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Annette Densham and Lauren Clemett

Gold Coasters Annette Densham and Lauren Clemmett recently took out top honours at New York’s Stevie International Women in Business Awards and are one of only two Aussie companies to ever do so.

We sat down for a chat with the local PR and branding gurus about guiding other women through the process of starting their own business and why it’s okay to toot your own horn.

How long have you been Gold Coast locals? A: I have been on the Gold Coast for six weeks after moving from the southern end of Brisbane.
L: I moved to the Gold Coast in 2010 and immediately thought, “wow, these wet seasons are pretty full on”.

What do you love most about our beachside city? A: The beach, the great places to eat and the chilled out atmosphere. There is nothing better than ending the day with a walk along the beach, soaking in the fresh air.
L: I enjoy sailing in the Broadwater and ocean racing.

Tell us about the work you do? A: I work in public relations, mostly with small businesses. I get to hear about all the amazing things people are doing and achieving and then share it with others. Essentially what I do is find great stories of people who may not necessarily think about telling their own.
L: I work in brand management.

You recently won The Grand Stevie at the International Women in Business Awards, what does it take to win something so prestigious? Helping others win and believing everyone has a story to tell, that’s the easy part. So many people, particularly women in business, are reluctant to tell their story. That dreadful Tall Poppy Syndrome gets in the way because we worry people will think we’re bragging when we have a win. Winning The Grand Stevie was about shouting from the rooftops, and encouraging the women we helped win their categories to do the same. We won this award because we believe in others and believe in their greatness, even when they sometimes don’t.

How did you help 14 other South East Queensland women take out awards? By taking the time to get to know them, listening to their stories, what they want, how they want to get it, and to what they have achieved. Our super power is taking all that information and turning into a compelling and powerful piece that shows the judges we get what they are looking for in a winner.

Why do you think women running businesses is so important? A: Because we can. It’s a natural extension of all the other things we do in life. It’s awesome to see so many businesses started by women, especially women in their 40s and up. I think we have finally realised we can throw off the shackles of those old fashioned ideals that stopped our mothers and grandmothers from truly living the life they wanted. For the world to be truly great, we have to move past men can do this and women can do that. We need to embrace that together, we can do whatever we set our minds to and that it is ok to run a business, just as it is ok to stay at home with the kids.
L: Women have the ability to apply emotional intelligence to business management and the natural ability to network, collaborate and encourage creativity and build ideal working environments in any industry. Not that men can’t do this too, it’s just that we find women need a bit more encouragement to step up and stand out in business. To be proud of what they’re achieving. Annette says, “there’s no room in business for modesty” and entering, winning and leveraging awards does something extraordinary for business womens confidence and self belief

What’s the plan for the two of you in 2019? We’ll be travelling to New York again with another group of women to attend Stevie Women in Business plus hosting a lot of events so we can share the message with women in business that it’s okay to be accomplished and to tell people about it. We have been working together for a couple of years and we have some big plans on how to combine our skills and strengths to better serve our clients.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach:
A: Main Beach for a surf and Shearwater Park for relaxing walk with the dog. L: Main Beach for the waves, Burleigh for a soak
Cafe: A: Cafe Gold Coast. L: The Fresh Pantry and Frigg
Restaurant: A: Gotham Bar and Grill. L: Eoesco
How does your weekend usually look: A: We live near Coombabah Reserve so waking up to the birds and frogs is awesome. Chill out around the house and then lunch out and a walk on the beach to round out the day. I’m a bookworm so there is always a book on the go. L: I get the gym, a swim and sailing in and, as entrepreneurs, we’re always working on our business.

Simon Gloftis

We’re going to call it, Simon Gloftis is the man who started the foodie revolution on the Gold Coast. Starting with Little Beans, then now-iconic Greek eatery Hellenika and finally The Fish House, the restaurateur has a slew of local firsts under his belt.

His passion for the Gold Coast’s dining scene has seen him become one of the most familiar faces in town and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

We chat with Simon about Hellenika’s soon to be opened rooftop bar and the game-changing plans he’s got in store for the Coast.

How did your passion for food came about?
I didn’t realise but obviously growing up in a European family, it was ingrained in me when I was a kid. My godfather has one of the most famous Greek restaurants in Melbourne and we used to go there as a family but I wouldn’t sit at the table I’d go and stand at the door of the kitchen and they’d pass me food and I’d take it out. Then I got a job delivering pizza, worked in a few restaurants, then went to pizza maker and floor manager then I went back to the kitchen. I eventually left hospitality and got my real estate license but every night I was going home and instead of studying the real estate course I was looking at cookbooks so I realised what I loved. I had three cafes on the Gold Coast and then from the cafes I opened Hellenika then Fish House.

What is it you love so much about it?
I literally wake up in the morning and start thinking about food, then I eat food and I don’t stop until I go to bed. It’s my life. I don’t travel anywhere other than for food. When I go to Europe I book the restaurants before I go, even if I’m popping down to Sydney I book the restaurants before I book the flights. It’s all I want to do.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I went to Marymount College from year four. I was born in Melbourne then we moved to Brisbane, back to Melbourne then to the Gold Coast.

What do you love most about living here?
I just think there’s an energy here on the Gold Coast that the bigger cities could only dream about. We can actually make an impact with such a small decision. When I opened up Little Beans in Nobby’s it was probably the only real espresso bar on the Coast and people followed it straight away.  We needed these places. In a big city you can make an impact but you get lost. My whole success on the Coast has been because people supported me. They followed me from Three Beans to Little Beans to Piccolo to Hellenika to The Fish House and now back to Hellenika. I’ve got the same customers from back then and some of my staff have worked in all those venues. The Coast has been a massive support for me.

Why are you so passionate about bringing such quality dining venues to the Coast?
Some of it’s a bit selfish, I actually do things I like and then hope enough people like the same thing. I’m a big fan of healthy food, not as in quinoa salad, as in King George Whiting and Greek salad. When you come to one of my restaurants you will get the best produce in Australia, bar none. We’re either equal to, or better than, every other restaurant in the country and that’s my whole motto.                                               

Do you have a personal favourite of all the ones you’ve opened?
Hellenika. I love every one of my venues because they’re all a piece of me but when I walk into Hellenika I feel like it’s home. I eat there five or six nights a week, I’m happy there. I love the nice big wooden tables, the Greek music, the food, and the wine, the feeling. We all say there’s something in the walls at Hellenika, it’s looked after so many people. It feels like it’s been around for 40 years.

What have you got in store for Hellenika?
We renovated the whole building and I put a whole new level on it. Downstairs will be opening next Friday (1st September) and upstairs is probably about eight weeks away. Upstairs will be a bar with a retractable roof. Downstairs has gone from a taverna-style venue. It had that real rustic Melbourne-style Greek restaurant feel. It’s gone away from that now so when you walk in you’re going to feel like you’re in a Greek restaurant in Athens but something that’s modern today. We’ve gone from 110 wines on our list to 500, it’s amazing, there are 50 indigenous wines from Greece alone. We’re taking everything to the next level. We’ve added some new dishes to the menu – kept about 60% of the favourites – but added some really traditional Greek dishes. Things like Corfu Bianco which is my favourite dish, it’s potatoes and Kingfish baked in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice. So simple but so beautiful.

It’s going to be a touch more formal downstairs and then upstairs is a lot more casual. It’ll be all the mezze food, which is tapas in Greek. Things like pork belly, meatballs, zucchini chips, all that lighter stuff. The bar upstairs will be the main focus, we just want people to be able to come and have a light dinner or snack and drinks. We’ll try and be open until midnight every night upstairs so there’s no guessing if we’re open. You can feel comfortable to go at 10 o’clock at night and have a wine.

What are your thoughts on the rapidly growing dining scene of late?
To give you an example, seven years ago I had to explain what share food was. We had to tell people that food comes to the middle of the table and it’s sort of like a Chinese restaurant. Hellenika was also the first one to do double sittings. Now, that’s commonplace. Nine of my ex staff have opened up venues between Broadbeach and Palm Beach, most of your favourites were opened by my ex staff. I’m really proud of what’s happened on the Gold Coast, if I had a small part to do with it, that’s great.

How would you like to see our foodie scene change or grow over the next few years?
We’ve opened up all the venues I think it might be enough now, there’s nearly one restaurant per person. I think there might be a little bit of hardship to come, just because I know how hard it can be. I’m hoping we consolidate a little bit and maybe get more quality into what we’ve already got before we think about expanding too much further. We need all these local restaurants to make sure what they’re doing is the best they can do. I think it’s neglectful to customers if you start giving them things that are making them sick like artificial flavours and enhancers. I’m hoping we improve on what we’ve got before we grow too much more.

What’s happening after the rooftop is up and running?
I sold The Fish House to do an amazing project, which I can’t mention for a few months but that’s the next big one. Hellenika will always be my baby but I’ve got plans for something that will really be game changing. I can’t wait to launch it.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites…
Beach: Nobby’s
Café: For someone who’s owned cafes, I don’t hang out in cafes. I do pop down to get a smoothie or juice from Smoothie Shack, that’s about the extent of it.
Restaurant: Can I mention a few? For steak, Glenelg Public House, again Aaron used to work with me. For soup I go to New Saigon and get my Pho. For ribs I go to Fire Cue. For sushi I go to Sapporo in Broadbeach, they’re the only ones on the Gold Coast that I know buys the same quality seafood I do (just ask them what their best dish of the day is and go with that). For hot pot I go to Itoshin in Mermaid Beach. My cousin owns The Lamb Shop in Burleigh so I’m always up there. Pinocchio in Mermaid Beach do a really good fennel salad.
Weekend hang: I’m working on weekends but my weekend is during the week. I’m just hanging out in Nobby’s. The boys and I always get together on a Tuesday and have dinner, that’s my thing. My family owns Miami Marketta so I’m there a lot to watch a band and hang out.

Paddy Skicko

He’s been slingin’ gourmet hot dogs and good times across the Gold Coast for the last five years and Paddy Skicko, owner of The Wiener Haus, has no plans to slow down just yet.

He travels with The Wiener Haus, one of the Coast’s original food trucks, from Brisbane to Byron Bay catering at huge events like Splendour in the Grass and, just last year, opened a diner (made from a shipping container) at Stockland Burleigh Heads.

We sat down for a chat with Paddy about watching bride’s smash hotdogs in wedding dresses and what it’s like to spend your days elbow deep in wieners.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been on the Coast now for just over 10 years. I’m from country Victoria but I spent a lot of time traveling when I was younger. I did back and forth Europe winters for a few years then moved here after a boy’s roadtrip. We had an epic time and I knew I wasn’t going to go back to Europe for awhile so I thought I’d come here and give it a go.

What do you love about living here?
The lifestyle is just so good; we’re so lucky with this end of the Coast. I live in Nobby’s and love being able to go to Burleigh or ride a bike along the Esplanade. Every morning you can go to the beach and nine times out of ten it’s beautiful. I love the fact that I can nip out to the Scenic Rim and go camping too; it’s only half an hour away and reminds me of home.

Tell us how The Wiener Haus came about?
I started having the conversation about five years ago now; with a guy called Jessie I was friends with at the time. I wanted to get out of working as a labourer and I knew I had the skillset to get it done so we decided to go for it. We worked hard and after about six months, Jessie and myself parted ways and Zac came on board to help me with the side of things I’m not good at, like paperwork and invoicing. From there we started getting stadium gigs, then had the second marquee setup happening and now we have the shop, which I always wanted.

Why gourmet hot dogs?
I was originally going to do a café and I was very close to pulling the trigger on a toasted sandwich shop, because I love toasted sandwiches. I honestly just do things I enjoy and I really like hot dogs. Especially our new one, the Caesar, it’s a good combo, I think it’s the best one I’ve ever made.

Why did you decide to open the diner last year?
I wanted to try and make money seven days a week and I wanted to try and work less, in theory. That hasn’t happened at all, I work way more. I’ve worked in hospitality my whole life on and off and as much as I love working around the busy times, it’s hard to maintain a lifestyle that includes other people who don’t do that. The idea was to try and get some sort of normality in my life while still working in hospo. I wanted to have the opportunity to work every day but not have to always work Friday and Saturday night because I was sick of missing out on stuff. That was the plan and it has happened in some ways. Obviously we wanted to get bigger and keep making money but not always have to be on the grill.

What have been some of the best things about owning a food truck?
I’ve done some huge events. We did the Coldplay gig and the Manny Pacquiao fight, that was huge, game three of State of Origin, we did Splendour in the Grass, which was such a good time. Splendour has been a huge thing for us being the only Gold Coast food truck that goes down there and gets amongst it is really cool and we’re really proud of that. Lately we’ve been doing some cool events like the Beer InCider Festival in Brisbane and we’re doing the Crafted Beer and Cider Festival this weekend. We’ve done some rad bar openings where we rolled up and took the Barbie up on the elevator to cook on the rooftop too. 

How has your life changed since the WH first began?
My phone rings at any time of the day, any day of the week, that’s been something I’m not that keen on. I do get half days off occasionally and my one day off a week but I think that’s just the way it is as a small business owner.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s rapidly growing dining scene?
I love that there’s competition and I think it’s important that everyone has the right to have a go. I always try and eat at the small business venues if I can because there’s so many. That’s the problem too though, there’s just so many. The food truck game has gone from just The Wiener Haus and one other, nearly five years ago to now there being well over 100.

What’s the plan for you and The Wiener Haus over the next year?
We’re in an interesting position at the moment and we’re just trying to work it all out. We’ve got plenty of opportunities but I don’t know exactly what we’ll do yet. We obviously want to keep on making epic hotdogs, that’s the most important thing. We’re looking at new menu items but also focusing pretty hard on providing a good catering service, that’s our main thing. The shop is great, I don’t know if we’ll get another one but I do like the idea of more of a bar style hot dog shop but at the same time, I enjoy doing catering so I’d like to push harder in that direction. It’s hilarious to see a bride smash a hotdog in her wedding dress.   

Favourites on the Coast:
Beach: Tallebudgera Creek, especially up the creek further on the other side of the bridge. I go kayaking up there and I’m lucky to see anyone, it’s so good.
Café: I go to All Time a lot, really good coffee and Nook is good too.
Restaurant: Goccia in Mermaid is proper Italian food, I’m a big fan.
How does your time off usually look: I’ve got two different time off things that I do and I try and rotate weekly. Definitely getting outdoors is a huge thing for me, I try and go camping at least once a fortnight just to camp and drink beers by a fire. The other thing is Netflix and chill and getting Uber Eats. I think it’s so important to turn off your phone and have that time away.

Morgan Walsh

She’s the brains behind two of your favourite local venues, Bonita Bonita and Poké Poké, and now the busiest gal on the Gold Coast is at it again.

Get excited gang, Morgan Walsh is opening a Chinese diner called FuFu and it’s going to blow your minds. It’ll taking up the (rather large) Mermaid Beach space where Burger Fuel, Bernie’s and Ashby Bines Clean Eating Kitchen once lived.

We sat down for a chat about Chinese bento boxes and in-your-face pink velvet.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
It has been nearly 12 years now, time goes so quickly these days. I moved over here from Auckland because I’m not really a big city girl. I like the sun, the beach, warm weather and I think once you get a taste of this lifestyle, it’s hard to go back to the hustle and bustle when you can do the same things in a beautiful place. 

What do you love most about living here?
Definitely the lifestyle, it’s just so relaxing. I think being in this industry, there are lots of great opportunities to open venues that have a point of difference and suit the Gold Coast market. Gold Coasters have a certain style; you don’t really find places like Poké Poké in Melbourne and Sydney. People like that restaurant vibe here so it works perfectly with the style of businesses and direction I want to go in.

Tell us about your latest venue, FuFu…
Yes FuFu. Originally the idea was to go Chinese but you always start somewhere and things change. It’s now more of a Chinese diner in style. The fit out is going to be a little bit crazy, definitely in your face and will definitely stand out from the crowd. There’s lots of great modern Asian inspired restaurants already, so rather than compete with that market, I want this to be in the same vein as Poké Poké with that casual feel to it where you can walk off the beach and come grab a quick bite. Nothing fancy just really laid back and fast food made friendly. So the food will be things like bao burgers and cheeseburger spring rolls and a little play on bento boxes. So Chinese style bento boxes which will be a meal for one that has say sweet and sour pork, wonton, fried rice and all as a package, so you don’t have to share and at a really good price. Dining has gotten so expensive so having places that people can come to more often is where I want my businesses to head. We’re going to have Chinese inspired cocktails and some ridiculous milkshakes, all in the same diner vein.

Your venue interiors are always beautifully quirky, any insight on what FuFu will look like?
Think pink velvet because I like the ridiculous. We’ve got a really beautiful service window so we’ll be bringing that out into the middle of the seating area and it’s all very casual. So you’ll go up to order and it will be similar to what you’d see at a market stall. There’ll also be a really beautiful spot to take a photo.

Why Chinese?
All my food tends to lead back to Asian influences. I’ve always wanted to do an old school type of Chinese restaurant. Growing up in New Zealand we always used to go to a little local takeaway and it had all your dirty classics. I didn’t really feel like anyone was doing that style of venue so it’s very much going to play on my childhood. It will be old-school Chinese dishes made funky and fresh.

What inspires you to come up with such unique ideas?
I have a crazy brain. I want to do things other people aren’t doing so I see ideas from lots of different places and try to mould them to fit food that I can cook and food that I think will suit Gold Coast people and what they’ll like. You always start somewhere and it ends up taking a different direction. I thought a Chinese diner was definitely something no one else was doing so let’s do it.

How did your foray into the restaurant biz come about?
I’ve grown up in the industry, my parents have always had little cafes and restaurants back home in Auckland. It was never something I grew up wanting to be as a kid but I got stuck doing it and realised I’m okay at it so I’ve run with it. It’s really rewarding building something and watching it grow from scratch and I’m really proud of all the styles of venues I’ve opened but being in the restaurant game made me realise other passions and things I want to get into too. This will definitely be the last restaurant, there’s no more.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s rapidly growing foodie scene?
Four years ago when Bonita opened there really wasn’t too much around which is why I got the idea. I wanted the style of venue people my age could go to that was affordable, casual and fun. Since Bonita days, the growth has been a bit crazy. It’s great because it always forces you to stay on your game and you can’t ever become complacent. It forces you to always be better and be pushing to try new things. Competition is good for everyone I think.

Best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
I think these days what probably resonates more is having balance. It’s good to be driven and want to achieve more but to have down time and really appreciate that is important too. Life isn’t a competition but as you get older you realise you don’t have anything to prove. For me, this year is definitely about down time, spending more time at home, cooking at home, going to the beach more and having more of a life. Just finding some balance.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites…
Café: I love All Time Coffee, Background – I’ve started going there heaps and they’re really lovely people and Alfred’s has been one of my favourites since day one.
Restaurant:
Other than Bonita, I love the crew down at 8th Ave Terrace, they do everything so well
Beach: I live in Mermaid Beach so that’s definitely my favourite
How does your weekend usually look: Really busy. My weekends are usually Monday and Tuesday, which is nice because there are usually less people around and it’s a little bit more chill. I prefer to be at work on the busier days, I like it when it’s chaotic

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