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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

Billy Cross

He’s the Coast’s very own Manpower star turned nightclub owner and entertainment guru and now, local legend Billy Cross is in the business of six-star rooftop bars.

Billy has joined forces with The Star Gold Coast and Hellenika’s Simon Gloftis to bring the Gold Coast a next-level (literally) restaurant and lounge bar with sweeping city views and a sense of sophistication the likes of which our city has never seen.

We chat with Billy about what we can expect from the game changing venue and how he’s gone from King of the glitter strip to co-creator of what he calls the best rooftop bar in Australia.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve lived here for 35 years; I came up quite young so I’m a true Maroons supporter, and I’ve lived here long enough to qualify.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s growing entertainment scene?
I suppose the thing I love most about being in the entertainment and food industries is seeing how they’ve changed. 10 years ago we had cafes and a restaurant here and there but now when you look at what we have, especially from Broadbeach to Burleigh, there are some absolutely amazing establishments. That’s the part that’s excited me most. 10 years ago you could go to one or two restaurants that were quite good but now there are so many options and so many amazing operators that have really put us on that national level.

What do you love most about living here?
Where I started and created my business was with the Manpower show – Thunder Down Under – which is in Vegas now but also travels the world. I had an opportunity to live and bring my family up in the US but I didn’t because I’ve always loved living on the Coast and everything our city offers. I then got into the nightclub and festival industries, started Summafieldayze and am now involved in events so when you look at those businesses, the Gold Coast is probably one of the best places in the world to work but there’s also a relaxed lifestyle where you can bring up a family. We also have the best beaches in the world and the hinterland, the Coast offers so much. We’re quite spoilt.

Tell us about your latest project at The Star Gold Coast, what can we expect?
It’s going to be a lounge bar, there’ll be a pool and an amazing restaurant. I think Simon and I together are just a dynamic force. In the late 90s I ran the nightclub strip in Surfers when it was powering. I got out of the industry and thought I was done but being asked by The Star to get on board with this investment was so exciting for me. What we’re going to create is not just something the Gold Coast will love but also something that will appeal to people Australia-wide and all over the world. Having a rooftop at The Star Gold Coast is going to be incredible, it’s a serious player and I think it’s going to be the best rooftop bar in Australia. It’s gotten me so excited to get back into the industry. It’ll be a place for the over 25s market to really enjoy. I’ve been involved with it now for the past two years and we’ve needed this on the Coast for a long time. We’ve got some great places but this one is going to be a six-star tower, a really classy place.

How do you think the venue will change the Gold Coast’s entertainment scene?
What it will create is a very high-end restaurant that’s going to have one of the best views on the Gold Coast. As a lounge and bar experience it will have an amazing atmosphere of pure class. You can come up and relax with a beautiful view, enjoy some amazing drinks and some cool old school music. It will have an edgy but classy feel, which I think is something we don’t really have at the moment.

How did you and Simon come up with the idea for something so extravagant?
It was collaboration of course. A big part of the design and the creation was between Simon, myself and The Star. They’ve got an amazing team of people on board and that makes our job easier. It was just everyone putting in their ideas and their two cents to see what it became. For the last five years it’s been something I’ve touched on. For those over 25, after you go to dinner, where do you go? This is going to be a place where of course the restaurant will be busy too, but it will be somewhere you can also go after dinner to have a lounge experience. I feel like this will be the place to go to dress up, enjoy drinks with your friends or partner and have a great time. The bar will be open until 3am so you can go and have a dance after dinner, which is something I think we really need here.

When will we find out the name?
The name will come out in the next couple of weeks; we’ve got a big campaign starting soon. To show people photos just doesn’t do it justice, I can’t wait for people to experience it. 

You’ve done so much throughout your career, what have been the highlights?
I’m quite fortunate that I’ve had such a great career in the entertainment industry. When I built my first club, the Berlin Lounge Bar, back in the late 90s we were one of the first to bring house music to the Gold Coast so that was definitely one of the highlights. Creating Summafieldayze was a highlight because there was only Big Day Out back then. Having a diverse career in entertainment, from running a successful show in Vegas to the nightclub industry to creating one of the biggest festivals in SE QLD and now being involved in what’s going to be one of the best restaurant and lounge bars in Australia, I can’t complain. The highlights keep coming.

Any chance you might want to bring us another local music festival?
We’ve always talked about that. I’m involved with the Hangout Festival called Sand Tunes on Coolangatta Beach which will happen on December 1st and 2nd this year so that’s going to be huge. The guys that run Hangout Festival in Alabama have a great lineup so that will be quite diverse and exciting for the Gold Coast. It will have that Splendour and Falls feel and will be a great tourism push for the southern Gold Coast.

Best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Do what you love and love what you do. A lot of people in this world will tell you, you can’t do something but you’ve just got to believe in yourself.
Being a Gold Coast local we have to ask your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: We usually go down to First Ave in Broadbeach but I do love Currumbin, you can’t really beat it
Cafe: BlendLove, Goji Bar in Clear Island Waters and I definitely love Elk Espresso
Restaurant: Definitely Hellenika is my favourite
How does your weekend usually look? My weekend is usually spent with the kids who are right into their basketball at the moment. I’m quite involved in that and the Gold Coast Rollers basketball team, I love my basketball and I love my Titans aswell. I spend a lot of time at Riverstage at the moment too.

Warren Young

Warren Young is the epitome of the Gold Coast. For over 40 years he’s been patrolling our local beaches and was recently honoured with the Gold Coast Tourism Life Member Award.

We sat down to chat with the local legend on his undying love of the Coast and why passion will take you places you never thought possible.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I visited the first couple of times in 1958 but came down to live in 1973. I was a Brisbane boy, working in Telecomm with a good job but I loved the surf and was Captain of the surf club and I didn’t want to stay in the city. At the time a job came up for a beach patrol person and I got it.

What do you love most about the Coast?
I think it’s got a really special feel about it and I love the people here. All the beaches have something special about them from The Spit down to Coolangatta and I like that we’ve got the beautiful hinterland too. There’s not many places in the world where you can have both. There are so many opportunities here, I’ve been here so long that I’ve grown with the place and I’ve really enjoyed watching every stage. People bash the Gold Coast but this strip of ocean is just so special and we forget how lucky we are.

You were recently named as a Gold Coast Tourism Honorary Life Member, what does it mean to you to have patrolled our beaches for so long?
I’m really so lucky to have done this for so long. I started when I was 23 and moved up through the ranks. I thought being a lifeguard was such a worthwhile thing and still do of course. I got the lifeguard towers put up with the support of the council so that was pretty special. It’s lovely the way it’s turned out, we’ve come a long way. Mum really instilled a lot of confidence in us and told us we could do anything so that really helped us boys. It’s been a lovely life, I can’t imagine not being here.

What’s your favourite part about the job?
For me, it’s working with such great people and it’s really all about helping. There’s a lot of self-satisfaction in it for me but the people I work with are so supportive of each other, there’s such a good community. It can be a real challenge working with the ocean because it’s always changing, there’s always a mystery involved and I love that. I love listening to the stories of people I meet on the beach. People from all over the world come here and I just love hearing about their lives and how different they are to what we experience here.

What have been some highlights throughout your career?
Getting the Public Service Medal in 1999 was pretty special. I’m also part of the baton crew for the Commonwealth Games so I’m excited about that. There have been so many amazing things that have happened, it really has been a wonderful time. I’ve been really blessed. My Dad passed away when I was nine but he would have been proud I think. When you start off doing something you’re passionate about, it’s amazing where it leads you. Of course, in life there’s always hills and valleys but I’ve loved every minute of it and I’ve been so lucky to bring my family up on the beach.

What’s been the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
I think it’s to treat people well, respect them, you never know what people have been through.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Miami, I love it. I’ve got a soft spot for Burleigh but Miami is my home beach.
Café: I really like Piccolo, just near my house, really nice coffee.
Restaurant: Allure down at Currumbin.
Weekends: I usually do some training in the mornings and then spend some time with my Grandson, rolling around on the floor being silly.

Adam Haralampou

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No doubt you’ve had the pleasure of setting foot inside one of Adam Haralampou’s ridiculously popular establishments. He’s the brains behind Justin Lane, Harry’s Steak Bistro and Mr Bengel and how grateful are we to have his genius in our lives.

We sat down for a chat with Adam about his passion for pizza and why a little healthy competition is a good thing.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been a local my entire life!

What do you love most about living here?
The fact that you can be in the hinterland and 10 minutes later you’re swimming at the beach.

How did Justin Lane come about?|
I have a passion for pizza and saw there was a need for something in the Burleigh market. Next up was Harry’s and then Mr Bengel.

Where do the ideas for such unique venues come from?
Harry’s came from a need to have a high quality steak experience for a low price point. This hadn’t been done beforehand. Harry is my grandfather’s name who was a passionate foodie and beef eater so it made sense to name the venue in honour of him.

What’s your favourite drink or dish from each?
Justin Lane: seafood pizza, Stone & Wood lager, Harry’s: scotch fillet and frites and a glass of Shiraz, Mr Bengel: green smoothie and bacon and eggs.

How do you feel about the Coast’s rapidly expanding foodie scene?
I think it’s great! Good competition is great and will lift the benchmark of all venues.

What’s been your journey to get to where you are?
The whole experience has been an adventure. The ups and downs go hand in hand but the continual journey is the adventure.

Do you have anything new in the pipeline?
Not for the moment. Enjoying what I have.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received? Never get too busy that you forget to enjoy what you already have.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites on the Coast?
Beach: Tallebudgera Creek
Cafe: Paddock Bakery
Restaurant: Etsu
How does your weekend usually look: Family time, work and nature

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