2017 Foodies of the Year: Karen McAthy
With a brand new cookbook, Blue Heron Creamery’s Karen McAthy brings vegan cheese making to the masses.
Owner/Chef, Blue Heron Creamery, Vancouver
Necessity is the mother of invention. When Karen McAthy was named executive chef at Vancouver’s Graze restaurant in 2013, she sought to include vegan cheeses on a plant-based charcuterie board but found the available options limited and lacking. Too often they simply imitated the taste of traditional dairy cheeses, and some even contained casein, a milk-based protein. “I began exploring the processes associated with traditional cheese making to see what I could cull from there and apply to what I was doing at Graze,” says McAthy. “Basically, I’m a huge nerd…I like to understand the principles of why things work in certain ways, so this has provided me with endless opportunities to learn and experiment.” The results, such as a coconut kefir-based cheese with wine-macerated figs, or a five-month-aged almond beechwood cheese smoked and washed with kelp stout to cure the rind, have led to a growing fan base of customers and restaurants, culminating in a breakout year in 2016 with the launch of her business, Blue Heron Creamery, and her thoughtful, just-published how-to book, The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking. Sharing her knowledge—a head-spinning world of fermentation, brining, probiotic capsules, and mould—is an important part of the work.
KAREN McATHY’S RECIPE
Wine-Poached Figs Stuffed with Almond Ricotta