Colin Fassnidge sets up soup kitchen for struggling families in car park of his famous restaurant
Irish chef Colin Fassnidge is feeding hundreds of down and out Irish families in Sydney from a soup kitchen at the back of his award-winning restaurant.
The 46-year-old Dubliner, who is the star of My Kitchen Rules, runs a soup kitchen from the car park of the Banksia Hotel in Sydney.
And the celebrity cook, who was once described as the Irish Gordon Ramsay, told the Sunday World that he has been feeding desperate Irish families who have lost their jobs and income due to the pandemic.
Speaking from his Sydney home Colin told the Sunday World: "We started the soup kitchen because a lot of the Irish workers here, who were on visas, they didn't get any financial assistance from the government.
"Which meant they were f****d, and it was dreadful seeing as they pay tax.
"So you had a load of Irish people who were in real trouble.
"And we didn't know what was going to happen so we started to feed them and our chefs who were out of work.
"Then we started feeding the local people in the community and so we have just kept going."
Colin has vowed to keep the charity operation going for as long as it is needed.
However, with Australia closing its borders and the pandemic assistance about to be cut off, he fears things will get worse and not better for those needy Irish abroad.
"We fed about 150 people yesterday and it is getting worse," he said.
"Over here you get assistance but it has been halved and they are trying to phase it out now.
"We fed a family from Dublin this week and they were from Pearse Street and they have been living over here for 18 years but lost all their jobs and had no money.
"Things got tough for them so this is a case of the Irish looking after the Irish."
While relatively unknown in Ireland, Fassnidge is a household name in Australia thanks to his appearances as one of the judges on the hit television show My Kitchen Rules.
Born and raised in Old Bawn in Tallaght, Colin cut his teeth working as a pot washer and burger cook at the Dublin Horse Show.
His father owned a shoe shop, but from day one Colin realised his future lay behind a stove rather than cobbling shoes.
He studied catering at Cathal Brugha Street after which his lecturer and mentor Kevin Thornton hand picked him to work in his Portobello restaurant.
Six months later they won a Michelin star, and made Colin realise his passion in life was food.
"Kevin got his Michelin star after six months and that was a wake up call for me," he said.
"I stayed there for a year and a half before Kevin got me a job with Raymond Blanc in his two-star restaurant and that was where I really started to learn to cook.
"From there I came home before trying the States but I didn't like it there and decided to try Australia.
"I met my wife Jane, who is from Banbridge in Co Down, and we settled, had two children, Lily (10), and Maeve (9) and never looked back."
Colin got his start in Sydney in 1999 with another Dublin-born chef, Liam Tomlin, at his restaurant Banc.
From there Colin set up his own restaurant focusing on a philosophy of "nose to tail" cooking - using every part of the animal in food preparation, letting nothing go to waste - which proved instantly popular with the Sydney upper classes.
But it was his Twitter account that caught the attention of TV producers, who were impressed at his fiery temperament online.
"The TV thing was an accident really," he said. "One of my restaurant managers set up Twitter on my phone. I thought I was great on it, just firing off opinions all over the world.
"Then one day I took on this TV host (current affairs broadcaster Tracy Grimshaw) and it just kicked off.
"The row went worldwide and I got in so much trouble.
"Thankfully she let me off the hook, but producers were watching this and they got in touch and they hired me. I gave it a go, and then I realised it is not as easy as it looks. They were actually going to fire me after my second episode I was that bad.
"Then I sort of worked out how it worked and I moved away from the scripts and sort of did my own thing and it took off from there."
Colin started off as a contributor to MasterChef, Australia's juggernaut cookery show.
But he quickly landed a guest slot on cult cookery show My Kitchen Rules before eventually landing the job as judge.
Colin's new book, The Commonsense Cook, is out next week, and he's also offering online classes.
"We are doing some free online classes, for anyone in the world, on ByFassnidge.com," he says.
"It might be a nice way for people of Ireland to do something different during lockdown."