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At age 11, Shaun Christie-David was at a crossroads. He had less than two years to go at primary school in south-western Sydney, and his local high school was a rough place where stabbings were commonplace.

“There was no way I was going to the local school because I know myself – I’m very easily influenced,” says Christie-David, with a machine-gun laugh.

“If someone’s gonna do shit, I’m gonna do shit, I like it. I knew that if I was going to a school that had huge loads of criminality and drug problems, that’s [the direction] I would go too.”

There was also no way that Christie-David’s parents – his father a mobile mechanic and his mother a homemaker who both emigrated from Sri Lanka before he was born – could afford private school.

“I said to myself, ‘I love my mum, my parents have done so much for me and I can’t put them through hell’ and I studied my arse off in year 5 and 6 to get into a selective school,” he says. “That was the only way I knew out.”

When I ask Christie-David if there’s anything left of that naughty streak, he laughs again and says he has “calmed down a lot”.

The former banker is too busy running his social enterprise, Plate it Forward, which has a collection of small restaurants and bakeries in the inner city. Most Saturday afternoons, he visits his mother, now an early childhood teacher in Camden.

Christie-David, 37, won the Innovator of the Year award at the Good Food awards last year. The Plate it Forward restaurants employ refugees and donate meals to communities in need in Australia and around the world.

The original is Sri Lankan restaurant Colombo Social in Enmore and the most recent is Kyiv Social serving Ukrainian fare cooked by Ukrainians in Chippendale. There’s also Anything but Humble bakery in Alexandria, Mexican joint Coyoacan Social in South Eveleigh, and Kabul Social where we meet for lunch.

It takes me a while to find Kabul Social, which is tucked away in the tunnels of Wynyard station. We claim a table covered in beautiful blue tiles at about 11.30am to beat the weekday rush and stay talking as the crowd of office workers flows and then ebbs around us.

Christie-David and I share a mixed plate with crinkle-cut fries, Kabuli salad, cabbage and pickled onions, Borani Bajan eggplant, Afghan charcoal chicken and lamb chapli kebabs, as well as a plate of the Aushak garlic chive dumplings with tomato and lentil sauce and Afghan mint yoghurt.

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Written By: Caitlin Fitzsimmons


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