Family Album - Q & A with Nat Neal

January 31, 2020

Nat Neal Mount Zero 2020
Nat Neal Mount Zero 2020. Photo by Ella Mitchell

Mount Zero Olives is a family owned and operated business and we like to think of our talented and hardworking team as part of the extended family.

This year’s first “Family Album” blog profile (plus bonus recipe!) is all about Nat Neal. Nat met the Mount Zero crew via Cam at Mountain Goat Brewery, one of the many food and beverage businesses she has worked with both here and abroad.

After studying hospitality at RMIT Nat went travelling; living and working in Oslo Norway and spending time in Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and South America.

When she returned, Nat worked in kitchens and planned to start a catering business of her own. But life happens when you are making other plans and as her interest in the business side of industry evolved, she took up opportunities to work with Little Creatures Brewery, Mountain Goat Brewery and then Irrewarra Sourdough supporting their business expansion.

Today Nat works with the team at Mount Zero as the group’s National Sales Manager. She divides her time between working from the office and being on the road supporting Mount Zero Olives distributors, representatives and customers across Australia.

“One of the best parts of this job is seeing first-hand the way our business interacts with others. Meeting business owners and artisans who are interested in our products for their quality and taste but also for reasons of origin and sustainability or for the politics of supporting local indigenous communities. I’ve been lucky to make new friends on the road and have been inspired by many Australian food producers and business owners.”

This profile lands on her one-year anniversary with the business. Happy Anniversary Nat! Thanks for taking the time to talk a bit about yourself and share a new recipe!

Q & A with Nat Neal

What is your name and title?
Natalie (Nat) Neal - National Sales Manager

How long have you been working for Mount Zero?
Exactly one year to date! I can’t believe it! It has flown by.

What is your favourite thing about the work you do? Working within a small business representing quality, local products.
I love the diversity in the role which comes with working in a small, close team – there is an opportunity to be involved in many work discussions and planning sessions to support the whole business. I also love the social aspect of the job and relationships formed within the industry.

What’s the most heard feedback from your customers?
"I love Mount Zero!" Our customers are very loyal to Mount Zero. I think it is because our customers share our values. Like us, they’re committed to supporting local producers, sound sustainability practices, collaborations with indigenous owners, and of course, quality products. It certainly helps me in my work that the brand is so loved and respected!

What has been your career highlight?
My highlight at Mount Zero has been progressing into a more challenging National role which has brought with it the opportunity to travel all around Australia. I meet and work with creative, passionate people – which I find very motivating and exciting.   

Where have you worked prior to joining the Mount Zero team?
I have always had a love for food, beverage and hospitality. After working in kitchens for many years, l moved quite naturally into sales, probably due to my personality! My previous sales roles have seen me working with artisan sourdough bakeries and craft breweries. 

If you weren’t working for Mount Zero, where might you be today?
I think I’d have my own local gourmet store, providing my local neighbourhood with the best produce or working amongst plants and flowers in either floristry or in nurseries.

What is your favourite Mount Zero product and why?
I really love the lemon pressed extra virgin olive oil which is produced in the traditional Agrumato style of pressing whole lemons and olives together. It has such an amazing zesty, citrus aroma and flavour. I think it's perfect to finish so many dishes, from salads through to fish. It’s even great for baking cakes. Mount Zero’s Chilli Salt is also used on a daily basis in our household!

As you well know, we’re forever building and adding to our Foodie’s bucket list – please add your tips….
Aside from a few overseas stints, I've always lived in Melbourne and love that Melbourne has so many amazing food options on offer. A recent much-loved experience was an evening at a cosy wine bar restaurant on Russell St called ‘Lesa’. The service had a lot to do with the memorable experience, which was excellent as was the amazing food and unique wine list. Their sister venue downstairs – Embla - is also a great option, with a casual and friendly vibe! 

And, finally, what recipe have you picked to share this month and why? 
l'm very fond of home cooking and comfort food, so I’ve chosen a rustic, homely dish called Socca. It’s an unleavened, savoury pancake made of chickpea flour.  A simple dish that originates from the South of France and neighbouring Italian coastline.

This version is slightly different, more flavoursome. In some ways it is more like a frittata - sans the eggs! It showcases many of my favourite Mount Zero products including the chickpeas and dry cured kalamata olives. It's surprisingly moist and is a perfect lunch dish served with a fresh salad with a drizzle of our lemon oil and pink lake salt. I hope you enjoy it! Click to view Nat's Socca recipe.

Nat's olive and spinach Socca
Nat's Olive and Spinach Socca. Photo by Ella Mitchell