• Leon’s earliest memories are centred around food, a buzz of energy, everyone around the table with big plates in the middle. Even when the budget was stretched, the family ethos was that there is always enough to share and the first question, to any guest, was always: would you like something to eat?

    Born in Maastricht in the Netherlands, Leon loved to eat (his mother is an amazing cook). Initially, he was less than enthusiastic about cooking. However, he surprised himself when, on a hotel management course, despite dreading the cooking module, he immediately loved it. In the end he stayed for over 15 years!

    At only 26, Leon had his own fine dining restaurant. Two years later, some of the best chefs in the world came to eat at his place. Still only 28, the chefs unanimously agreed that Leon was better than them (at that age). After Leon sold the business, he went on to become a head chef at the Dutch equivalent of the Ivy, owned by the celebrated Dutch chef, Keith Floyd.

    Drawn to England and already married to an English woman, Leon built his food sourcing business in the UK from just a suitcase, and one custom storage unit, to being the number one sourcer of quality food products - a very niche industry. Leon had grown the team to 25 and the turnover to £3m from nothing in 5 years.

    In 2007, Leon was 41 years old and feeling unfulfilled and that the way of doing business went against his values. He decided to close the business. In 2009, he launched a charity helping children in developing countries, through a scheme of matching, so that every time someone in the UK bought a meal, they’d be providing one to somebody in a developing country too. [READ more]

    Now divorced, Leon also continued consulting, until in 2015, he saw on TV the number of refugees showing up on the Greek islands. He knew immediately that he wanted to help. The next month, Leon found himself standing in ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais (France) supporting his friend Jonathan, for what he assumed would be for a period of two to three weeks. They started cooking a few hundred meals every day, within a week, they were cooking 1,100 meals - three a day. In April 2016, half the camp was demolished and Leon handed the venture over and began trying to earn money again. [WATCH Leon's TEDx: The Power of Sharing a Meal - insights from Calais Refugee Camp]

    Leon says:

    “Sharing a meal, bringing people around a table, has the potential to create better understanding and break down barriers.”

    With the pandemic looming, Leon felt compelled to do in London what he had done in Calais. Leon reached out on Facebook and a kitchen was found a few days later on the first day of lockdown. They started cooking on the 25th. Two weeks later, they were cooking 2,500 meals a day with a team of volunteers, many of whom were chefs. In May 2021 until March 2023, Leon joined the Felix Project, building a permanent kitchen in Poplar, east London. They cooked 3,500 - 4,000 meals a day, over 100,000 meals in one month, with surplus food and no menu during the pandemic. [READ more]

    Leon’s belief is a spiritual one underpinned by intuition. He has been through many failures in his life as well as having successes. These have taught him to be comfortable with the things he doesn’t know and is not good at. He’s also learnt that if you have a vision that is so big it inspires people, and you do not waver, people trust you.

    It has been many years since Leon decided he had to stop business and start becoming Leon, working to fully understand himself, and starting to give back. Having identified his niche as filling the cup for others, he knows that happiness is not what is on your business card or in your bank account, rather it is within - inner peace is more important.


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