A Life's Story
December 17, 2022
Rock ’n’ roll caterer was ‘force to be reckoned with’
Winnipegger Naomi Blake Marshall, 70, kept her spotlight on food, hospitality
By: Janine LeGal
The smile that people talk about, the one that lights up a room — Naomi Blake Marshall had it, in an undeniable way.
With it came a sparkling personality and an abundance of charisma, immeasurable energy and determination.
The self-made entrepreneur, caterer to the stars and master of all things hospitality, grew up in Flin Flon and lived all over Manitoba. With her father’s job as bank manager, having to relocate the family within the province came with the territory.
Blake Marshall was maternalistic early on, as she looked after her four siblings, creating a strong family bond which remained at the heart of her life — a life that encompassed a book of many chapters, filled with cherished friends, family and colleagues.
In childhood, her mother introduced her to Job’s Daughters, an international organization with a mission to create strong young women serving community and shaping the future.
She rose to become queen of the Selkirk chapter of Job’s Daughters, which brought with it all kinds of unique opportunities. In 1970, when Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne visited Swan River for Manitoba’s centennial, it was Blake Marshall who escorted Prince Charles at the event.
Blake Marshall died June 17, at age 70, after a battle with cancer.
“She was a force to be reckoned with then and continued to be one her whole life,” says long-time friend David Truthwaite.
“She loved hospitality and made it a major part of her life. She owned restaurants, managed restaurants, did wedding planning, as well as specialty catering. For years, Naomi catered many of Winnipeg’s musical concerts and provided world-class catering to some of the world’s rock stars. She was ‘the Blake’; she was one of a kind.”
Blake Marshall’s career as a rock ’n’ roll caterer included single-handedly organizing all of the food services for one of the biggest touring shows to hit Winnipeg: David Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour. That 1987 accomplishment led to her notability for delivering extraordinary service, and contributed to Winnipeg’s reputation as a world-class tour stop for concerts and events.
Kevin Donnelly, now a True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd. senior vice-president, met Blake Marshall around this time.
“After an AC/DC rock show, there was an after party where food was being served but also with alcohol, so it was a party atmosphere,” Donnelly recalls.
“The lead singer, Brian Johnson, was attracted to Naomi and repeatedly tried to make contact with her while she continued to served and host the ongoing catering needs. Finally, after several attempts to get her one on one, he started to chat her up when she asked what he did in the band.
“She thought he was an equipment guy.”
Blake Marshall’s entrepreneurial food adventures also included a taco stand in Old Market Square, a chip stand in Grand Marais, and a fajita bar in Puerto Rico. A small catering company eventually became NBC Catering (Naomi and Brother Chris) and later, Stars Bar & Grill was born.
Her creativity knew no limits, bringing in six tons of sand for the floor of the restaurant during a Jamaican night. Her son Dylan was born New Year’s Day 1991. Managing the restaurant and raising him as a single mother wasn’t easy, so she entered the corporate hospitality world with the Fort Garry Hotel.
From catering for rock shows and film production crews to taking on various serving and management positions with the Round Table, Gaffers Restaurant and Rae’s Bistro & Lounge, Blake Marshall’s passion for food and hospitality persisted.
She met the love of her life, Garry Marshall, on a blind date in 1997. The lukewarm first date quickly became a fairy-tale love with the two of them complementing each other perfectly for more than 20 years.
“We dated for over a year living apart in Winnipeg,” says Marshall. “Co-habitation was not in the cards unless, and until, I made a commitment to her and Dylan, meaning a marriage proposal.
“We got engaged in February 1999, and were married Aug. 15, 1999. With Naomi’s hospitality experience, she was able to plan a very elegant ceremony and party at Green Gates Restaurant (now the Gates) in an outdoor tent. Guests from both of our circles of friends came from afar to share our special event. It was a non-stop party that guests still remark about.”
Judy Heckert’s friendship with Blake Marshall spans more than 50 years.
“I liked her the moment I met her,” Heckert says. “How could you not, looking at that big beautiful smile?
“Naomi was a self-made success. Her drive, determination, her energy, her ideas, her work ethic was amazing.”
Heckert says her friend could put together a huge gourmet meal at a moment’s notice or make a room look like a million bucks from items bought at a Goodwill store.
Family, friends and clients weren’t the only ones to enjoy her cooking.
“Leftover food from events always went to the food bank or the homeless right on the street,” Heckert says.
“I always thought Naomi was a star, a bright shiny star. She radiated love, happiness, acceptance. When she named her restaurant Stars Bar & Grill, I always thought, ‘You’re the star, Naomi, it’s you.’”
With interests from travel, cooking, music and sailing to gardening, art and golf, Blake Marshall always made time for community service.
“She cared deeply about the environment and how humans are affecting the future of the planet,” Marshall says.
“I believe that we met on that blind date in 1997 not by coincidence but for each of us to further our respective journeys.
“I learned many life lessons from her which I carry with me: the compassion, the spirituality, importance of family, volunteerism, helping our fellow man, and awareness of our journey. I will love her forever.”
A Life's Story
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