his mum’s use of Asian flavours and cooking methods.
Shaun also has a close relationship with his mum and remembers her Sri Lankan heritage having a big influence on their cooking growing up; “My mum was a very inventive chef… [she] actually put lots of… fresh coriander [and cumin] with Lamb. Probably not the most Australian way to do it but we weren’t the most Australian family I suppose [laughs].”
Coming from diverse backgrounds and sharing a strong connection with family through food is what inspired both Shaun and Dan to share their food philosophies with countless others. “When you share something, you’re equal, there [are] no barriers anymore, there’s no divide”, Shaun says. For Dan, it’s all about “showing your love to your family and to your loved ones through food… especially… through Lamb, because Lamb is the quintessential Australian meat and we want to celebrate that.”
To learn more about Colombo Social, visit: https://colombosocial.com.au/
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