By Rachel Oates, The Community Foundation for Calderdale
Following a Dream and Living with Passion
Having been taught to cook by her Mother and grandmother, Leila has always had a passion food so when she wanted to fulfil a lifeline dream of opening a café, her Husband encouraged her to go for it and resigned from his job as operation director of an immigration firm to work with her too.
“I wanted to have this for myself and prove that you can do whatever you set your mind to” and in October 2019 they opened Leila’s Café in Hebden Bridge. Describing it as a “fun adventure” she spent her days cooking vegetarian food, her passion and connection with her ingredients obvious as she whips up lots of different tasty dishes bursting with flavour. A strong and assertive woman who knows what she wants, is probably most vulnerable when her Husband tastes her food. “I don’t weigh or measure ingredients, I cook from the heart so I wait with baited breath when I ask my Husband to try a dish and critique it. Once he has sampled a mouthful, I don’t need him to utter a single word; I can tell from the reaction on his face if it is a winner or not.”
“All of my food is cooked with love and I get such a warm intrinsic satisfaction from seeing the look on people’s faces knowing they are enjoying the food I’ve made for them.”
Opening a new business is pretty daunting, but when the floods hit their café in Feberurary 2020, the couple were devastated. “Our basement was completely flooded and that is where our fridges and freezers and all other appliances were kept so all of our stock was gone and we were closed for 10 days. We were in shock, but the local community were amazing. We were too upset and didn’t know where to start to clear up, but people just walked through our door and started helping us. They were a massive mental support too and their kindness was amazing and they gave us energy to plough through. We got a grant from The Community Foundation for Calderdale to help us get back on our feet.”
The café had nearly got back to normal and then Coronavirus hit the UK and had to close for 8-10 weeks.
Leila explained, “We lost income, but at the end of the day we were more worried about health of our community. I just thought that we have been through so much already, we can get through anything.”
“We tentatively reopened selling takeaway food only and then Laura Beesley from We Grow Together approached us. We Grow Together is a community group that supports the social and emotional well being of refugees and asylum seekers and during lock down they had seen a downturn in the income they received from donations. As part of Refugee Week she asked if we would be interested in partnering with them to make the most meals we have ever made and to split the profits. We do outside catering and people can have a part in our café, but we had never made 150 meals before. The whole operation went very smoothly, but I’m very organised, we have a great team around us and am accepting and trust that I can only try my best.”