click to enlarge UnMoo founder Josh Kadrich uses traditional cheesemaking methods to create cheeses like the cashew-based Notz.

Scott Elmquist

UnMoo founder Josh Kadrich uses traditional cheesemaking methods to create cheeses like the cashew-based Notz.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Dairy Defector

Local cheesemaker is empowering the vegan movement with UnMoo.

Posted on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 12:48 PM

It started with eggnog. Josh Kadrich doesn’t get along with dairy, but he’s a self-described eggnog fiend, so a couple years ago he started making a vegan version using cashew and coconut milk from scratch.

“So I started hustling jars to my friends of this vegan, tequila-sherry eggnog,” he says with a chuckle.

Around that same time, he also started experimenting with making soft cheeses for his dairy-loving partner. A microbiologist working in a lab at the time, he found it to be a relatively simple yet fascinating process, and it occurred to him that he could use the same techniques to make plant-based cheeses.

“Food is about more than the product in front of you. Food is also about the story and the history behind it and the care that goes into it,” Kadrich says. “So for me to actually try to make this cheese became a bit of a mission and a little bit of an obsession.”

The obsession continued and he’s now the founder and sole proprietor of UnMoo, a Richmond-based producer of small-batch cheeses made from plants. He starts with making milk using fair-trade organic cashews and then puts it through a traditional cheesemaking process of culturing, brining and aging.

He’s careful to avoid making direct comparisons between his products and dairy cheeses, though it’s tempting to do so, especially when they look so similar. As creamy and meltable as his cashew-based Notz (which comes in the form of smooth white ball) may be, it’s not mozzarella. Kadrich doesn’t want people to be disappointed when they take a bite expecting mozzarella, and he describes a common Coke-vs.-Pepsi moment that he often encounters when people try his products at the farmers market.

“You go to drink Coke and you get Pepsi and you have a negative reaction, and it’s not because it wasn’t good, it’s because you didn’t get what you expected,” he says. “So in building expectations around a product that people assume is imitation in the first place, I then have to completely redefine those expectations.”

He also makes a sweet, tangy, spreadable raw product called AM that he recommends smearing on a bagel or dolloping on top of Mexican food, and a plant-based butter called Nutter. Kadrich says he doesn’t get to spend as much time experimenting in the kitchen as he’d like, but as the company grows you can expect to see more varieties become available.

There’s a common misconception that something made from plants can’t be cheese, Kadrich says, but he pushes back against those notions.

“It’s a product that underwent a culturing, brining and aging process,” he says. “It’s closer to cheese than the slice of American in the back of your fridge.”

For Kadrich, the business has grown beyond his obsession with creating nut-based cheeses. Now that his products are available in restaurants and markets around town, the feedback he’s getting from customers makes him feel like he’s doing something that matters — something that makes people genuinely grateful.

“I’m impacting people’s lives,” he says, adding that fair-trade sourcing and sustainability are also high on his priority list. “Building out UnMoo is less about making crazy cheese and more about building this lifestyle company that we can all kind of grow together in.”

You can find UnMoo at Idle Hands Bakery and Union Market, plus the South of the James, Birdhouse and Williamsburg farmers markets. And if it’s not on the menu at Pizza and Beer of Richmond by the time of publication, it will be soon, and it'll hit the shelves of Ellwood Thompson's before too long. The list is rapidly growing, so keep an eye on UnMoo’s social media pages.


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