Italian-born Valentina Fois, founder of Lele’s vegan cafe in Hackney is one of the 12 contestants on Gordon Ramsay’s new programme Future Food Stars. She is one of the competing to win a £150,000 investment from Ramsay himself.
Valentina’s path has been a colourful and creative one. The Italian-born vegan chef first moved to London in 2009 and worked in fashion, branding and art before taking the plunge and setting up her own business.
As well as running a hugely successful vegan cafe, Valentina and her team at Lele’s offer an online shop selling all sorts of crazy popular treats including red velvet donuts, afternoon tea, Bakewell tarts, brownies, banana bread, hampers and award-winning vegan mixes.
With all products hand-made by Valentina and her team in East London, Lele’s is committed to being cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable with recyclable packaging. We took delivery of Valentina’s cakes – afternoon tea boxes can be delivered all over London – and ours was impressive, to say the least.
So much so that I had to double-check that everything was actually vegan. Baking without eggs or butter isn’t always successful and it’s easy to end up with a dry or crumbly cake. Our selection included some excellent chocolate chip cookies that had us baffled by their extreme butteriness and excellent texture, as well as various brownies, including one with an excellent salted caramel topping which we couldn’t believe lacked butter or cream.
A coconut millionaire’s shortbread tasted like a Bounty from heaven, and Valentina’s flair for presentation is clear: all cakes are topped with pretty pansies or delicate gold leaf, or sliced strawberry. Lemon and poppyseed cakes are iced and sprinkled with poppyseed and pansies; chocolate cupcakes are topped with gold-sprayed berries.
It’s not every vegan bake and cookie that takes moist and buttery, but at Lele’s they all do.
Lele’s Vegan Cafe
50 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0RN