Beauty's Go-To Girl
Tommy Collins and Tommy McIntosh aim to excel in Melbourne and Victoria’s thriving culinary and cultural scene.
By Ben Ice. Photography by Jim Wilde.
Growing up in Brisbane, Tommy McIntosh first visited Melbourne to stay with his sister, and always remembers walking the streets, through the back alleyways of the city. “The buzz of all the cafés, the smells, everything,” he recalls.
In Brisbane, McIntosh got his beginnings in hospitality, working in pubs. Despite trying other things, he always found his way back to hospitality.
He then moved to the UK, and had the opportunity to work in some world-class cocktail bars. His skills making cocktails led to the origin of the catering business brand name – he became known as Tommy Collins after the Tom Collins cocktail. When he returned to Australia after a couple of years, the choice to continue his hospitality career in Melbourne – over his birthplace of Brisbane – was a pretty easy one.
“I found the hospitality scene was quite limited,” he says of Brisbane at the time. “No one was really taking it that seriously. I fell in love with Melbourne at a young age, so I made my way back down.”
That was 14 years ago, and the city was emerging as a coffee-driven hub. “I worked in quite a few places around Melbourne, with the idea that I always wanted to own my own café,” he says.
It was while working in a café in Armadale that his first opportunity to venture into catering arose. A distressed woman informed McIntosh that a catering company had pulled out of her son’s 18th birthday party job. It was two weeks away and 200 kids and 50 adults were at risk of going hungry.
With no catering experience, and just a little work in events, he took on the challenge, and called up his business partner Ben Avramides to help. The pair had met working together in a cocktail bar and continue to partner at Tommy Collins and other ventures.
At the time though, Avramides was just about to turn his back on the highly demanding hospitality industry altogether to work in construction, but McIntosh talked him into the job. The client’s specifications for the job included entertainment, music, DJs, the whole lot. “It turned out to be a pretty big event!”
With limited experience and time to prepare, the pair outsourced catering, the marquee and props and turned it around. “We put on an amazing event,” reminisces McIntosh. “That one was a Dukes of Hazzard party, strangely enough. Lots of hay bales and Daisy Dukes. I tracked down the Boss Hogg Cadillac,” he laughs.
“The next day, I got a call from someone who was at that party. They said, ‘Look, we saw you did an amazing job at this party; can you do this again, for our son?’”
Once again he talked Avramides into ‘one more job’, and the pair put on another hit party. Word of mouth spread quickly about the business. “Every time we did a job, while we were cleaning up the next day, we got another call,” McIntosh says.
Having outsourced catering up until that point, the two were yet to find a caterer they could gel with, but with their love of food and background in the industry, they figured, why outsource at all?
“We started doing it ourselves, and writing menus we could produce. It grew and grew from there. One job turned into about 10 in our first couple of months.”