John alongside his family outside the Crêpe VanJohn Fenton

On a rainy Thursday morning, I beamed via Zoom directly into a pastel blue van on Sidney Street, the home of Cambridge Crêpes, to speak to John Fenton, the founder of the business. John greeted me with the perennial smile he wears to work every day, which never left his face throughout the interview. As he was just setting up shop for a day’s crêpe-making, one can only imagine he kept that smile all day.

What brings John so much joy? The glint in his eye as he told me why he started his business indicated the first thing: his love of crêpes. In the late ’90s, John noticed that one man’s stall at a food market had an hour-long queue. “All I saw was steam coming up from this miniature stall, but the smell as I got closer was just breathtaking.” John queued for an hour to taste his first ever crêpe — Nutella, banana, and nuts — and instantly knew that if crêpes could taste that good, and if people were willing to queue for hours for them, then his future was in the crêpe business.

“The biggest thing for me is the fact that I can work with my wife”

After visiting a crêperie in Covent Garden, John phoned the owner and asked if he would help train him and his wife, Jenny. “He was taught by some very experienced people who had their crêperies in Brittany — the home of crêpes.” After an initial consultation, which lasted 7 hours, and many, many more hours of lessons, John launched Cambridge Crêpes. That was in 2009, and ever since then a plethora of crêpe-craving celebrities have visited the humble van on the corner. “We’ve served Ronnie O’Sullivan, Frankie Dettori, we’ve had some lovely visits from Molly-Mae’s family”. He’s even catered private events for the ruler of Dubai. Whenever a celebrity visits, John, Jenny and the team “all get a little bit childish, a bit excited”, but they never ‘dessert’ their most important customers.


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At this point in the interview, I had surmised that the recipe for John’s happiness is making crêpes all day, alongside giving back to the community, sprinkled with the occasional celebrity visit. However, when I decided to directly ask John where his infectious positivity comes from, I discovered that I was unaware of the most important ingredient. “The biggest thing for me is the fact that I can work with my wife. It means we have an extra third of our lifetime together. We’ve been together for 20 years [running the business together for nearly 14]... we’ve grown even closer working together. I could be not making crêpes, doing something that was less fun, but if I was working with Jenny, my smile would still be here.”

The crucial ingredient in John’s life is his family, and Cambridge Crêpes truly is a family business — his son Matthew worked at the van for 6 years, and his daughter Luci has worked there for 7. The family dynamic they have built up is the reason why John isn’t planning on expanding Cambridge Crêpes into a franchise. “We’ve considered it time and time again, we’ve been flown round the world to Dubai, to the States, to look at being bought out or being affiliated with other entrepreneurs.” The reason why he decided against it, and why neither Girton, Robinson nor Fitzwilliam will see a pastel blue crêpe van near them in the near future, is that “Jenny would be at one site, [John]’d be at another… those pieces that fell beautifully together will all be moved apart”.