SHE cooked up one of the most popular food blogs in the world and wrote Britain’s biggest-selling debut recipe book.
With a number one app, four more cookbooks, 16 language translations, a deli and a new supermarket range, Deliciously Ella is one of social media’s biggest success stories.
But the worldwide phenomenon all started in student accommodation in St Andrews six years ago, when Ella Mills was at her lowest ebb.
So when she returns to Scotland next week on a book tour promoting her latest bestselling book, The Plant-Based Cookbook, it will bring back lots of memories.
“Everything started in Scotland, so it’s great to come back,” 27-year-old Ella said.
“I spent four years at St Andrews studying history of art and I loved it. And my husband’s parents grew up in Scotland, so we have a lot of affinity with the place.”
But it wasn’t all fun and laughter at university for Ella. In 2011 she was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, which had a profound effect on her physical and mental well-being.
The condition meant her nervous system failed to function properly and she couldn’t control her heart rate or blood pressure. She was in constant pain, had lots of allergic reactions and chronic fatigue, sleeping for 16 hours a day.
“I was on medication for a year but it didn’t work,” she continued. “I was really struggling.
“My mental health was at rock bottom and I felt I had to do something. I’d been doing a lot of reading and decided to completely overhaul my diet.”
The self-confessed sugar monster gave up meat, gluten, dairy, sugar and all processed foods – and began to see significant changes.
“I was quite sceptical, but it felt like I had nothing to lose,” she admitted. “I moved to a plant-based diet overnight. I knew I wouldn’t do it unless I committed to it and I really wanted my health back.
“I saw my energy levels improve and things began to stabilise. It was gradual changes along the way.
“It’s a great lesson, to take one step at a time. I still can’t believe it and at times I do reflect on everything that’s happened.”
There was one small problem in the early days. She was a complete novice in the kitchen.
“I could make a plate of pasta, but that was it. I didn’t cook, but I really wanted to try this, and that’s where the blog came in.”
Ella began writing about her struggles, both with her health and in the kitchen, as she tried to adapt to this new way of eating and living. To her surprise, the blog took off.
With more than 110 million hits in the last three years alone, its success led to a series of cookbooks, a London deli and a range of energy balls that are available in shops around the country.
Ella the person had become Ella the brand, and it took some getting used to.
“It felt odd – especially in the beginning,” she continued. “This was never the intention of the blog – it just grew organically.
“And then people started talking about me rather than to me, and that was a strange feeling.
“It took a moment to get used to it, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Ella, daughter of Tory-turned-Labour politician Shaun Woodward, married the late MP Tessa Jowell’s son, Matthew Mills, two years ago.
They are also business partners and Ella admits she finds it hard to switch off – a world away from being unable to get out of bed just a few years ago.
“I do allow it be 24/7,” Ella said. “I still run all of our social media, as it’s the cornerstone of our business. Our community is our foundation, so I’m always keen to answer everyone’s questions.”
Her latest book contains 100 of the recipes that have been served in the deli, as Ella continues to persuade the British public to eat more fruit and veg.
“Only about a quarter of the population have their five a day and we need to start incorporating it more into our diets,” she insisted.
“Anything we make has to be enjoyable. I want people to include fruit and vegetables in what they eat, make it satisfying, because there are preconceptions that it is boring.
“I know we are all different and lead different lives, so it has to be approachable to everyone and anyone.
“If you want to dip in and out, that’s fine. I don’t like labels to be put on things or to be categorised. It’s not a fad diet.”
There’s no let up for Deliciously Ella.
“We’ve just launched a podcast series and later this month we have a range of natural ready meals, with no preservatives or additives, going into supermarkets,” she added. “It’s all been incredibly exciting but definitely a whirlwind.”
Ella is at The Roxy Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, and Waterstones, Sauchiehall St, Glasgow, on Sept 24 and 25.