How I Got Here: Valentina Fois

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here Valentina Fois founder vegan cafe bakery Lele's London's Clapton Gordon Ramsay's Future Food Stars

Related tags: Vegan, Casual dining, bakery

The Italian-born chef and founder of London-based vegan cafe and bakery Lele's, who's currently competing on Gordon Ramsay's Future Food Stars, on her career in hospitality.

Why restaurants? 
I always dreamt of running my own food business.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I knew it was going to be difficult as you are dealing with suppliers, staff and costumers but I didn’t quite understand how hard it was going to be! Hire people who are better than you and add value to your business.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
I really like Sketch, it is a fun place.

What motivates you?
I think the idea of building something that can sustain my family and bring joy to my costumers.

What keeps you up at night?
I always question myself to see if I am a good person, a good employer, friend, partner – modern life is so crazy that we can easily overlook what matters the most, so I like to keep myself in check!

What time do you wake up?

Coffee or tea?
Tea in the morning, coffee after 9am.

How often do you check your email?
Too often, but never after 7pm.

How do you let off steam?
I draw cats.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Sofa all the way.

Favourite holiday destination?

What are you currently reading?
On beauty​ by Zadie Smith.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
My father with his perseverance, my mother with her positive attitude and my grandmother with her kind, unique spirit.

Best business decision? 
Adapt to a wholesale business model once the pandemic hit us. We needed to be quick and we went for it, there was no other option, too many jobs were at stake and I wasn’t going to leave anyone at home.

Worst business decision?
None, you always learn from your mistakes - it is cheesy, but they make you stronger.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business? 
Be humble but bold, appreciate any piece of advice but be ready to defend your opinions and fight for it.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
More inclusivity.


Born in Rome, Fois initially studied to be a fashion designer and later went on to attain a postgrad diploma in Contemporary Art History; she later completed a masters in Digital Heritage. Her early career saw her work in marketing communication and PR consultancy for a number of businesses. This included a year as marketing director for Pop Brixton. She launched Lele's in Hackney in 2016. Fois is currently appearing on Gordon Ramsay's Future Food Stars​ on BBC One, where she is competing for a £150,000 investment to grow her business. 

Related topics: People, Profiles, Casual Dining



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