IF karma had an appetite, no doubt it would fill its plate at Mt Lawley’s Sunflower Cafe.
Owner Ram Rajo and his wife Alvina not only provide people heading to the Beaufort cafe strip with vegetarian meals so healthy they’re life-altering, their gold-plated hearts have touched countless other lives.
“My philosophy in 2021 was that no one should go past my restaurant feeling hungry because they didn’t have the money,” Mr Rajo says of his response to Covid’s impact.
His philosophy’s most obvious manifestation is Sunflower’s pay-what-you-can pricing, which has given a few hungry people their lucky break and those better off a chance to rack up their own bank of karma.
“It’s also been most heartwarming to enjoy the support of all our customers when it’s come to paying-as-they-can afford to; some paying it forward so that other who are currently less fortunate can eat well at Sunflower,” Mr Rajo said.
Behind the scenes he can also be found on the odd weekend blanket run with leftover food, while Sunflower’s also signed up to supply what they can to Foodbank.
Mr Rajo says after setting up the cafe around two years ago, he noticed a high number of homeless Indigenous people in the area whose only affordable option for a meal was Maccas.
Having “never been healthier” since taking up a vegan diet, he wanted to do what he could to help improve their options.
It didn’t hurt that Alvina is a Noongar woman and has introduced a range of Indigenous foods to the menu, including things such as warrigal greens and native eggplants.
“Every day we have a damper,” Mr Rajo says.
He says in the coming months they plan to go even further with their experiments in marrying Indigenous tucker with western cuisine.
But he also has even loftier plans, saying he was horrified by revelations in the Royal Commission into the aged care sector about the woeful food many residents were being served.
He believes his style of food could give seniors a much more enjoyable palate to chose from without breaking the bank; and more importantly, can improve their quality of life.
“I ate mainstream for a long time, and moving to a vegan and vegetarian diet I’ve never been healthier,” Mr Rajo says.
“People wash themselves every day, but they don’t seem to want to wash their insides.“Good food helps to get rid of toxins.”
Mr Rajo arrived in Perth the day before WA’s borders were firmly snapped shut by Covid.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Despite literally being the only person enjoying a coffee in one of the strip’s cafes that morning, he saw a For Lease sign on the building he now occupies and had signed the lease that afternoon.
But he reckons after 30 years in the industry, starting out in his home country Malaysia and a fair bit of it over east, he reckons he’s now home to stay in WA.
Which is no doubt welcomed by the increasing stream of return customers who’ve discovered his noble philosophy and delicious food and are keen spread the love.
By STEVE GRANT
489 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley
Tues – Sat, 5-9pm