Michelle Christoe, NightQuarter
We had seen the opportunities lessen in the hospitality scene for musicians over the past decade and wanted to create a venue where children grow up with music and music becomes centric to the community ...
Friends, meet Michelle Christoe. In 2015, Michelle and her husband Ian Van der Woude founded NightQuarter – the Gold Coast’s immensely popular weekend night market. It’s certainly no easy task putting together the NightQuarter ‘festival’ every single week, but Michelle’s deep-seeded passion for the local food, music and greater hospitality industry has been a driving force for what has now become one of the city’s most iconic markets. Armed with a creative mind, a beaming smile and a twinkle in her eye, Michelle aims to develop the Gold Coast’s arts and music scene, food industry and small business sector by providing a platform for entrepreneurs to connect with the local community. We caught up with Michelle for a chat about busking in the streets, childhood dreams and where it all began.
Let’s take things back a bit – where did the very first spark of inspiration for NightQuarter come from?
My husband and I were dining in an Italian piazza overlooking some vineyards in Ari going back some five years. Italian families were wandering around us as we ate amazing trenette al pesto and listened to a street band play violin, acoustic guitar and double bass to the locals that passed by. We pondered how fantastic it was to see families out together at night time and how we could localise the concept and bring community together in Australia to create the same environment.
You’re very passionate about Australian produce and have been heavily involved in the food industry for some time. What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen across the Gold Coast food landscape?
Our business, Food Focus Australia launched NightQuarter two years ago as well as the Gold Coast Food and Wine Festival. Both are representative of the change in the culinary landscape we are seeing in the region. Dining precincts have exploded and there truly is a broad degustation experience starting to emerge. In 2018, Gold Coast Food and Wine Festival will return with the theme ‘Evolve’ to explore experimental dining, food and culture crossover events, and dining as entertainment. Throughout the Gold Coast Food and Wine Festival we will explore the theme of ‘Evolve’ as a culinary community to make a statement about where the Gold Coast has been and where it is evolving as a gastronomic destination.
Food aside (just for a moment), you’re also a huge believer in incubating local musical talent. Where did that passion stem from, and what’s your vision for helping the local music scene grow?
As a child I studied musicology, played piano and clarinet; and involved myself in everything from madricals to theatre to jazz. I busked often in The Rocks and Circular Quay playing my own tunes. I never saw myself as naturally talented, I just had a great passion for music. From my early twenties, I wanted to get into the business side of it. When we created NightQuarter, it was important to create a live music space that would become a home for the local music scene and create a platform for local artists. We had seen the opportunities lessen in the hospitality scene for musicians over the past decade and wanted to create a venue where children grow up with music and music becomes centric to the community. We get immense pleasure being part of the journey for young talented musicians and are constantly working on new initiatives to incubate talent whether it is organising workshops, providing musicians opportunities every weekend or being involved in the overall music scene.
What was your childhood dream?
To be a mother. When that didn’t happen, I looked at my business as something I can nurture. I love what I do and have a great team. We see NightQuarter as our community.
It’s a huge job putting on what is effectively a ‘festival’ every single weekend at NightQuarter. At the end of it all, how do you unwind?
I am an ideas person and love to create. NightQuarter is a playground to me. I unwind by relaxing my mind, chilling out with my husband out on the waterways and walking our dogs Lilly and Barney.
What changes would you like to see on the Gold Coast?
The Gold Coast is currently all about change and the region is in the spotlight. With the nation’s biggest events including the Commonwealth Games set to be held here in 2018, there has been an explosion of events in the culinary and music landscape. As we consider the legacy of the Games as a community, we ask the question: How have we evolved and what do we now stand for? This is what we will be exploring as a business including within the Gold Coast Food and Wine Festival programming and the entertainment at NightQuarter. Broadening the appeal of the Gold Coast with more food and music options will help sustain its tourism appeal and strengthen our community similar to what Spain did with Ibiza.
What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?
My husband, Ian – he is everything I am not; that’s why we are a good team…and being Australian. We live in one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. I am proud to be Australian. You can be and do anything (within reason) in our country. We are only limited by our imagination.
Finally, what words of wisdom do you live by?
There is no such thing as ‘can’t’, and there is most certainly a great power in visualisation and persistence.