Knowledge Base > Dan Marek - Ask Me Anything (Office Hours)

Ask Me Anything (Office Hours)

Dan Marek - Ask Me Anything (Office Hours)

This event was on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at 11:00 am Pacific, 2:00 pm Eastern

Join Chef Dan Marek in his virtual office as he welcomes all of your questions. This event was created for you and we encourage you to Ask Anything – from cooking techniques to cours… Read More.



I have a son who loves dairy products - particularly cheese. What would be a good transitional food or plant based equivalent?

— Natalie Richter


Okay, so, uh, I recently, you know, in the past year and a half, moved to Wisconsin and everybody here loves cheese. It's a big, big cheese town. Um, and there I've had a lot of people come to me and say, look like I'm looking to be able to transition away from cheese. Um, and I'm looking for something to kind of get me to that next step. And what I usually recommend with people that are kind of taking that step is to take small steps. You don't have to go like, you know, don't swan dive as much if you, if you don't have to. Um, so if you do have to, that's a little bit different. But, um, you know, if you can make that smaller step trying to something that's very similar to cheese and they make so many different kinds of vegan cheeses out there. And there's a broad spectrum of vegan cheeses now that, I mean, it's amazing how many different vegan cheeses are on the market today. And you'll find some, you know, from the shredded cheeses to the blocks and the slices that, you know, DIA started doing years and years ago. Vial life was actually one of my favorite ones that I've done more recently of shredded cheeses. Um, and, uh, that's kind of like the grocery store brand ones that you can get, that you can find at a normal grocery store. Um, and if you wanna go kind of that next level up, you can look for something like Rebel Cheese. They're based out of Austin, Texas, but are opening a second location in New York City. But they also just started a mail ordering, um, service as well where they'll make their cheeses out of cashews, but they'll actually actually age them as well in like a cave like they do on normal cheese. Um, and those are wonderful varieties. Those are much, much more expensive than the, you know, vial life for the diets that you'd find at the grocery store. Um, but you're gonna find that the flavor is so much better than the one you'd find at the grocery store because really by and large, like the the grocery store brand ones, they're just not quite there. They're great as a replacement, but they're not gonna taste exactly, um, like what you would, you know, expect out of a cheese. Now if you're having somebody who's just making that transition over, those are wonderful ways to be able to start to be able to get more towards a plant-based diet. Now the problem with that though is that they are very processed. So, um, especially the grocery store ones, the ones like the rebel cheese and stuff like that, they're, those are not processed as much. Um, but I mean to a point, but the, the grocery store brand ones that you're gonna find at at typical grocery store, um, they're, you're gonna find that they're just very, very processed and they're really not that great for you. Are they better for cheese than cheese for you? Probably. Um, you know, you're not getting the cholesterol from it, you're not getting all the other things that kind of come with that. And of course the ethical concerns that come with it as well. So that's a great way to just start the transition that's coming off of that. Now. Otherwise, from that you can jump to a whole food, a whole food plant-based diet just by making some other transitional things, um, and textures. So avocado is actually a wonderful way to be able to replace cheese if you're doing something like in a sandwich. So instead of putting like, um, you know, or a, a burrito or something, instead of putting cheese as a layer on your sandwich, you can actually put the avocado spread on that as well. We also offer a couple different, um, vegan cheeses that you can make at home through our plant-based pro class as well. We have one, um, that is using, um, uh, it's like a gelatin kind of form, which is actually a wonderful way to be able to make it. And it's kind of spreadable as well, which is really nice. And there's also one where you soak macadamia nuts and grind them up and then make it into a roll. And it's kind of like a shove wonderful, um, options to be able to look at. And that's actually, if you're using a probiotic, that's a great way to be able to make those cheeses. 'cause then you get that other kind of, you know, that kind of unique flavor that comes out in cheese and a little bit umami to be able to match that as well. So, uh, that's kind of a long answer for you, Natalie. But, um, basically, you know, start off with something that's a little more processed but is definitely closer to the cheese, you know, area to be able to kind of get off of cheese. And then looking, uh, a little bit further going into whole food plant-based looking at making, uh, nut cheeses at home, which is a great option using avocado or other things that kind of mimic the texture and the feel. Um, and you can get the taste, you know, from mixing other ingredients as well.


Dan Marek

Dan Marek

Director of Plant-Based Culinary & Dev