When we first met Damian Piedrahita and Claudia Comini, we were immediately intrigued.
Then, they had already developed 4My and its signature plant-based Camembert cheese!
Yes, it has a rind and all. Yup, it is deliciously buttery and has a delicate umami flavour.
"We had begun experimenting in our kitchen in Italy, where we lived right before our move to Singapore," says Claudia, 4My's production manager.
Damian, who was helping develop plant-based menus at Shangri-La Hotels but who now spends 100% of his time on 4My, is the master of R&D.
"It is a challenge to find good, plant-based dairy and this was the why we developed 4My," says Damian.
Most cheese alternatives are not up to par - they can taste like cardboard, say Damian and Claudia.
Their cheese is fermented at controlled temperatures for 20 days so it develops its delicious tang.
Here's a chat we had with them on cheese, plants, and all things eating!
Photo Credit: Damian & Claudia of 4My
What was the impetuous for developing the 4My plant-based Camembert cheese?
Damian: Dairy is such a complex food, and part of many cultures and traditions. We don't want to change the things people love. We want to create moments of happiness around the table, with people who love good food without sacrificing or compromising on taste.
What's the scoop? Are you both plant-based eaters?
Claudia: I've been plant-based for around nine years. It makes me feel good and clean within my body.
Damian: Yes - I have been so for 10 years. The reasons for doing so were ethical... Eating dairy, for instance, comes at a high cost: animal exploitation, highly ineffective and non sustainable production methods, and health-related problems from the casein, lactose, and cholesterol build-up.
Were you once big cheese-eaters?
Damian: Scamorza, mozzarella, burrata and gorgonzola. I enjoyed it a lot!
Claudia: As a true-blue Italian, I was a cheese lover for sure! Mozzarella, burrata, Camembert, so many others. Before transitioning to being fully vegan, I first went vegetarian. I said things like 'I can never stop eating cheese'. That is, until I discovered how awful the milk and dairy industry is. I believe that small, every-day decisions can have a huge impact on the planet - from what we wear to whether we recycle.
What are your favourite things to make for an easy lunch or dinner?
Damian: I love pasta, even the simplest ones like Aglio olio e peperoncino.
Claudia: Of course, I love pasta, too! I like a good pesto sauce. My home-made pesto is made with nutritional yeast as a substitute for the cheese that usually gives pesto its 'edge'. Or, I make a 'cashew parmesan' out of blended cashews with salt.
What are your favourite takeout/delivery places and what would you recommend?
Damian: I like the meat-free burgers from Three Buns and Love Handle burgers (their fries are amazing, too). I also enjoy food from Empress, where the char siu puffs are exquisite.
Photo Credit: Love Handle Burgers
Claudia: I discovered a new place called Viio Gastropub in Balestier. They have a new, plant-based menu that is so good! I've tried everything - I especially like the Bibi Taco and Nasi Lemak.
What are your favourite local Singapore dishes?
Damian: I really like onde-onde and youtiao.
Claudia: No particular favourite - vegan noodle dishes are usually good!
Any advice for those who are making a switch to a more plant-based diet?
Damian: Be well-informed on everything from nutrition to the philosophy of plant-based eating. Eat whole foods, and never forget the reasons you initially wanted to make a switch. That will help you stay on the mark.
Claudia: Take small steps - one at a time. Don’t rush and read as much as possible about plant-based eating - including literature on how to cook!
Photo Credit: Loaded Gun Kitchen