Next month, The Thames Club will introduce Breakfast by Bella, a new and exciting local company passionate about delicious, healthy food. Although the focus is on breakfast, at The Thames Club, Jess, the founder, and her husband Oliver, will be providing a full range of healthy bites, delicious and nutritious at any time of the day.
Here we talk to Jess about her reasons for starting the company and why she is so excited to be coming to The Thames Club.
Why are you passionate about healthy breakfasts?
Breakfast has become the meal that I love most because since working in an office environment, I realised how little I can actually function without a morning meal inside me. Most of us lead hectic lifestyles these days and breakfast can often be neglected. I truly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it is the first meal and should therefore be one that energises the body for the day ahead. Since making my own granola and breakfast jars, I recognised how long the meal actually kept me going for – I found myself not feeling hungry again until lunchtime. So many people are often trying to lose weight, fix a health problem or generally eat well, but a good breakfast is often overlooked. This is why I am passionate about a healthy breakfast in particular.
My breakfasts used to range from being bought on the go from national chains or buying cereal from a supermarket and simply adding milk at the office. It was from this I realised how many unnecessary, processed ingredients are generally added to food. I think people’s perceptions of a healthy breakfast can sometimes vary. Since comparing my own homemade breakfasts to many on the go options and cereal, my version of a healthy breakfast is something that contains recognisable, natural and nutritious ingredients. I have noticed that the benefit of this is a breakfast that is far more flavoursome, filling and releases energy slowly so that the meal actually lasts the morning. This is exactly what Breakfast by Bella sells and promotes. Since realising the difference I can make, I have become more passionate about a healthy breakfast because of the education I can provide through Breakfast by Bella.
What is your background and where does your inspiration and motivation come from?
I was born in London, bred in Cornwall and, since leaving university, I seem to have lived everywhere. I am extremely proud to be half Maltese, but pure Brit at heart. I set up my company, Breakfast by Bella, in late 2016. I am a budding entrepreneur with a tenacious spark who believes in living life to the absolute max!
As a child, I was a bit of bowling ball. Unfortunately, this developed to an insecurity by the time I hit my teens. By the age of 13, I pretty much lived off apples, I went through a phase of checking all nutritional information on the back of every single food item I ate and I wouldn’t go to bed without doing my sit ups, weights and star jumps. By 17, this had changed. I inevitably started partying like every student should. It turned out that the 3am drunken munchies (typically kebabs) and the frequent Macdonald’s were worse than I had realised. I discovered this when my Mum and Step-Dad had to take me to A&E. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk. I could hardly even move. X-rays showed that I was literally full to the brim with undigested junk. Sure enough I was diagnosed with IBS.
After moving to Europe in my early twenties, I adopted a healthier lifestyle; the fruit and veggies were locally produced and the food was generally less processed than the UK. However, I suffered further health issues. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, I was suspected to suffer from endometriosis and I have had endless problems with ovarian cysts. The real turning point was when I was re-tested for polycystic ovary syndrome about a year after my return to the UK. Shortly before the retest, I had significantly cut down on sugar. The re-test showed that my hormone levels had balanced back to a normal range and I was not considered to have polycystic ovary syndrome anymore. The doctor confirmed that it was probably healthy eating that helped this. This hit home massively. For the first time I realised, you truly are what you eat. So many people eat healthy because of their weight, but do you ever ask yourself what is going on inside of your body?
With influences and inspirers like Jamie Oliver (my kitchen hero), Joe Wicks and Deliciously Ella, I soon started to realise what food really is. In my opinion, it is not calorie counting and it certainly should not be a worry; it is a lifestyle. Slowly but surely, I found myself changing my eating habits. I was no longer worrying about fat and I stopped eating refined sugar and processed food. Due to further gynaecological issues, I found myself adoring more wholesome, plant based food as I adopted a vegan diet 3 days a week. I am not a full-time vegan but I now observe it most of the time. The bottom line: I have never felt better and I truly believe that food can be your medicine.
What was the trigger that made you give up your stable job as a lawyer to follow your dream and work full time on Breakfast By Bella?
The trigger that ultimately pushed me over the point of no return was the overwhelming response from all my customers and clients. I honestly had no idea that my granola would be this popular. We have found that the Breakfast by Bella wave has grown and grown without any rest bite. The real turning point, when my husband and I looked at each other and thought “wow”, was when we were baking and practically selling out the very next day. From that point we both knew that this was going to be our future.
What makes Breakfast by Bella unique?
The way in which the product was developed and the way the whole business came about is what makes it unique…it was the perfect accident!
The breakfast jars came into the picture in July 2016. It was around that time I completely cut refined sugar from my diet; the odd chocolate bar from the shop turned into making my own raw chocolate at home. At this point, what I ate was very much a lifestyle and intended for Breakfast by Bella to be an Instagram blog. However, I was making granola at home and I found this to be an enjoyable part of the jar. One Sunday afternoon, I made my first batch of Peanut Butter Me Up as an experiment. Both my husband and I loved it so much that we ate the whole lot; I had to make more for breakfast. A week later, I made an extra breakfast jar for a friend, who I also worked with, and included the Peanut Butter Me Up granola. She loved it so much that she actually yelped loudly in the middle of the office and told me it was “food porn”. The granola developed from there. It has now become the very first part of a long line of plans.
In addition to the story, the unique flavours, the rustic nature of the products and high quality ingredients is what I believe makes the products unique.
At The Thames Club you will be providing far more than just breakfast. What type of delicious bites can members expect to see on the menu?
Think ingredients that are fresh, local and healthy…favourites first thing and throughout the day.
Our ever-popular Breakfast Jars (creamy yoghurt, fresh succulent fruit and our trademark granola, baked right on the premises); sizzling bacon in crusty rolls; eggs (fried, poached, scrambled or boiled (to suit your precise tastes) served atop the best rustic door-stop toast; mouth-watering avocado served on sourdough toast, topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper and chilli flakes; anti pasti served with artisan bread; a selection of fresh and delicious salads; jacket sweet potatoes.
Smoothie Bowls and Milkshakes. Carefully-chosen teas and coffees to suit all preferences, including matcha and superfood lattes. Protein shakes and smoothies and all things nomilicious, fresh from our kitchen and sourced from top-class partners and suppliers.
We’re hard at work finalising our bespoke and original menu and are REALLY looking forward to opening our doors to The Thames Club members.
What excited you about the opportunity to set up Breakfast by Bella at The Thames Club?
I think this is best answered by what didn’t excite us by the opportunity of setting up at The Thames Club!
We had worked in collaboration with The Thames Club for a few months to which our granola and breakfast jars had really grown in popularity. When we found out about the possibility of working in collaboration with The Thames Club, we were over the moon. Not only are the members and staff wonderful, but they have also been extremely welcoming.
Setting up Breakfast by Bella at The Thames Club is also a perfect opportunity to grow the brand. Having a deli, a kitchen and contact with the members, will help increase our granola production, allow us to create new products and test them.
We absolutely love The Thames Club and hop ethat as the partnership flourishes we will triumph together.
What is your recommendation for a quick – pre-workout breakfast?
I absolutely love cacao, so I would recommend frozen banana mixed with cacao, protein powder, almond butter, spinach and topped with Peanut Butter Me Up granola…yum!
This is super quick and easy to make, as you simply blitz all ingredients in a blender, except the granola of course, which goes on top.
Where else is are Breakfast by Bella products available?
At present, our products are available through online sources including our website. NoshPod, TheFoodMarket.com, Amazon. We are also available off the shelf at Fenwick Newcastle and The Pantry (West Byfleet).
We are growing and speaking to more retailers, so I would advise people to keep on the lookout and follow our social media for further updates.
What are your ambitions for the brand over the next five years?
My goal is to make Breakfast by Bella a leading breakfast and free form brand. In five years, I aim to see a wide range of Breakfast by Bella products in major supermarkets including Waitrose and Sainsbury’s as well as luxury retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges and health food stores like Holland and Barratt. I also want to be distributing our products internationally.
I would also like to expand our deli provision, opening deli’s across the UK.
For me Breakfast by Bella is a lifestyle as well as a product. The ethos is based on the idea on eating natural, clean foods and I would therefore like to see people adopting the Breakfast by Bella ethos within their own diets, for example, making breakfast jars to take to work (using our granola of course)!
Your name is Jess yet the brand references Bella. What is the connection?
My maiden name is Jessica Vella, and my husband’s nick name for me was Jeesabella, then just Bella and each morning he would say….”What’s for breakfast Bella” so we took that and thought it sounded good.
Breakfast with Bella will be arriving at The Thames Club mid-December. In the meatime, check out our website to find out more.