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There’s a certain warmth and big-heartedness which usually comes with a career built in the hospitality industry: a love of sharing food and conversation, a sense of generosity, a strong work ethic and a joy in creating memorable experiences for others. All of these qualities and more characterise the humble, yet effortlessly elegant, Neredah McIntosh.
Daughter of Chef Andrew Blake, and a member of one of Melbourne’s most celebrated hospitality dynasties, Neredah has followed in her family’s footsteps while also carving an impressive path of her own, now serving as the co-owner of events catering favourite, Blakes Feast, and new-concept brand, BLAKEAWAY.
Speaking to us from her family’s holiday home in seaside Portsea, the mother of two and RATIONALE Luminary opened up about her biggest learnings in the food industry (particularly through the turbulent waters of 2020), how a healthy sense of humour has been key to helping her family business thrive, and the daily rituals and recipes she wouldn’t be without.
You’re part of a close-knit family and co-own a business with your father, mother and sister. How do you think your family and upbringing have helped shape who you are today?
My mother and father have always been incredibly hard workers. They lead by example and have instilled in me a strong work ethic for which I will always be thankful. They adore food, wine and having a good time—all of which I have inherited (like it or not). We all love having a laugh and they both have a great sense of humour (they divorced 28 years ago and still own a business together, so they must have!).
We each have our areas of expertise and all work to our strengths (and hire where we have weaknesses) which I think has enabled us to get to where we are. There were quite a few difficult years while we were trying to get traction and plenty of lessons learned. The four of us have a very strong bond and respect for each other.
Did you always know you would eventually work in the food industry, or was there another career you’d imagined yourself doing when you were younger?
Growing up in restaurants and cafés, I always loved food but never thought I would have a future working in the field. I saw how hard the hospitality industry was for my parents, which, to be honest, was a massive deterrent to me. I worked in the fashion industry as a styling assistant, but the pull of the family business was very strong. I am so fortunate to work with the people who mean the most to me every day. It motivates me to work harder and strive for success. I love creating events at Blakes Feast and am very excited about our new business BLAKEAWAY.
Like so many, you pivoted during 2020 and introduced BLAKEAWAY to Melbourne, and later, to the Mornington Peninsula. How did BLAKEAWAY come to life?
On Friday 13 March 2020, all our events had been cancelled for the foreseeable future. The partners had a meeting and decided that we didn’t want to let any of our staff go. Ten years ago, we started making take-home meals during winter to help cash flow. This had remained in place (on a very small scale) through our hole-in-the-wall café at our head office in Glen Iris.
We decided there was an opportunity to expand on what we had been doing for years and that day we launched BLAKEAWAY. We went out to social media and had thousands of enquiries (and hundreds of orders) over our first weekend.
A week later, we moved to an online ordering platform. We opened our Portsea store in December 2020 and the response has been quite overwhelming. We continue to grow, improve and refine the business, and have plans to open another two stores in the next six months.
You’re behind the branding for both Blakes Feast and BLAKEAWAY—what have you found are the most important factors in building a successful brand?
Integrity, transparency and honesty. We created a very clear tone from the beginning which resonated with our clientele and is an extension of what we, as a family, stand for. For me it’s important to not look sideways or be distracted by what other businesses are doing. We have a clear picture of who we are, what we are doing and where we are going. I think this organically builds a strong brand.
And you’re now also a mum to two young daughters, Missy and Kit. What has parenthood taught you?
That it’s a juggle and we are all trying our best. I think everyone just needs to do what works for them. Too many people have too many opinions about what works, what doesn’t, what you should be doing more of, less of, and so on. But I think as long as your children feel loved, safe and secure… you do you!
I want my girls to grow up with an understanding that a dream does not become reality through magic—it takes perseverance, hard work and determination. I also hope that they’ll learn to be kind and always lead with love; we’re all equal and you never know what someone else is going through.
Tell us about your attitude to beauty and self-care. Growing up, did anyone’s outlook on beauty influence your own?
My mum definitely led by example. She has always taken very good care of her skin and it shows. You have this skin for the rest of your life, so you need to look after it.
My girls (and husband) certainly know me well because I received a RATIONALE facial as my gift for the most recent Mother’s Day.
Rise and shine routine:
I wake up early (5.30am) to exercise. It’s the only time of day I can do it and I love how it sets me up for the day. I like to mix up my exercise: anything from to weights training or group classes – whatever my body feels like it needs at the time.
I use the Essential Six religiously. On top of this I like to add in whatever I think my skin is needing at the time. If I have time (usually only on the weekend) I will use the NuFace electro frequency face device, followed by #1 The Serum, #2 The Serum (plus #2 The Concentrate during winter if I am feeling dry), and #3 The Day Crème SPF15. If I skip #2 The Concentrate, then I will use #3 The Tinted Serum SPF50+ as well.
Makeup during the week is very minimal; I really only use Beautiful Skin Superfluid SPF50 (mixing C1 + C2 together), and then the Beautiful Cheeks tint and Beautiful Light highlighter. For fragrance, Florence by Tocca is the only perfume I wear. It smells like gardenias – heaven!
My clothing during the week must be comfortable; I’m running around trying to get kids out the door in the morning and it doesn’t stop when I get to work. My go-to is jeans and boots, or runners and a sweater. I am a sucker for a great coat which is a handy way of making a casual outfit feel a little dressier at work.
If I have time in the morning, I’ll make a smoothie with WelleCo protein powder, fruit and almond milk. If I am stretched (most of the time), I’ll have a BLAKEAWAY chia pudding or superfood breakfast bowl.
A ‘typical’ workday:
The beauty of working in catering and events and having a new business is that there is never a typical workday. Every week looks different; sometimes I’m working on a car launch for 500, a wedding in Mansfield, or menu and content development for BLAKEAWAY.
We love having dinner together as a family. During the week, it’s our time to catch up and recap on everyone’s day. Missy and Kit are pretty good eaters; they are both willing to try new things. On Sundays, Ant (my husband) will do a roast which is something we all look forward to.
Bedtime beauty routine:
I double cleanse with #4 The Cleanser, followed by #5 The Serum, #6 The Night Crème. On nights that I have more time, or if my skin needs it, I will use #1 The Mask or some LED light treatment.
Nightly wind down rituals:
There are so many rituals I wish I did at night—meditate, read, gratitude journal… But honestly, by the time the kids are in bed and I have organised my life for the next day, I am utterly exhausted and just want to sleep. I have a herbal tea, set my phone to sleep mode and as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m out.
Where are some of your favourite spots to visit in Melbourne—either for yourself or the family?
For food: Carlton Wine Room, Embla, Flower Drum, Dainty Sichuan, France-Soir, and I Love Pho.
For drinks: Johnny’s Green Room, Bar Di Stasio, Marion, Bar Margaux, Siglo, and Toorak Cellars.
Family activities: National Gallery of Victoria (they always have great kids’ activities as part of their exhibitions). Then a walk along the Yarra and into the city for yum cha (the kids bike ride or scooter). We also love a picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
For myself: the infrared sauna at Willow Urban retreat, the LuminousLift Renewal Facial at RATIONALE, and an at-home massage from Still Beauty.
And finally, you’re throwing a dinner party for friends—what are you cooking?
My thing with entertaining is that you have invited your guests over because you want to spend time with them. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. For pre-dinner, I’ll serve a Bread Club crusty baguette with a large tin of Ortiz anchovies, and in summer I’ll do the same with fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil.
I will usually pre-make a protein—Donna Hay’s Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Garlic and Rosemary is a great one to do the day prior. I will then get all my sides from BLAKEAWAY, for example… truffled potato gratin, and roasted brussels sprouts with lardons and pine nuts. Then I’ll either make a green salad or slaw. I am definitely not a baker, so I will opt for a sticky date pudding from BLAKEAWAY and serve it with Pidapipo ice-cream.