Spreading the Christmas Cheer

The annual Restaurant Tranquilo Christmas lunch has been running for years, but we haven’t been aware of it for that long as its instigator has always preferred to let it fly under the radar. This year we wanted to find out more about it, and finally convinced a reluctant Michelle Golding from TQ to fill us in.

We know you prefer to keep this annual event on the low-down, but tell us how it works.

Well, in a nutshell we provide Christmas lunch to people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy a festive lunch for a range of reasons. We work with The Hut Community Centre who provides us with a list of attendees and we take it from there on the day. The numbers vary from year to year but we generally host over 30 people. Last year it was 55.

How did this all start?

Christmas is not always a happy occasion for some people, and it just seemed to me that we had an empty restaurant on Christmas Day and people who could benefit. When the girls got older I broached the idea with my family, and once I knew I had them on board as willing participants I raised it with The Hut Community Centre who’s managed our guest list ever since. This year will be our seventh year in a row.

How do you pull it all together?

Stephen and my daughter Alisha (17) manage the kitchen and I’m out the front with my other daughter Ebony (20) who really takes control on the day. Every year is completely different depending on the guest list, but it’s always LOUD. My mum and Dad come up to help, and then when we’ve finished, sent the guests home with all the leftovers and packed it all up we have our own little Christmas celebration in the restaurant.

This is a massive undertaking in both your time and money. How do you fund it?

Initially we’d put the call out to suppliers and they’d help us out with the remainder funded through the business. As word has slowly got out we’re getting more and more support from the community. This year Stirling Rotary and the Stirling Community Op-Shop have made financial contributions, plus we have lots of regulars who ask what we need or put a few dollars in the tin on our counter to contribute towards the cost of the lunch. Last year I had a regular customer ask how many people were attending, and then he arrived on the morning of the lunch with $20 in a bunch of envelopes to give out to every single person! I get a bit overwhelmed by the support to be honest as I’m a bit of a softie, plus I don’t really like promoting it as I’d hate for it to be seen as a business promotion. I’m not even comfortable talking to you about it now.

Well thank you for speaking with us! You obviously have a kind heart. Where do you think this comes from?

Well I’m a trained social worker with a diploma in drug and alcohol abuse and I’ve previously worked in mental health. I did work experience as a student driving around with IDSC late at night checking up on vulnerable people, and then later when I was the Manager of Cha-Chis on Glen Osmond Road I fed a homeless man out the back of the restaurant every night. I guess looking after vulnerable people just seems right to me. Don’t get me wrong guests at our lunch come from all walks of life – some are just looking for company that they otherwise wouldn’t have on Christmas Day. What’s always been clear to me is that there are vulnerable people in any community whether or not they are particularly noticeable.

So what’s next for TQ?

More of the same I guess. It’s just Stephen and me holding the fort so it’s hard to take a break. Stephen is working on a new menu, and we’ll be open all through the holidays, including Boxing Day this year.