The impossible? Vegan cheese that tastes like the real deal

The cheeses are the work of celebrity vegan chef Tal Ronnen, until now better known for orchestrating Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day meat- and dairy-free cleanse as well as catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding.

The inspiration to pursue high-end vegan cheeses came four years ago while he helping hotel magnate Steve Wynn develop vegan menus for his Las Vegas properties. “I remember bringing in some vegan cheeses and one of the chefs literally spit it out and it was such a turning point for me,” Ronnen said during a recent telephone interview.

He vowed to never again use a product just because it was vegan. And thus was born Kite Hill, a Hayward, California-based company Ronnen set up with a team of co-founders, including biochemist Pat Brown and Monte Casino, a former instructor in cheese making at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Their mission was clear ? to create cheeses loved equally by vegans and carnivores, cheeses that could be served alone on a cracker instead of hidden in a casserole like most of the gummy processed faux cheeses required.

Getting there took three years. Their medium was nut milks, but finding the right one was their first challenge. They gave up on cashews because there wasn’t enough protein to form a curd. For a while, a blend of almond and macadamia milks seemed promising, but in the end they settled on straight up almond milk.