A former nanny, a classically trained musician, a RADA-trained stage and screen actress who also trained as a boxer, a graduate in spacecraft engineering and a former prison officer. They are just a few of a new generation of ‘mad busy’ vegan cheesemakers catering to a new generation of British dairy ditchers and lovers of vegan cultured artisanal cheese.
Before setting up Haringey’s Honestly Tasty, Mike Moore studied spacecraft engineering at the Southampton University and worked for NatWest in the city before giving up his corporate job to become a part time-kitchen fitter and aspiring cheesemonger. He is now full-time with his sister, Beth, who worked as a prison officer at HMP Pentonville in the ‘Unlocked’ grad scheme.
“In January 2018, I gave Veganuary a go” says Mike, 31. “Determined to fully adopt a vegan lifestyle, but not willing to settle for the plant-based cheeses available, I went to Berlin – then at the forefront of plant-based cheesemaking- to study. Then at the Karamel/Maad cafe in north London.
“Back home my weird-smelling experiments ended up in a flatmate’s fridge. My Granny Joyce kindly donated her spare room. Our blue was created in her kitchen and then we move into a former chocolate factory near Wood Green station.”
Camden’s ‘Mouse’s Favourite’ cheesery was founded by Jersey-born Gabrielle Le Cocq in 2016. She explains: “I was experimenting for around five years before I decided to try selling the cheeses. When we made our first ‘Camembert Style’ in 2016 it was an instant best-seller. We were contacted by a French online shop called The Vegan Shop who wanted us to supply them and from there we soon selling a range of products to shops in Europe. Our first retailer in the UK was GreenBay who fortuitously opened around the same time as us.
“Our blue cheese recently won a gold award in the best cheese category at the Free From Food Awards, and our Vegan Gold butter alternative won the silver award in the Best Milk Product Alternatives category.”
B.C. (before cheese), Le Cocq used to commission large scale public art and worked in an educational TV production company.
Former private nanny, Ellie Brown, who is based in Weston-super-Mare, has the Kinda Co. Smoked Farmhouse which boasts a rich smoked flavour with the base of a traditional farmhouse cheese block. Minko Parmigiani’s Palace Culture based in Crystal Palace, produces smoke carrot lox and almond ricotta. Educated in Peru and Venezuela, he is a former motion graphics designer and art director who got into cheese when his son was diagnosed with dairy intolerance.
Father and daughter Maurelio and Ellora Torchias run Islington’s The Arty Vegan range. Born in Calabria, Maurelio trained as a chef in Switzerland and learned to make tofu in Japan.
Ellora’s career path wasn’t so smooth, she explains: “I wanted to be a long-distance runner, then a florist, then a visual artist, then a dancer, then a boxer. Then I found acting.” Ellora has starred The Split, Beowulf and Indian Summer.
“It began with my father’s vision of making and selling tofu, but it grew and is still growing into a far greater opportunity to have the conversations I have wanted to have for a long time. About waste, food and its impact, and trying to find sustainable solutions.
“I love taking a plant and finding ways to use every last bit. Whether roasting the pips of grapefruit and blitzing them to use as a powder, or boiling borage leaves to make oil.”
Their range includes Umbeboshi Soft White Scheese, Miso Brie-so, Burnt Ash and Sake lees.
Ami Deane launched Tyne Chease back in 2014 when she was 24 after completing a business management degree. She says: “I am a lifelong vegan who is passionate about giving vegans the opportunity of enjoying amazing cheese boards again. I grew up around the world as my parents worked for the World Bank and UN.”
Her company makes Cashew Bert and Za’atar Spice and produced the country’s first nut-based cheese.
Nutcrafter, Glasgow’s creamery and faux fromagerie makes aged garlic, seaweed and chive cashew chevre. “Sparkling wine or rosé pair well with our Indulgentbut also sweet whites like Sauternes or Moscatos work well too,” says co-founder and classical musician Francesco Accolla, who boasts a doctoral Fellowship in music composition from University of Michigan.
Adds the other half of the team, Aimee Jackson, originally from Pittsburgh: “Our Rebellious garlic goes well with Tempranillo and Grenache wines, as well as an Alsatian Gewürztraminer or Muscat.”
Honestly Tasty’s Michael Moore recommends an ocean-friendly Sea Change Merlot with his Shamembert and their Puglian Chardonnay with his Vegnazola. Says the former space student: “At university my favourite thing to study was the design of stealth aircraft and propulsion systems but the only connection to cheese-making is having an analytical approach.”