Raz and Motis’ wonderful and varied life experience, both together and apart, started from childhood. Growing up as neighbours in a small village east of Tel Aviv called Alfeimenash, they became best friends. After school and attending compulsory army training, they travelled the world together, when their passion for cooking was ignited.
They eventually went their own ways – Moti ended up in New York City, where he co-owned a Greek tapas bar. He simultaneously ran a kitchen in a renowned yoga studio and boutique guest house, which led him to become a yogi himself and naturally progressed to follow a vegan diet. It was here that the first steps towards the journey of creating vegan cheese began. When he returned to Israel, he endeavoured to start up a vegan cheese business however, as he says, “gaining licences for a company that would potentially rival the dairy industry in Israel was not easy.”
Raz, meanwhile, lived and worked in England and was based in Bristol, where he created an award-winning sourdough bread and food that he showcased and sold in festivals around the country. He was also head chef at a ‘nose to tail’ restaurant where the concept is to ‘plate up’ the whole of the animal, aiming to achieve a zero-waste, sustainable approach to cheffing. He worked with Tom Hunt, a renowned “eco-chef” whose ethos is to revive traditional cooking heritage and reduce food waste.
Leaving England to search for a more serene lifestyle for his growing family, Raz and his English wife travelled Europe, eventually finding themselves in Marmelete where he has created a zero-waste environment while trying to live as sustainably as possible. Some ingredients and the water needed to process their vegan cheese comes from his land.
Raz knew instinctively that it was the right time for him and Moti, who was living in Southeast Asia at the time, to collaborate. Moti took very little convincing to move to Portugal to support his childhood friend. He is settled in Aljezur and has a family of his own here now.
Being passionate about delivering the highest quality sustainable food, they worked on creating The Artisan Chef Table to offer fine dining with a zero-waste concept. They were very close to opening a restaurant until the reality of lockdown led their business in a different – but very positive direction – to concentrate on developing organic probiotic, natural, cashew-based vegan cheeses. And this was the birth of Acayu. The word originates from an Amazonian tribe called Tupi, where the cashew is grown and harvested.
You can now explore flavours like fermented Chinese tea and foraged mushrooms, creamy ‘basil’ camembert, almond feta, dill and garlic confit soft cheese, and pungent roquefort to name a few. Their obvious passion for experimental cuisine, along with their no-nonsense attitude to creating perfection, mixed with an unfaltering will to play with different ingredients, allow magical limited-edition creations. The aged Emmental wrapped in grape leaves, flavoured with rose pepper and golden smoked tea, plus cashew almond semi-hard cheese with Roquefort fungi and blue-green algae are delicious combinations.
They have created something that could rival any conventional award-winning cheesemaker. Full of probiotics that come from the lactic culture created naturally using organic buckwheat from Ukraine. They are also great for your overall gut bacteria as the vegan live cultures are part of the main ingredient. Being nut-based they are still high in protein and don’t have the negative health or environmental issues associated with eating dairy.
Their products are stocked in 15 different zero-waste shops across the Algarve and Lisbon and are also available for home delivery. Eventually, they want to give a percentage of their profit to a survival group that fights for the rights of indigenous people around the world including the Tupi tribe from where the cashew (Acayu) originates.
Working from their ‘lab’, which sits in Vales, the little village, as you enter Vale de Telha, they will continue to produce awe-inspiring experimental flavours. To get an essence of their passion, follow them on Instagram and try one of their ingenious creations.
Photos © Joana @sewes.studio