Acclaimed chefs Sunita and Sanjay Kumar, from Daana restaurant in Curtin, have been recognised with a special award for their work in the Canberra community.
The Paul Harris Fellow Recognition was awarded to the pair by the Rotary Club of Woden Daybreak, the highest honour Rotarians can confer and one generally reserved for Rotarians.
It was awarded individually to both Sunita and Sanjay on Thursday, 24 June, at a Rotary Club dinner at the restaurant.
Both Sunita and Sanjay say they are honoured and humbled to have received the community recognition.
“There are a lot of organisations and people doing great work in Canberra and it’s absolutely wonderful we have been recognised,” says Sanjay.
Alongside running a highly successful, multi-award-winning restaurant and catering business, Sunita and Sanjay have big hearts which they open to the local community.
Some of the initiatives for which the pair was recognised include Karma Kitchen@Daana, donations of all tips to charity, and offering employment opportunities to people with special needs.
“People ask us a lot why we do so much community work, and it all goes back to the sprit and name of the restaurant, Daana, which means ‘in the spirit of generosity’,” says Sanjay.
“Business has to believe and live its values, and show what we personally believe in. Generosity is the basic.”
This spirit of generosity imbues everything the couple does. Guests dining at Daana are asked to give what they can to the donation boxes, rather than giving tips to staff.
One initiative for which Daana is well known in the community is its Karma Kitchen.
It’s been running for five years and the premise is simple: a delicious three-course-meal with no fixed price attached. Instead, diners pay from their hearts and choose the price as they know 50 per cent of all proceeds go to charity.
Sanjay says the restaurant has now run 15 Karma Kitchen events, and each time they serve a menu that ties into the theme of the recipient charity or organisation.
“We like to serve something we don’t normally make in the restaurant,” he says.Volunteers from each organisation will come along to help out serving or in the kitchen, and it’s this community aspect and working together as a team that makes the events so special, Sanjay explains.
“It’s about raising awareness of what these organisations do, as well as raising money,” he says.
Daana recently partnered with an organisation called Mulch, run through Marymead, so all kitchen waste and food scraps go to them to be turned into organic compost.
“This organisation also supports people with special needs to keep them engaged and give them work,” says Sanjay.
Co-president of Rotary Club of Woden Daybreak, Karen McKernan, says the work the Daana team is doing “epitomises the values the Paul Harris Fellow Award recognises.”
“The club is proud to be recognising the contribution of the Daana team, including Sanjay and Sunita and their staff,” she says.
Paul Harris was the founder of Rotary in Chicago, in 1905, and his memory continues to be perpetuated through the award in his name.
It is the most distinguished honour Rotarians can bestow on a community member, and is a way of sincerely saying thanks to people who have made a significant contribution to the community.