AN INTERVIEW WITH DELICIOUSLY ELLA FOUNDER, ELLA MILLS | MAY 2017
Congratulations on the opening of another Mae deli and your City pop-up. It’s incredible what you've achieved since you started only a few years ago. What do you think the secrets have been to your success?
Thank you so much. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that has helped us succeed but there are a few elements that really stand out to me. The first is timing, I started Deliciously Ella at the right moment, when people were looking for what I was providing and it was one of the only platforms that was sharing these kinds of recipes and wellness content. The second is the people I work with – I really believe you’re only as good as the people around you and I feel very lucky to have such a great team behind Deliciously Ella. Having Matt, my husband and business partner, on board is particularly amazing – his knowledge of business has been so helpful and has allowed me to continue to drive the creative side of the brand. The third is passion, which I think is key to success in any area. I feel so lucky that I genuinely love what I do. While there's of course ups and downs and some days I do feel more stressed than I thought was possible, I would never trade what I do for anything. When you start a business you have to put all your time and energy into it, and be willing to put it above and beyond everything in your life and truly loving what you do makes those choices a lot easier. The final thing is bringing authenticity to it. Honesty and transparency have been two of my biggest mottos since I started Deliciously Ella and I continue to push that across everything we do, I think that’s helped us engage with our audience more and have a real relationship with them. The relationship with your audience and your customer ultimately drives everything, so it’s important to find a way to really invest in that.
How would you describe your food and lifestyle philosophy and has that changed at all since you started your blog?
My food philosophy has been pretty consistent since I started, with the focus being a celebration of delicious, natural food – showing that healthy eating can be interesting, vibrant and abundant. Too many people think healthy is about dieting and deprivation and I’m passionate about changing that, moving people away from iceberg lettuce with cucumber and grated carrots to a world of flavour and spice. Before starting Deliciously Ella I was a complete Haribo addict so switching to a plant based diet over night was not easy, but it massively helped my own health journey and I’ve found a new appreciation for cooking and sourcing great ingredients, which will stick with me forever.
What or who inspires you?
My mum is one of my biggest inspirations. She's always been someone who puts her heart into everything she does and I really try and embody that in everything I do – she’s been a huge support to me throughout my life and my career and was the one to really push me when I was starting Deliciously Ella, I don’t think I would have started it without her. When it comes to inspiration for food, I’m inspired by the flavours of other cuisines – I particularly love Indian, Peruvian and Middle Eastern Food. I’m massively inspired by great chefs like Ottolenghi and Anna Jones too.
What role does training play in your life?
To be honest, not much as I’d like at the moment as things have been so so busy! I do find working out really helps to clear my head though, so I try to do a session a few times a week before I start my day. I love yoga, spin, boxing and I’m keen to get into weights too.
What’s your favourite form of training?
I always have the most fun spinning and feel the most energised after – I love the loud music and great energy in the class. It really helps me clear my head and let go of stress.
You’ve just launched an energy ball and a protein ball. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
The two new flavours follow the same ethos as our original three recipes, so they're made with just 6 natural ingredients - all of which you can find in a supermarket or your cupboard at home. The Coconut & Oat Energy Ball is a real winner. It's the first recipe of ours to be seed based rather than nut based, and then it has chewy coconut pieces and sweet dates. It's definitely an office favourite at the moment. We've also got our new Almond & Blueberry Protein Ball, which is our first protein ball, so we’re really excited to share it. It’s got 8g of veggie protein, and a lovely blueberry flavour.
We often hear from clients that they struggle to choose wisely when eating out. What are your top tips?
It really depends on you and your lifestyle – I don’t think there’s ever a one size fits all with these kinds of things. I love trying new things when I’m out and enjoying that time with friends and family. As a veggie I find it exciting to see how many interesting veggie and vegan options are popping up on restaurant menus at the moment and how accommodating the staff is usually willing to be.
How do you keep the menus at the Deli interesting?
We rotate the menu a lot so that each week we've always got a delicious selection of seasonal salads available. At the moment I can't get enough of our Black Rice salad with Squash, Aubergine and Orange Wedges – it tastes amazing with our pequillo pepper hummus, our maple roasted sweet potatoes and our butterbean falafels. Our head chef Alan is an unbelievably talented man when it comes to combining flavours and I feel really lucky to get to work with him on the deli menu.
What ingredients do you love to use at this time of year?
We've got tons of wild rocket growing in our Deliciously Ella Garden in Exchange Square at the moment, which we love incorporating into our dishes as it's just so fresh and flavourful. Herbs do particularly well at this time of year too so we're really taking advantage of that at the moment and add them to everything!
And finally, you’ve led the wellness revolution in London, what’s next for Deliciously Ella?
That's so kind of you to say that, thank you so much. I honestly get so much of my inspiration from the amazing people around me. At the moment our big focus is expanding our product range, as we'd love to be at the forefront of natural foods in supermarkets. We see a lot of potential for growth in this space and we've got some exciting new products launching this summer, so keep an eye on our social channels for news!
Quick fire round…
Describe yourself in 3 words
Over-enthusiastic, loyal, passionate
Favourite activewear brand?
I must admit I've got quite the collection of Lululemon, but I do love supporting smaller brands too.
Favourite hidden gem in London?
Our new deli in Herne Hill. It's the cosiest location and the neighbourhood is really excited to have us. Our local Indian is a real gem too!
City dwelling or country living?
Both? While I love our busy city life there's nothing better than going to see Matt's parents in the country – I love going up there to sleep, enjoy the quiet and take long walks outdoors with our dog, Austin.
Hiit or pilates?
Your perfect summer evening consists of….
A warm sunny evening sitting outside with a big feast, Matt, Austin and lots of our friends is the dream
What couldn’t you live without?
Matt and I are totally obsessed with our dog Austin, I think we’d struggle to live without him – he’s the centre of our world really! We call him King Austin, because everything revolves around him. Matt even made him his very own Instagram (mr_austin_mills), before we know he’ll probably have way more followers than Deliciously Ella!
What’s the one piece of advice you’ve been given in life that’s rung true the most?
‘You get back what you put in’ – the more time, love, energy and passion you put into anything in your life the more you’ll get out of it.