When Kate Berry’s daughter was bullied at school for her homemade lunches, she took an unorthodox route to reinstate her daughter’s confidence and reclaim the conversation around her lunches. Drawing on her creative-agency past and lifelong passions: food, photography and the gift of the gab, she started the blog Lunch Lady. In this space she documented the food they were making together – from prepping to cooking and right through to crafty packaging – from their home in rural Victoria.
Less than a year later, Kate was approached by Lara Burke and Louise Bannister of We Print Nice Things, to turn Lunch Lady the blog into Lunch Lady the magazine, which still exists today. “[It was] pretty crazy considering that if I was to do a magazine with anyone they probably would have been the people I would have chosen to do it with,” she says.
What started out as a mother–daughter passion project with a cult following quickly became a story of entrepreneurial success.
For two years, Kate was the editor and a major player in Lunch Lady finding the success it still enjoys today. She helped grow and develop the brand’s identity and was responsible for creating, photographing, designing and commissioning much of the content. “But I realised all of a sudden I was making a magazine about family but I never hung out with my own.” So she moved on.
And out. Kate and her daughters have recently relocated back to Melbourne, in part for the opportunities city-living presents and proximity to clients and collaborators; and in part for the culture and atmosphere for which Victoria’s capital is known and loved. Like many creatives in and around the industry, Kate gets inspired by, and feeds off, the enthusiasm of others. Definitely one for collaboration, other people’s excitement fuels her own, “I love hearing other people’s ideas and I love helping other people make their ideas happen.”
Having taken a new residence, she has also taken a new kitchen. Fortuitously – or perhaps purposefully – the kitchen living and dining rooms exist together in an open-plan format. Living with her kids, it was important that when she is in the kitchen preparing meals – either for mealtimes, work or research – that they are still able to feel connected in the different spaces.
The kitchen itself, which she lovingly describes as “odd-looking”, features stainless steel benches – “great for cooking” – and a small window that lets natural light flow in. It also provides the perfect backdrop for Kate’s creations. “Previous kitchens haven’t had that beautiful little light pocket to take photos. Whereas my new kitchen has pretty little windows where I can put the food and take some photos,” she says.
“Because our apartment is an old art deco apartment, it has character that our previous houses haven’t. So it’s nice to have a few bumps and weird little crooked angles.”
When asked how her use of the kitchen has morphed over the years as influenced by her varying roles and experiences, Kate divulges a newfound frugality that informs her cooking. Adjusting to city prices among other things, Kate tries to run a kitchen that doesn’t waste. “I’m enjoying challenging my kids to think that way as well. We buy fruit and veggies every week and we challenge ourselves to use everything,” she says.
Since wrapping up at Lunch Lady, Kate has gone on to write a book (which will be out later this year) and launch an event series, OK Motels, that was born out of a successful Instagram account that was essentially a platform for Kate to share her love of old motels and small rural townships. Back in a city full of “creative people doing cool things” and inspiring one another, only time can tell what Kate will do next.