Shanaka Fernando is a revolutionary. For many years he has been well-known in Melbourne, Australia, as the pioneer of the Lentil as Anything pay-as-you-feel vegetarian restaurants. In recent times he is becoming influential as a public speaker and motivator..
Shanaka inspires by example. He leads a simple, modest life a she continues to inspire and challenge perhaps millions as he advocates an inclusive, ethical approach to business and life, and a belief in the innate goodness and generosity of his fellow man.
Born in Sri Lanka, since his late teens Shanaka has travelled extensively throughout countries including Kenya, Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia, curious about the culture of people living more closely with nature, people who have little contact with civilization.
Shanaka was named Local Hero in the Australia Day awards in 2007 for his non-profit, socially responsible Lentil As Anything restaurants. These vegetarian restaurants feed thousands every week and set an example for other restaurants and business to follow – an example which illustrates what an inclusive, ethical approach to business, and life, can achieve. In his restaurants it is people that qualify life, not property.
“You get fed and treated with dignity even if you don’t have any money, and the colour of your skin and your education and your beliefs only put you on a par with everyone else.”
Shanaka lives and promotes a simple lifestyle and resided in a tent for three years in the dunes behind a Melbourne beach. Sometimes he performs comedy at local clubs. He is always pushing causes for the less privileged and in recent times these have come to include promoting Global Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (including organizing an international conference there this year) with the assistance of the Australian Prime Minister’s office, setting up a foster care program in rural Victoria for young refugees in the Unaccompanied Minors Program, profile-raising for an AIDS victims project in Swaziland through Possible Dreams International, and working with Landcare Australia in creating a certificate course in Farm Based Employment.
Shanaka is a modern modern day folk hero, offering an alternative, a new way of living which is not based on consumerism, profit and greed. He met with the Dalai Lama last year when they both appeared on MasterChef, and from 2009 the Australian Government’s Values Education program, administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, has delivered to all Australian schools At What Price, an inspirational Primary School resource about Lentil’s values.
- Find out more about Shanaka’s new book: Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table
- Follow Lentil as Anything on Twitter.