arch-peace news and articles


Re-cap: On Openness: Public Talk by Shanaka Fernando

As Lentil As Anything's Abbotsford premise faces closure, and in the wake of the recent documentary The Naked Lentil looking at the restaurant, there has been a strong interest taken by the public in the operations of this social enterprise. Ten years since its conception, founder Shanaka Fernando has witnessed changes and turbulence, all the while maintaining his unique approach to doing business - where the notions of justice and inclusion take shape, unhindered by money.

He might appear cool, calm and collected, but there is much more happening behind the “chilled out” front of Shanaka Fernando, founder of Lentil As Anything and guest speaker at the Words@bld50 on 06 May 2010.

As expected Fernando spoke of food and the power of food preparation and meal sharing. These are important cultural activities that are familiar to all nationalities and religions, and similar to architecture in that the magic of the action and interaction can occur despite any language barriers. But more than this, he spoke of quiet activism, sustainable change and (without specifically saying so himself) the good old Aussie attitude of “fair go.” (Whether that attitude still dominates Australian mainstream culture is another discussion altogether…)

Lentil As Anything is a restaurant that has become famous for its philosophy of “pay as you feel/can” and has been so successful that there are currently restaurants in St. Kilda, Abbotsford and Footscray (with one soon to open in Fitzroy). Pay as you feel/can is a philosophy built on TRUST, which is paramount to how Lentil operates. According to the Lentil philosophy, “trust at Lentil is not conditional” and for this reason the business does not perform job interviews, simply handing an applicant an apron and asking them to work hard. This kind of philosophy has enabled many new-to-Melbourne and hard working people the opportunity to work and gain experience, where other attempts at employment may have been inhibited by language or lack of previous hospitality experience.

The business model of Lentil As Anything is an important example of how non-traditional forms of business operation can result in not only a successful practice, but more importantly positive change within a community. Sociologically, the model also demonstrates that when given the chance, human behavior is often caring, innovative and of course, trustworthy. One of the nicest things about the business is that customers in Abbotsford pay what they believe their meals are worth (often being very generous in their payments) which in turn makes it possible for someone in a lower socio-economic situation to have a cheap meal for which they cannot perhaps pay as much.

Shanaka Fernando and his team at Lentil As Anything are working hard to give people a fair go, to encourage intercultural dialogue and interaction right here in Melbourne. In addition they are providing delicious food and a plethora of other services and activities that can all be checked out on their website (below). Thank you Shanaka for speaking to us, inspiring us to make quiet but important changes in our world and proving that alternative ways of running a business can result in growth and positive change in more than just an economic sense.

Contact Shanaka at:
Image credit:


Post a Comment