Community, Features, Impact

Vegan creamery founder Miyoko Schinner opens Cityspace ‘Curated Cuisine’ event series

Miyoko Schinner, founder of vegan artisan cheese company Miyoko’s Creamery. Schinner spoke about her journey as a vegan cheesemaker at the WBUR Cityspace ‘Curated Cuisine’ event series on Sept. 30. COURTESY OF MIYOKO SCHINNER VIA INSTAGRAM

Miyoko Schinner, founder of vegan artisan cheese company Miyoko’s Creamery, spoke at WBUR Cityspace about her journey as a vegan cheesemaker and her opinions on veganism and food labeling issues on Sept. 30.

“My goal is to change food culture and to get people to start thinking about what they’re eating and how it impacts everything from not only the planet but to society,” Schinner said in an interview.

At the event titled “Curated Cuisine: Miyoko Schinner and the vegan cheese revolution,” Schinner signed copies of her cookbook “The Vegan Meat Cookbook: Meatless Favorites. Made with Plants.” Samples of her meatless chili and cheeses — from farmhouse cheddar, smoked mozzarella and gouda as well as truffle and sundried tomato and many more — were also offered to attendees.

Her appearance was part of WBUR Cityspace’s “Curated Cuisine” series, which highlights local and national chefs through conversations on important food related topics, Candice Springer, assistant director of WBUR’s Cityspace, said.

“It’s about bringing people in, driving audience, and getting them to enjoy a little bite of food and learn about people that they didn’t necessarily know about before,” Springer said.

Steven Davy, senior producer at CitySpace, said food is one of “the fastest way to community.”

“I think it’s important to see all kinds of cuisine and understand where your food comes from,” he said.

At the event, Schinner said she made the switch to veganism in the ‘80s, and cheese was always on her “bucket list of things to create.” According to the Miyoko’s Creamery website, the company now specializes in aged cheese wheels, spreads and butter made from a “cutting-edge” plant milk fermentation.

“I just started exploring fermenting plant milks and figuring out how do these plant milks behave when they’re fermented, when you add different enzymes or yeast or molds or bacteria,” Schinner said.

Schinner said humanity is at a turning point in history where people truly have control over their food choices. After 2000 years of experience in making animal dairy cheese, she said, we’ve only been attempting to understand plant milk fermentation for less than two decades.

“We have not only an opportunity, but a huge responsibility to think about what is the future we want to create for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren,” she said.

To change attitudes about veganism, she also said vegans need to show how “exciting,” “sexy” and “phenomenal” it is, while also getting to people’s hearts “through their stomachs.”

“If we’re going to cross the chasm to reach a wider foodie audience, we need to make foods that are cleaner and just more natural,” she said in an interview.

Shyla Smeed, a five-year vegan and avid supporter of Schinner’s, said Schinner was a “front runner” in helping her get over her love of cheese during her transition to veganism.

“I could listen to her for hours because I agree on so many things she says,” Smeed said. “Particularly, companies using ‘plant based’ is very frustrating, because they can say plant based and then there’s chicken and it’s very disheartening.”

Lauren Robbins, a Boston resident and 16-year vegan, said she has been a fan of Schinner’s and her products and thinks Schinner “has the power to make a lot of change.”

“[Vegans] have come a long way and her products are just so superior to everything else,” Robbins said. “And of course being a woman of color business entrepreneur is just even cooler and so for her to be here is really exciting for me.”

Davy said that when he first moved here, more than a decade ago, there wasn’t as big of a market for vegan food as there is today.

“It’s growing in understanding, and people are interested and curious and a lot more accepting,” he said.

Schinner said the future of vegan products is a decision that comes down to debunking a lot of the myths surrounding veganism and the negative language associated with vegan foods.

“We have to give people FOMO,” Schinner said of non-vegans. “We have to create the future that we want to believe in or that we do believe in, otherwise, we can either inspire people or we can live in fear.”


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