Say cheese! For our latest edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to Amy Elkhoury, the founder of homegrown plant-based cheese company Nuteese. Amy is a plant-based chef whose passion for all things veggie led her to create her very own range of aged artisanal vegan cheeses, hand-crafted from activated and fermented nuts.
We chat with Amy about the challenges of making plant-based cheese, how she incorporates sustainability into her products and why she sees herself as 50 shades of green.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
I’m the founder of Nuteese; we make artisanal, aged, plant-based cheeses that are fermented and made from activated nuts. My goal is to make Nuteese accessible to more people, whether or not they’re plant-based!
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
Becoming vegan made me realise that animal factory farms and industrial meat and dairy production are not sustainable – which gave me yet another important reason to follow a plant-based diet.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
My best eco habit is that my diet is fully plant-based and I’m always careful not to waste any food. As for my not-so-green one, I’d love for Hong Kong to have proper recycling and composting facilities like those in Canada, where I’m from – it’s much more ingrained as a household habit there.
I’d also like to minimise single-use plastics more, so I offer a discount to any customers who return the plastic containers from our Peace in the Middle East labneh-style spread.
4. Fave eco brands?
5. Fave veggie dish in Hong Kong?
I really like the Pine Wrap from Treehouse – which is made with Peace in the Middle East – and their polenta fries. I also recently launched our burrata-style Nuts For Mozz cheese at a special Happiness Factory brunch at The Sheung Wan by Ovolo and I was super impressed with Chef Raul’s veggie dishes there too.
6. What are some of the biggest challenges you faced when trying to create plant-based cheese? How long does the process take?
One of my biggest challenges was creating a cheese that is equally healthy and delicious, and also appeals to non-plant-based consumers. In Hong Kong, the humidity is also a big factor, so I have to monitor the temperature and humidity really carefully during the cheese ageing process.
Each Nuteese wheel takes 24 days to make – from activating the nuts to fermenting, to the daily ageing and caring for each wheel, to flipping them and finally wrapping them. Each flavour of Nuteese goes through an extensive process of testing and tasting; everything is made from scratch, and I try to source my ingredients locally wherever possible.
7. Aside from being plant-based, what other ways does Nuteese incorporate sustainability?
I ensure that there is minimal waste throughout the production process. For instance, as every wheel of cheese is created by hand, some of them aren’t shaped quite perfectly – but since the taste and quality is the same, I’ll cut these up to be used in Nuteese cheese board platters instead!
8. Finally, what shade of green are you and why?
I’m 50 shades of green because I simply can’t choose just one! But really, the more I see what is happening to the planet, the greener I become.
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