With a shared love for Soya flat whites, blogging and all things Vegan, I jumped at the chance to meet the wonderful Vlogger, cake baker and recipe maker Leila Buffery for a coffee and chat. As we are both living in Brighton; to our surprise we live on the same road in fact, we were only a stones throw away from our favourite hangout spot at Small Batch.
Sipping on our coffee and chatting like never before, I almost lost track of the purpose of our meet up. The questions soon came flooding back to me and I quizzed Leila on her Vegan journey and what the future may hold.
When did you first become Vegan?
‘I became Vegan about 2 and a half years ago and I was Veggie for a year before that. I did it super slowly, trying out being Vegetarian but still ate meat sometimes if I really wanted it. I loved meat so much. Dairy was easy to give up, but meat was a lot harder’.
I see that Sam, your partner, has been Vegan for more than 3 years, did that have an affect on you going from Vegetarian to Vegan?
‘That is what really spurred it on for me, I was already on that path anyway but being with Sam made me realise that this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be and once you have it in your head of how to replace things, it is easy!’
How did your family react about you going Vegan?
‘I told my mum first that I was going Veggie and she couldn’t believe it. Her reaction was ‘let’s see how long it lasts’ and ‘Do you think it’s a phase?’ But as I stayed Veggie for 6 months when Sam and I first got together, she wasn’t surprised when I turned Vegan. My dad however had a unique reaction of telling everyone the same story; ‘this girl here used to fight me for the last piece of chicken on a roast dinner!’ But now he says “I respect what you’re doing but for me I am a cave man: I see meat and I have to eat it”. On a positive note, my mum now will quite often choose a Veggie option when she goes out. She has been travelling for the past year, and when she was in Japan she was very aware of the meat over there, not knowing what it may be. So, she went Veggie whilst there and is now slowly eating more fish and less meat. She will regularly send me Vegan recipes and photos of dishes she has tried!’.
Wow quite a unique reaction! It is great that you have a positive support network though. At least living in Brighton, Veganism is easy and accessible. Where are your favourite places to eat?
‘Moshimo! I love Japanese food and love that they have vegan options. Their mock duck tastes like real duck! I also love Pho. They have big bowls of noodles in a soup with loads of Veg. If I want something sweet then it will be Infinity Foods Kitchen, particularly something different to what I make which is usually raw. And of course Wai Kika Moo Kau!’
Where would be your favourite place to eat outside of the UK?
‘The Bowl in Berlin. The food is outstanding. I had this Tempeh and If I had been blindfolded I would have said it was Bacon! So salty but so smoky.’
I must agree, The Bowl is an amazing restaurant! Definitely a place that Brighton is lacking. Did you go anywhere else whilst in Berlin?
‘We also went to Yoyo’s, a fast food Vegan place full of burger and fries. It had every kind of mock meat you could think of so it was right up my street. I had the “bacon” cheeseburger, and it was so tasty! It was like eating a better quality big mac!’
That sounds incredible, I am now getting hungry! What about coffee, where are your favourite coffee spots in Brighton?
‘Small Batch of course. But recently I visited Black Crow Coffee in Worthing. They make really exceptional coffee and they use local beans from the Horsham roastery’.
I must give it a try. Blogging from a coffee shop is such a great change of scene. When did you start your blog?
‘I originally started my blog in 2009, before I was Vegan. I just posted pictures of my food because I have always loved cooking. I only had 3 followers for the first 2 years. When I started typing up my recipes it began growing more, and now my other platforms, Youtube and Instagram have grown even further.’
Why did you start your Youtube Channel and your Vlogging? What inspired you?
‘I started watching Zoella because everyone was talking about her. I then began watching the suggested videos and realised that there is a whole life out there I did not know about! I love being in front of the camera, I don’t like being told what to do, so Youtube is perfect for me. I get to do all my own content. It is totally personal and I am thinking of content all of the time. I can’t remember the last time I was sitting there wondering what to do!’
Where do you see your Vlogging going?
‘I want to do it full time because I love it. I know that it is not particularly realistic as others have been doing it for years. I’m glad I have started doing it now as I am figuring out who I am and what I want to do. I am more educated and in a good position to see where it goes. The encouragement I get from people is outstanding. People are so lovely. This is why I do it. It is so rewarding that people are getting something from it. If I can get to the position where I can Vlog and make cakes then I’m set. I’d like to also do talks on depression and get to a point where I have turned my life so far around that I can help people’.
Tell me more about your cooking, what is your favourite meal to make?
‘It has to be Risotto! It is my go to meal. A really good mushroom Risotto is one of my favourites. Sometimes i’ll mix up the grains, using quinoa instead of arborio rice. I love a good one pot dish. My cooking is never particularly complex and I write my recipes for people who cannot cook. I like to make simple things that I can be involved in. If I use the oven the satisfaction can go out of the window. I like to be stirring so that I can switch off, be mindful and enjoy what I’m doing.’
If you were a contestant on Come Dine With Me, what would you make? Starter, main and dessert.
‘Inspired by a dish I had at food for friends, for starters I would make a deep fried breaded tofu dish with a sweet chilli dip. It is so simple. I would create a sharing platter, with avocado maki sushi so that everyone could get involved. For the main I would make a risotto. You cannot go wrong with that! Or I would make naked burgers, something like sweet potato and quinoa patties with sweet potato fries, a big salad with toasted pine nuts and grilled tofu. For the dessert I would make something a little bit naughty like my peanut butter mud pie. You create a brownie base, with added oreos if you fancy, that you undercook and mould into a dense base. Then make a peanut butter buttercream and melt like a ganache over the base. A “how-is-this-Vegan” kind of dessert!’
A well balanced selection of meals then! Speaking of well-balanced, do you take any B12 supplements?
‘I take one multivitamin everyday. I think I’m quite in tune with my body so I never feel like I am lacking anything. My diet is really balanced, I eat a lot of Nutritional Yeast and Marmite as they are foods that are fortified with B12. What many people don’t know is that most people who eat meat are deficient in B12 too as our bodies struggle to absorb it. It is something Ive never thought much about but would get checked out if I ever felt ill.’
I see you Vlog a lot about Vegan beauty products too. What are your favourite Cruelty-Free brands?
‘100% the B range at Superdrug. The foundation I am wearing today, highlighter and bronzer are a perfect mix of high and low class, It isn’t too expensive. Of course the Natural Collections exclusive to Boots and their £1.99 mascara! Recently I discovered Amie Skincare, a gentle, organic and cruelty free company. My mum sent me a load of stuff from them, as she is so into helping me and is so supportive. She will hear about a product and send me a link to it. I tried their face mask with mint (you can feel it really tingling on your skin), their face wash and amazing smelling moisturiser’.
Speaking of Cruelty-Free, I see that you and Sam support the work that Sea Shepherd do. Tell me a little more about that.
‘Sam is the UK ambassador for Sea Shepherd. If you’re vegan you suddenly look into these things. Sam does what he can from shore, giving talks, attending events that happen in Brighton. They fully understand that if the Ocean goes, we go. They are like Pirates but for the good of the ocean. I did a beach clean in Brighton last year and afterwards I felt so satisfied. You know that what you pick up won’t end up back in the sea harming the animals. I was there cleaning up needles on the beach too. There is a sense of satisfaction of physically doing something to help. My friend always says take three for the sea. When you leave the beach, take three pieces of rubbish with you’.
They truly do incredible work. I’d say you are both a Vegan power couple! So what next? What does the future hold for you?
‘I want to have a cookbook. Even if I have to keep working in a café, have my cookbook, and still be making people happy with my videos, whether I can make a living from it or not I will still be doing it anyway. I don’t think I’m gonna know when I’m 40. I’ll dip in and out of jobs. You don’t have to have one set thing you do. I think that is quite limiting. It can be really enriching changing jobs, learning different skills, meeting so many different people.You shouldn’t be doing anything unless its making your happy. Unhappiness is your bodys way of telling you to get out. It becomes so detrimental to their mental and physical health.’
I remember watching your ‘Getting Fired’ video, did that change things for the better?
‘I had a month and a half off from working. I was figuring out if it was ok to take a step back out of the kitchen and go back to making coffee. But in that time I also started my cake business and my Vlogging. Yes I still work in a café for 3 days, but everything has worked out for the best.’
You can find Leila here:
All photographs taken by Leila Buffery