Alumni News Articles

Lentils burned as Anything but restaurant will rise from ashes

7 November 2008



The creator of the Lentil As Anything restaurant group and 2007 Australia's Local Hero Award recipient Shanaka Fernando has vowed his new Brunswick restaurant will rise from the ashes after a fire all but destroyed the building last weekend.

The Lygon Street Lentil As Anything outlet was due to open on Saturday, October 4 after relocating from its former Sydney Road address, but has been severely damaged by a fire which started sometime early Sunday morning. 

Police are investigating the blaze, which has caused around $200,000 worth of damage to the interior, roof, floor and destroyed kitchen equipment and furniture.

The Lentil As Anything restaurant group was created in 2000 by Shanaka as a social business venture. There are no prices on the menus and customers donate to the cause. What began as an experiment in social conscience has become a highly successful operation based on faith in humanity.  There are five restaurants in the group, staffed mainly by volunteers but also by the homeless, recent immigrants, refugees, disadvantaged people and students who benefit from work skills training and experience.

The Lygon Street outlet was also going to house an arts studio and hospitality training centre with two computer rooms upstairs to provide much needed formal training for volunteers and workers honing their skills for future careers.  The business is in the process of obtaining TAFE level certification for students who complete the hospitality training.

Lentil As Anything founder Shanaka Fernando has taken the setback in his stride and is now focused on getting the outlet ready for a revised opening date.

"It's an awful thing to happen, but the most important thing is nobody was hurt," said Shanaka.

"Apart from helping the investigators with access, our priority now is picking up the pieces and starting again so we can get this place open and serving our loyal customers.

"Our volunteers and staff are rallying together and we've already had some wonderful offers of support, manpower and funds from people in the community who want to help us rise from the ashes.

"It's people's wonderful sense of giving and sharing which have made this organisation successful and which will help us get through this setback.

"With all the support of the community and a positive outlook - we might end up calling the restaurant Lentil Chargrill when it finally opens!"

If you'd like to help Lentil As Anything recover from the fire, donations of equipment, funds and labour will be gratefully and enthusiastically accepted.

For more media information or interviews contact:
Grace McQuilten                 
Lentil As Anything
0415 524 839


To donate please contact:
Jeremy Carmody
0424 081 652
or email:

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