Evolution has followed Alexia Leibel through life. First when she was challenged with the notion she couldn’t work as a nurse when she moved to Australia, and more recently when she took over the helm of catering business the Daily Food Co from founder Liz Gant.
“Everything happened last winter,” she adds smiling.
Years working on high-stress events behind the scenes gave Alexia an understanding of the business and the changes that needed to be made for it to succeed in the future.
Her first move was to close the Daily Food Co café operating out of their commercial kitchen in North Geelong. The bigger change was to enter the world of meal delivery.
It was a decision that wasn’t made lightly, and in those initial few weeks and months there were many ‘love’ hours invested into the business to ensure its success. “The commitment is so big when it’s a small business,” Alexia says on the matter.
But the risk paid off. “We launched five weeks ago and it’s been doubling almost every week,” she says when we spoke in June.
The Daily Food Co still operates as a catering business, as it has for four years, but meal delivery offers something consistent year-round.
Working from a seasonal menu, Alexia and head chef Will Hopkins are currently building their catalogue of meals—with the goal for 50 different dishes to rotate through each season.
Such dishes on the menu have been lemon grilled chicken, the superfood salad, and beef lasagne.
While Alexia is a trained nurse, her passion for food has been present all her life as she also moonlights as a French Maitre D.
“I’ve got a nursing background and people in nursing look after other people and make them feel better, but we are the last people to look after ourselves,” she says.
“We’d get home and couldn’t be bothered cooking for ourselves and make something like toast. So we started cooking meals for ourselves and people were saying, ‘This looks good, where did you get it?’”
This moment with fellow nurses in France happened long before she began meal delivery with the Daily Food Co, but it’s an indication of when the seed was planted in her mind for selling pre-prepared meals.
Nurses also serve as the perfect example of an ideal Daily Food Co client. With the hard-workers, time poor or those disinterested in cooking the focus for the business, the team have crafted each meal for ease, taste and something commonly overlooked—to satisfy hunger. As Alexia says, their portion sizes are some of the largest in the industry.
But it’s not just that, Daily Food Co is about fresh food and living in the moment.
“It’s not like we don’t believe in frozen, just not everything is good to freeze,” she says before adding, “Fresh is so much better.”
One regular client enjoys the Daily Food Co experience so much she likens it to going out for dinner—each meal so carefully prepared it really is a treat.
Credit to the decadence of each meal comes from the quality produce selected. Alexia and Will are both passionate about supporting local, sourcing produce from Riccardi Market Fresh, Magic Meadow Produce and Glynn Harvey Fruit Wholesaler.
“We’re trying to support local business and that’s something I feel really strongly about,” she says.
As a small business operated by two people, it’s important to ensure they don’t expand beyond their means. With the meal delivery doubling within its first few weeks, Alexia is cautious of taking things one step at a time so they can maintain their high quality food and service. With this measured growth, other exciting opportunities are on the cards.
“Once we get big enough we’re actually looking at becoming a social enterprise,” she says.
That nursing instinct of wanting to take care of others comes through in the Daily Food Co and Alexia hopes the business will give others the opportunity to grow. Whether it be someone with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people or perhaps people who have just previously struggled to find work, Alexia wants to give them that foot in the door. As Alexia says, “A job can make such a big difference in someone’s life”.
“It’s good to feel like you’re giving back to the community as well, because that’s what we believe in,” she says.
“I come from a really small village in France, and that’s how it works. Everything works in the community and I think that’s a good way to run a business as well.”
The support for the community trickles through into other elements of the business, with the meal ordering app created by fellow Geelong business, Order It in Geelong.
With the closure of the café, it’s meant Alexia now has the time to pursue business opportunities and plan for the future—and the Daily Food Co’s future looks bright.
“It’s made in Geelong, it’s fresh, we try to be healthy and love sharing our passion for food with everyone,” she says.
“These days everyone is really busy so if we can make a difference that’s our goal done.”
Written by Amanda Sherring
Images by Claire Lang Photography (of Salt + Pine Photography).