By Samantha Lees

As people become more aware of the importance of healthy eating, so has there been an increase in suppliers of food that is delicious, nutritional and beautiful to meet the growing demand for healthier alternatives. We spoke to Kanch Porta Panjabi, founder and chef of La Taula, about dairy-free cheese, having your (vegan) cake and eating it.

 

“Your body is like a ferrari.”

 

“You’re not going to put diesel in it, you’ll use high quality fuel and care for it,” said Kanch Porta Panjabi, who makes artisanal vegan cheese, unbaked crackers and vegan desserts under the brand La Taula. “We’re putting so much bad stuff in our bodies because of our lifestyle. I realised that what you eat really affects your body in such a huge way that I had never imagined.” Kanch knew this more than anybody, when her health suffered as a result of burnout from working in the demanding fashion industry. The Hong Kong native started paying more attention to nutrition and saw how eating the right food can bring about healing to the body in a natural way. 

After studying under Matthew Kenney, one of the top classically-trained vegan chefs in the industry, Kanch started hosting fully raw vegan multi-course private dining experiences to bring a message of wholesome nutrition to the community, and change people’s perceptions that healthy can also mean tasty. “I don’t tell people to be vegan or to stop eating meat, but I want to say ‘Look, there are options, be open.’ And from that perspective, more and more people come on the journey, one plate at a time, while bringing creativity, love and tradition back into food.”

 

Culinary art meets ultimate nutrition

Photo: La Taula

“My mission is culinary art meets ultimate nutrition. You can have great tasting food that looks beautiful and also has great nutritional value.” In 2020, with more time spent cooking at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic and posting her creations on social media, Kanch saw interest for her products grow organically, and launched La Taula to meet the increasing demand for healthy, beautifully crafted alternatives. 

All of La Taula’s creations, from the Smoky Spicy Cheddar and Seaweed Truffle, to their Raw Strawberry Cheesecake, are raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and made by Kanch herself. By crafting tasty, beautiful yet wholesome food, Kanch aims to educate the community and enable customers to shift their choices to something that is both better for themselves and for the environment. All the cheeses have a base of fermented cashews and probiotics. 

 

Sustainable packaging

Photo: La Taula

With sustainability as one of the key values, La Taula’s products are sent in ceramic dishes, which are reusable or can be returned for a discount off the next order. This elegant yet sustainable offering can conveniently be served directly to the table. Packaging, labeling and accessories is often necessary for branding and practicality sake, but can create a lot of waste. And so their food-safe paper is FDA approved compostable and their sticker tape is 100% recycled FSC (from non deforested wood), water-activated and printed with soy based inks. 

In an effort to increase their efforts in becoming more sustainable this year, La Taula will be looking to find sustainable sources for their inputs, with cashews being the main ingredient which currently come from India. 

 

Partnering up for growth

 

“People are eating at home a lot more, they’re looking for different alternatives to what they can bring to the table.” As with many businesses this year, Covid-19 brought both challenges and opportunities for Kanch. While private dining bookings and collaborations with restaurants have halted, Kanch saw opportunities in people’s increased interest in healthy alternatives to cheese and desserts, or simply for something different for the table to share with their friends and families. 

Photo: La Taula

With orders going through the roof during the Christmas period, Kanch sees the potential for La Taula to keep growing. A wider selection of cheeses, new desserts and improved packaging are in the pipeline in 2021. Longer term, Kanch envisions to further increase La Taula’s product line, scale her processes and grow the brand to become a large vegan-cheese provider in Hong Kong. 

Kanch is also looking to collaborate with restaurants, to help create menus with more vegan or vegetarian options, as well as to provide food that is both mouth-watering yet packed full of nutrition. 

She is excited to be a part of the Food Made Good community to connect with potential partners and collaborators, to learn about industry developments and sustainability, and to help make an impact on the way our society eats, one plate at a time. 

Photo: La Taula

To find out more about La Taula, visit https://www.la-taula.com/.