The Future of Dairy is Vegan
by M. Katrin Daria
Since the Los Angeles store opened in 2014, Vromage grew wings. It is now serving US, Europe and Canada. With global temperature rise and current climate crisis, the future of dairy is vegan.
With a wide selection of gourmet vegan cheeses, Vromage stands out as the leading choice of gourmet cheese world-wide, offering consumers an array of tongue pleasing, aromatic, delicate product.
Fans of animal based dairy will be pleased to learn Vromage is remarkably similar in taste (if not better) to dairy cheese, yet, unlike animal based dairy, Vromage is made of only healthy ingredients, and – unlike other vegan cheeses on the market today – oil free.
The exceptionally creamy vegan brie tastes, looks and smells like a dream, satisfying the most finicky cheese connoisseur. Vromage ricotta has a very rich texture – a definite must for all ricotta recipes. While animal based pate makes little contribution to consumer health, and the process involves extreme cruelty to animals (force-feeding duck until his liver explodes) Vromage fois-gras satisfies customers with exceptional gourmet flavor, remaining cruelty free.
Youssef Vromage was born in Beirut Lebanon. He is one of seventeen siblings, and credits his mother with great cooking skills. “Having kids in the house, my mom was consciously creating new flavors. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a child, helping my mother and my sister dice vegetables or stir a big pot of milk on the stove, when we made yogurt. Meat was only used to flavor the dish. Most of the time it was just bone, not meat. She hardly cooked meat, because meat was expensive. We were a large family and we often had guests. Our door was open to neighbors, friends and family for lunch or dinner. We ate a Mediterranean diet, which is more vegetarian, than vegan, but we were not consciously eating mostly grains, beans or vegetables.”
Of the seventeen siblings, several Fakhouri brothers are chefs. One in London, two in Miami, and Youssef runs Vromage in Los Angeles, CA. “I began to formally train at fourteen years of age. I moved to Casablanca to help my sister at her French patisserie.” Several other French restaurant jobs followed, until Youssef moved to United States, obtaining work in Denver, then, San Francisco in 1978 and Sausalito, where he took a job at a five star restaurant – Le Vivoir. There, Youssef married the owner’s daughter and soon the two welcomed daughter, Bahiye.
Eventually, the couple divorced. Youssef continued French cuisine at Café Picaso, but soon stepped away from the kitchen when he moved to New York, immersing himself in the world of high class auctions Sotheby’s and Christie’s, while traveling the world.
During a New Year’s Eve at James Costa’s house in Los Angeles, Youssef’ helped a friend cater a dinner party, introducing his vegan cheese recipe that completely fooled the guests with it’s impeccable taste. The successful evening gave birth to Vromage. Today, at his Los Angeles shop, Mr. Vromage wears all the hats, greeting clients, making cheese, ringing in sales and in his free time, Youssef experiments with new ideas.
To learn more about the man behind the curd, Vromage’s artisan cheese maker shares his thoughts with us:
What makes Vromage gourmet?
“Vromage discovered the cheese carries the origin of the nut, just like great vine. Macadamia, cashews, almond, and pine nut make creamier cheese with better texture. No use of oils, soy, miso, or fillers. I allow the flavor of the ingredients take over. I’m a food connoisseur of French, Italian, Mediterranean, and North African cuisine. I am always seeking high-end ingredients. Organic macadamia, organic almond, organic cashews, and organic seeds as well as fresh truffles from all seasons. Using common or uncommon ingredients in a creative way with passion is what makes Vromage gourmet. I love what I do. Each day I look forward to work. I make different cheeses, different flavors and my clientele is always intrigued by the variety. I sell out everyday. I keep running out of cheese! If I’m not making the cheese I’m already selling, I spend my day experimenting with new ideas. Cheese has become my life. I begin at eight in the morning and my day ends around eight at night. My life is devoted to the cheese making.”
Which Vromage is your personal favorite?
I love the ricotta, the Taleggio and goat. It used to be Gorgonzola. Roquefort. I like them all, but those three I find easy to eat and cook with. What is my favorite way to serve my cheese? I serve them cold.
Do you dehydrate?
I do not dehydrate. Ingredients combined together lose their nutritional value, and take away from the taste, once dehydrated. I air dry cheese, not dehydrate. Do you plan on keeping the cheese hand-made and local? I want keep it quality. Not necessary everything is hand made, but I avoid processing and preservatives. I like to expand the same as other good brands, for example, Rolls Royce or Ferrari. You do not find them in every car lot, they maintain the quality and prestige. Vromage is quality and prestige brand.
Why is that important to you instead of filling every distributor’s demand?
Vromage is recognized as high-end vegan cheese. I am known for quality, because I use the best, most expensive ingredients. I plan to make about three different styles of cheeses available in stores, but not all seventeen. The truffles I use are the best, and freshest available in season. They come directly from Italy. Packed with fiber, healthy fats and vital micro nutrients, Vromage cheese is healthier than the processed cheeses on the market.
When was the last time you took a vacation?
I keep thinking about taking a vacation. Five years ago I traveled to Switzerland to tour Gruyere, the cheese country. I visited the factory to see the cheese being made. My last business trip was also a pleasure trip. I was invited by the Rolls Royce and Bentley club members, who offered me the chance to introduce Vromage at their luxury resort. The best part was that the members of the club were hardly vegan, but they loved Vromage! Vromage offers unique, healthy, organic, daily handmade vegan cheese. I invented the name Vromage in 2010 with my daughter, who is half French. V for vegan and the French word for cheese – fromage. Vromage is registered in both US and EU. My customers call me Mr. Vromage. As of January this year, my legal name is Youssef Vromage. I love it. It’s cool.
I hear the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle is a fan?
I see a lot of beautiful girls, models, actresses… In my shop make an effort to chat with each and every one. When I received an e-mail from the official social media representative of the royal family in England, telling me that Mr. Robert Jobson is composing Meghan and Harry wedding album and would like to include Vromage, I still did not know who Meghan is until I googled her and recognized that sweet face. He said Meghan loves my cashew cheese. I think she is elegant, sophisticated and yet, down to Earth. It is very kind of her to mention my shop in her wedding album. I don’t watch much television. A lot of celebrities shop at Vromage, but I often have no idea who they are, unless another customer in my shop points them out to me. Teraji P. Henson, Jarred Leto, Moby or Alicia Silverstone… I had no idea who they were when they first visited my shop. Moby once mentioned me in a magazine, when he was asked to name his favorite vegan shop in Los Angeles. It’s funny how comfortable it feels when Alicia Silverstone is in my shop. She lays down on my floor, while her son Bear makes his favorite sandwich with me in the kitchen. When the daughter of king of Saudi Arabia Jawaher el Saoud comes to Beverly Hills every year, she comes to my shop and eats here. She leaves with cheeses for her entire stay in Beverly Beverly Hills! I receive great compliments. I talk to everyone who comes to the shop, famous or not. In my eyes everyone is equal.
Where do you call home?
I lived in Los Angeles for twenty years. I’ve been an American citizen for thirty-five years. Home is Los Angeles.
Are you vegan?
I think vegan. Thinking vegan is more ethical and youthful than just saying I am vegan. Thinking vegan drives me to be more conscious about everything happening in this world. I have compassion for animals. To answer your question, what does not make me vegan, is the creme I put in my espresso, but I do not do it often, only when I am out and about, needing espresso. It began with love. I wanted to impress a woman, hoping for romance. Now I’m vegan for health and compassion for animals. I’m saving animals and people’s health by making delicious vegan cheese. This is my main goal and priority in life.
Vromage is gourmet cheese. Are there set backs over the price?
Most people who think my cheese is expensive are not aware of the cost of product. I purchase quality organic nuts and other organic ingredients. I pay the prices I am asked to pay. When people see my product, and taste the products they understand. You’re not going to find a cheap Ferrari and you are not going to find a Ferrari in every car lot. My cheese is a Ferrari. The organic nut prices increased in the past five years, but my prices remained the same since I opened the shop. I must be doing something right.
Will Vromage be a restaurant someday?
My focus has always been on quality and branding. Now I’m established. Afterward, I will open Maison du Vromage – a part restaurant and part production, like a mini museum, where people visit and I show them how Vromage is made. I will show people how to cook with Vromage cheese; basically educating people, plus a restaurant.
Most vegans believe the future is vegan. How do you feel about that?
Because of what I do, I feel it happened already; the future is already here. If you offer people delicious healthy vegan food they will ditch animal products. My world is vegan. My visitors come from all over the world. I have more none vegans coming to the shop, because more and more customers are becoming conscious and willing to try the taste. Definitely, we are evolving. The world will keep getting better and better.
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