MGU 24 | Vegan Community

 

Whether on the internet or in real life, the vegan community can be an intimidating bunch to deal with. But there are genuinely kind vegans out there who just want to help you uncover a reason – any reason – to go vegan. Miyoko Schinner is the award-winning vegan celebrity chef behind Miyoko’s. Starting with her initial foray into vegan cheese up to the present, Miyoko shares with Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen her experience being a vegan and belonging to that larger community. Miyoko’s story is inspiring, empowering, and most of all, delectable, so it’s definitely not one to miss!

Listen to the podcast here:

The Heart Of Veganism With Miyoko Schinner

I feel though that, Miyoko, you’re a woman of many talents, known and unknown.

Shall we explore the unknown? I’ve got my fake fur on the bed. I was thinking of sprawling out there and stretching my arms out and we did the show that way.

From bed on Miyoko’s fur coat. We did this episode on her fur coat.

That leads well into something that I know Jason was excited to talk about. For context, this came up because we’re all speaking on this vegan cruise in 2014.

Was it 2014? It was 2014.

We all did it for the first time together and then you went on to do 1 or 2 more.

I did one other and that was it.

I remember we are all doing our food demos and learning more about each other.

We were all so innocent back then.

Before I get into the thing that I’m most excited to bring up, we were trying to also remember. I know that you were talking about your Cheese Wheels and you were talking about how you accidentally made blue cheese. It was something where the mold spread across the whole kitchen. Was it blue cheese? 

It happened with Blue cheese and with a bloomy rind, which is like a Camembert. Those molds can get in the atmosphere. You know how they first made Blue cheese in the old days, right?

No.

Penicillium roqueforti, which is the blue mold grows on bread. When you get that blue mold that grows on bread, they culture that and grew it in cheese. They somehow managed to refine that bacteria so that it would do a certain thing. They refined it to create that flavor profile. Sometimes Penicillium roqueforti will grow in your refrigerator. I had some Miyoko’s butter in my refrigerator.

Was it a prototype before you had it in the market in 2014?

In 2014, we threw it all out. We had just started producing. It was a brand new company. The first few batches of the eight kinds of cheese turned out well. First, I start experimenting with Penicillium Candidum, which is that the white mold that grows on Camembert and Brie. That got onto some stuff. Next thing you knew, the entire aging room was like “Brie, yay.” We sold some of it. I realized I couldn’t do that anymore. The same thing happened with Blue cheese, but that was an accident. That was a natural blue mold from the atmosphere that made Blue cheese and it smelled like blue cheese.

MGU 24 | Vegan Community

 

How do you know if it’s safe or not to eat?

You can test it. You can send it out to a lab to find out what it is. I did that fairly. The lab will come back and they’ll say if it’s Penicillium Candidum or Penicillium Roqueforti, but I had some butter in my refrigerator and I pulled it out. It was way back in the back of it. Do you have any science experiments in your refrigerator ever, Jason?

Jason does, but not me.

There are some strange creatures.

You’re working in there.

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It’s common.

I found this butter that was way back there and there was not a spot of mold on it. I pulled it out of the bag because I had it in a plastic bag and it smelled like Roquefort. Although I couldn’t see it, so I tasted it. It tasted like Roquefort.

I have no idea what that is. Is that some type of cheese?

No, I think it was butter.

What is Roquefort?

Roquefort is a type of cheese. It’s a type of Blue cheese. You’ve been vegan too long.

You know you’ve been vegan too long when you do not know what these cheeses are like. I should have known. We just left the Fancy Food Show. There was cheese everywhere. It’s so neat at fancy food show when you’re walking down all these aisles and aisles of cheese and then they’ll be one vegan company in there. That happened to you for one year. Wasn’t Miyoko’s in the midst of the cheese section one year?

We planted ourselves in the cheese section of the Fancy Food Show intentionally our very first year there. We did it on purpose to have some fun.

Were people cheese snobby like, “Vegan cheese?”

Yeah, absolutely. Some people but then some are open-minded and they’re excited about it. We tried to apply to the California Cheese Society. We’ve submitted this application numerous times and they keep turning us down. There is a cheese fair that we tried, the California Cheese Guild or something. They have a cheese fair and we keep applying and they keep saying no. They reject us. They won’t let us into this day. I don’t know if we’ve applied in the last year or so, but they had continually turned us down.

It reminds me of the times where vegans have entered contests that are mostly non-vegans and the vegan product will win like cupcake, jackfruit tacos at a taco festival or something like that. It’s interesting. Even amongst all those animal-based competitors or similar brands, I prefer to say. There’s a plant-based brand that could still may people feel good and excited. It’s all about the palate and the texture. It is not about the actual ingredients. I always find that interesting. My boyfriend has certain foods he thinks that he doesn’t like. He’ll say to me, “If I didn’t know that was mushrooms, I would have liked it.” It’s almost like if you don’t have to tell somebody what something is and they can try it before they get their preconceived notions involved, then they might have a completely different reaction to it.

This is interesting because, Miyoko, you’ve been in the food business for so long and I want to touch on that. My first interaction with some of your products years ago, but this mainstream penetration of vegan cuisine has been an interesting evolution. I remember the first mainstream introduction was when Amanda Cohen won Iron Chef and Chloe Coscarelli won Cupcake Wars. In 2019, I’m blanking on his name. I follow him on Instagram. He won Top Chef. He was the first vegan in history to win Top Chef. He is a phenomenal chef.

It also reminds me too. When you’re watching Shark Tank and suddenly there’ll be a vegan brand on Shark Tank. You’re like, “This is cool.” It doesn’t feel like a vegan show, but they’ve started to put more vegans on this mainstream show showing how diverse plant-based foods can be or innovative is better.

For all of this massive progress that we’re all experiencing and certainly, you’re at the forefront Miyoko with your Creamery and your outstanding products. You’ve also come across some incredibly challenging situations regarding the verbiage and what you call your products and the resistance.

Wasn’t there a lawsuit against your products at one point?

There was a class-action lawsuit for the term butter, but it was dismissed and we had a happy outcome. I can’t tell you how that’s settled. I was extremely happy for everyone involved, including the animals. We’ll leave it at that. That’s all I can say.

It is interesting to having all of us have experienced watching the movement as having been in this world for each of us at least ten years. Seeing all these things change in terms of food production and vegan chefs being taken more seriously, social media shifting and these food shows too. We’re recording this episode right after the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show. I’m amazed at how much it has changed in 1 or 2 years.

They have a whole plant-based division. You saw that plant-based pavilion upstairs is small. The point is something like that wouldn’t even have been a thought that would have occurred to anyone many years ago.

I remember hearing about this show for the first time in 2011 or 2012 and somebody said, “It’s not worth going to, because there are not a lot of vegans. It’s all cheese.” 

I used to come here twenty years ago because I had been in the food business for a long time. Many years ago, it was cheese, olive oil, salsa and chocolate and maybe occasional potato chip, but that was it.

Was this when you were doing Now and Zen?

Yes.

Did you showcase the UnTurkey here?

No, I came to walk the show.

My first experience, Miyoko, when I first went vegan in the mid-’90s in Detroit was this question of, “What in the name of God am I going to do for the holidays?” I remember one of my first exposures to meat analog per se or a substitute was finding Now and Zen and the UnTurkey. That was my first introduction to you and my mom having one of your early cookbooks and I was looking on Amazon to see if there were copies. I was like, “Miyoko’s old school cookbook. It’s amazing.” For you, someone who has been aligned with not only the ethics but the creativity and the innovation of this industry, you’re such a wonderful person to talk about. Yes, the triumphs and the progress, but the immense number of challenges.

One of those things I want to touch on because I feel like you have been at the forefront of being courageous in this is a lot of the infighting that happens. We see this not only in the vegan movement, but I think any social movements or movements that are done with an intention. I believe in compassion, liberation, freedom and equality. In particular, Whitney and I have been privy to certain life events seeing you, for lack of a better word, go toe-to-toe with the opinions and perspectives of other people in the movement. Following you on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve also seen how other vegans and activists have tried to challenge you or shame you.

I’m not vegan enough for them.

Why often this happens inside a movement? Why do you think this happens? If I may ask an overarching question, why does this seem to be endemic with every large social movement?

It’s happened with all religions. Look at what’s happened within the Christian movement. Every religion there’s been divisions and infighting. It’s all about ego. It’s all about losing sight of what’s important. In Christianity, let’s go back to that. What was happening in Mary Magdalene? Jesus said, “He who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.” We forget that. It’s easier to be judgmental and to spew hate than to show love. Veganism is supposed to be about compassion and love. If you have a different opinion from someone else in the movement, why not saying anything at all and still applaud them for doing something because they’re still trying to do something. Why not do that? To me, it’s showing a lack of true love, compassion and leadership. It makes me sad. I’ve been the butt of a lot of vegan hatred towards me.

I don’t understand that at all. How could that be?

Would you mind being specific about what the nature of this is and how do you respond to these things? I would love to know, what do people say to you?

For example, when we were in that accelerator program called TERRA, which was an accelerator program put on by Rabobank and a RocketSpace, which is like an accelerator incubator. Things like Uber came out of that. We joined that program. It was a six-month accelerator and we were partnering with Nestlé within that program. To share learnings, to talk about marketing. They help fund market research and focus groups that we never would have been able to afford on her own. It would cost us a couple of hundreds and thousands of dollars. I got a chance to get to know the people at Nestlé, including the CEO of Nestlé USA. They’re selling off certain divisions. They sold off the candy division, they sold off their ice cream division. They’re investing more in plant-based. They are trying to steer food and what they’re trying to do towards a more sustainable, healthy future.

I do sense that there are authenticity and sincerity among many of the employees there at the top leadership. I don’t know about the ranks but the leaders that I’ve spoken to. I got attacked for first-ever rumors. “I can’t believe it. She sold to Nestlé.” Nothing like that ever happened. No money was exchanged. They didn’t invest in us even. According to the vegan rumor sphere or whatever you want to call it, we had sold a Nestlé. I was in bed with the devil. People were starting these boycotting campaigns like, “Never buy Miyoko’s again.” That happened and I went on Facebook and I spoke honestly about how I believe we need to change the world.

We don’t have a lot of time left to reverse climate change. There’s imperative to move things as fast as possible. We can remain pure, clean and everything. We can go and sell at a farmer’s market, which is not going to impact things. There are big companies already and it’s going to be faster to move that movement forward if we can partner with them in a smart way. If we can get in there and change their practices from within rather than following that peer and narrow path. The waters are muddied. They’re not going to be pure for a while. If we want to create a vegan world, we’re going to have to navigate through some muddy waters. There have been a number of things that I’ve been attacked for and the list could go on and on.

It’s the same with sustainability too. I felt this on my end because I call myself an eco-vegan gal. If I do one thing that somebody doesn’t perceive as being eco-friendly, how dare I use the word eco?

She’s not been sustainable.

If you use that a packaged product because the zero-waste movement is big or minimalism is too big, which is phenomenal. It’s that perfection over progress mentality that some people have. They don’t realize that their perfectionism might be getting in the way of progress happening. 

Plastic is another thing that we’re attacked on. We’re not going to buy your product anymore because you’re packed in plastic. If I didn’t pack it in plastic, I’d have a 12-day shelf life or something and I wouldn’t be able to sell to thousands of stores across the country. I have to make a choice, which is going to make a bigger impact? The fact is compostable aren’t where they need to be for a company like us to use. They will be in a few years, we’re going to get there. In the meantime, if I tried to stay pure and clean, it would be over, it’d be game over. I’m trying to get as many people to be vegan. That’s my goal. I want to do it with delicious foods and I want to get into as many mouths as possible and into millions of mouths as possible. Sometimes, there are going to be compromises along the way. We can move things along so that we are a truly sustainable company without plastic. In the next few years, we’ll get there but we’re not there yet.

MGU 24 | Vegan Community

 

What a lot of people don’t realize about the food industry too is it takes money. You have to not only hire your employees and paper production and get marketing budgets, all of these things that go into it. It’s like when it comes to organic and people thinking, “It needs to be organic or I’m not buying it.” They don’t realize how much money it takes to be organic. How much time it takes or the work that it takes to go into that? We need to focus on the efforts of the people and the steps that they’re making towards it versus somebody being there already. If we rush things and sometimes rushing things ends up in disaster.

I want to encourage people, embrace the progress and applaud people who are trying to make the world better. Putting them down, criticizing them, boycotting when people are trying to make a change for the better isn’t going to help the world. It will slow down progress. It won’t convert people to veganism. It scares them away. I can say I have to convert that my company has succeeded in converting lots of people to veganism. I know we’re having an impact. If I spent my entire day on social media bashing other companies and other people because they weren’t up to my standards, I don’t think anyone would listen to me. I don’t think I would succeed in converting one person to being vegan. All it does is make me feel like I’m better than thou. What’s the point of that?

You said ego. It’s this idea that perhaps someone feels unheard, unseen or disempowered that by criticizing, attacking and spreading hate, they have skin in the game. They have a voice. They have a perspective that they feel is powerful and righteous. I want to applaud you, Miyoko, for the compassionate and conscientious way you have responded and not reacted.

In the middle of the night at 3:00 AM, I read something and then I take it down later. I’ve done that before.

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For the most part, the resistance and the challenges you have faced not only from within the movement but certainly outside forces require a certain perspective and energy. My question is how do you approach the challenges you face, the personal challenges and the business challenges? Do you have a meditation practice? Do you have a spiritual practice? How do you stay centered, clear and grounded and able to respond to what the madness that’s been thrown at you?

That madness represents a tiny percent of what I encounter. For the most part, what I encounter is love. I am surrounded by people that support me, my company and everything that we’re doing. I feel blessed to have resonated positively with most people. There are those haters out there. I have compassion for them. I’m sorry you’re in pain and that you have to throw vegan eggs at others, but please try not to do that. We have to spread compassion. We have to spread love and rise above that.

Do you surround yourself with positive people to offset it? As Jason was asking, do you have any spiritual practice or anything in your life that helps you get through those tough days?

Absolutely. First of all, everyone at work is phenomenal. I have such an amazing team. It’s a high being there because everyone is committed, excited about what they’re doing. You probably sense that at the booth. They’re a great team. I have that. I have animals. I have my wonderful dogs and cats, but then I also have the goats. I have pigs. There are some pretty magical animals that calm me down. An hour of shoveling manure is enough to reset you.

It’s perspective, though. Truly being of service.

I love the healing power. Speaking of healing power, I know that one of the things that Jason wanted to touch upon is a talent that you have beyond food. This comes back to what we started with at the beginning, which was the cruise. We started talking about your experiments in the kitchen. I remember that story when we were on the cruise. I also remember you did a dance performance and everybody was stunned. They are like, “Who knew Miyoko had those moves? 

I can’t dance, but Charlie could. He was throwing me around.

You came out and you did this cabaret-type of performance, which was this beautiful throwback jazz cabaret thing where you sang and you performed. I was slack-jawed because I didn’t know you had that in you. I didn’t know you could do that. I was like, “Miyoko is an amazing performer.” I’ll never forget that moment because the surprise was you went for it and you owned it. I remember you told us about your previous passion, your previous career as a performer, which I don’t think publicly anybody knows about. Will you please dive into that for a second? I’m still like, ” Miyoko is a badass.” It was mind-blowing. Your voice was beautiful.

My boyfriend, he’s not vegan at the moment, but he’s interesting. He’s pre-vegan. He has said to me and I’m not saying this to pat your ego, maybe a little bit. Sometimes we deserve a little pat. He said that he thinks your butter, Miyoko’s butter, is the best vegan product out there. He saw you in person for the first time. Jason and I were teasing him and we’re thinking like, “Don’t get nervous around Miyoko we know that you’re a huge fan of hers.” He said to me before he saw you in person. He goes, “I picture Miyoko as the superhero.” There’s this HBO show that came out called Watchmen. It stars, this badass female superhero who’s on this mission to right wrongs from how I perceive her. That’s what he was saying that you were. To Jason’s point, you do have that energy, whether you’re intending on it or not, where you come in and you’re powerful and people are amazed by you.

I always picture myself as this little old Japanese lady. I always think like that.

First of all, not old. You have this ageless way about you.

That’s great. Thank you for saying that more.

To back up what Jason was saying, one of your superpowers is that you have this presence about you. We’re curious where did that come from?

I’m not even aware of it.

Maybe it’s an innate thing that you’ve always have. Have people said that about you your whole life?

I don’t know. I used to want to be a performer at one time when I was young. You get that performance bug. I wanted to be a jazz singer. That was one of my goals in my twenties.

You were performing, weren’t you?

I was. I sang at little clubs. As I always say, I did my share of $50 gigs all over. Mainly in Tokyo and San Francisco until I became a single mom. I remember I had a gig and I got a sitter and it was my first gig since I’d had a baby. It was at this nice club and I was like, “Yes, I finally got a serious gig that pays more than $50, $75, who knows?” I go there and I bombed. I’m like, “I was off that night.” I hadn’t sung in a while. You know how sometimes when you perform you really in it and there are other times that you’re not quite on and I was off that night. Performances are wrought with ego. You’re trying to validate yourself on stage. A lot of us who are performance-driven do have insecurities. We gained that security by being on stage and having people applaud us and then we feel better about herself. Don’t you agree? It’s true.

It’s temporary and as you get off stage, you want it again.

I also love jazz and I love being able to take a song, especially a ballad and shape it in different ways. I wanted to move people with my music. That was my goal was like, “Can I touch somebody with that?” I knew I was off that night and I decided, “I can’t do this.” I had a little wholesale bakery. I was a single mom and I was trying to run a business in San Francisco and trying to sing at night and if you’re trying to do something like jazz, you’ve got to go hang out. You got to hang out at night. You’ve got to sit in with musicians and hang out until 1:00 AM. With a baby, I couldn’t do that and I decided, “I can’t do this anymore.” I stopped. I was embarrassed that night that I’ve bombed. It was fun while it lasted. I still love jazz. My daughter plays an old piano occasionally while we sing in the living room.

Music is still obviously dear to your heart and important. You listened to it. You perform obviously at home from time-to-time. It’s something you love.

I’ve done it at a couple of Summerfests. That I got up on stage with Michael Greger. He plays a sax. At Summerfest, we did this whole cabaret number. He played sax, I sang and someone else played the piano. It was funny. It was hilarious. I think you can find that on YouTube, that whole performance.

The George Gershwin song, Who Could Ask for Anything More?

We did, I love tofu or something like that.

You improvised it.

The two of you combined would be amazing because Jason is also good at improvising little tracks like that. I love that. Interestingly, you both have that in common.

Here’s another layer deeper. I did a project with Switch4Good, which is Dotsie. We did a whole great campaign for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where there’s going to be a commercial coming out. I said it. It’s out there. We’re doing a whole thing with plant-based athletes. I did not know this, but she went on this whole tirade about how Dr. Neal Barnard has this acid rock jazz thing. He’s this incredible musician.

You can find him on YouTube. He’s incredible.

My mind is blown there and then we go on this rant about Tal Ronnen, the amazing vegan chef who was behind Kite Hill and Crossroads, who’s a sick bass player. We were like, “We need to form a vegan all-star group,” and now you’re telling me about Greger.

We need to go on the road.

At some point, Miyoko, if it’s our plant-based world in New York, if we can all get together in the same place at the same time, people would lose their minds. 

That would be fun. I love it. We’ve got to do that.

I want us to pitch a note. Can we please pitch this? 

Yeah, we should pitch it.

If we were entertaining and we selected these standards, people would go nuts. They’ll be like, “I didn’t know any of them did this.”

That is cool. It’s like when you find out that an actor, isn’t Keanu Reeves a musician too?

He’s a great bass player too. He had a band in the ’90s called Dogstar.

That’s why we wanted to bring this out about you, Miyoko, because we think it’s interesting when you learn something about someone that you’ve viewed and we’ve talked about this.

We had another episode on identity.

How people want to put us in boxes and say, “You’re this one thing.” If they learn about you like that one thing, then they never see you outside of that. Sometimes we have to remind people over again that we don’t fit into a box. Your products might fit into a box, but you, Miyoko, don’t fit into a box. It’s interesting. It’s not only important to remind ourselves to communicate that effectively to people if we want to but also to remember that about other people. Just because we perceived somebody in a certain way as this one-dimensional being, there’s much more to them. Even the people that are struggling, as you were saying, Miyoko and how a lot of the trolls, the haters, they’re probably in a lot of pain.

That’s what they are. There’s some beauty because they care about animals. There is some beauty deep inside there.

The people that seem to not care about animals, that they’ve got their own story for whatever reason they don’t.

Ultimately, they do care. They just don’t know that. We have to help uncover that.

You, Miyoko, have had such a passion for arts from the music to be a culinary artist. Why is creative expression important to you? Why has artistry played such a role in your life? What does that mean to you? Why is it important for you to continue to do that?

It’s interesting because it’s what I grew up with. My mom was an artist. She was a stuffed animal designer. My parents were entrepreneurs. They had their own business. They had this toy business that they had started. My mom was the designer and my father sold it. They had a little manufacturing company. I grew up in that. My brother, you met Rob. He’s been in the animation business for years. It seems like everyone around me has always done some art, whatever it is. Creativity is how we touch the world and most of us want to express something. If you have that gift, you can channel it into one of the arts, and it’s a responsibility to give that, to express that to the world.

MGU 24 | Vegan Community

 

Semi-development has been much of the wonderful coverage about you partnering with Ellen and Portia. This brings up this more mainstream conversation about the power of celebrity and celebrity endorsement. On both sides of the coin, what have people responded to with that partnership? Have people been like, “This is amazing.” What has that been like for you? That’s a massive step forward to have someone on that level. Speaking publicly about their love for your product and the rarity of that because in the vegan movement, we’ve seen that happen in terms of say books. Not much in terms of public companies. When a celebrity would pick up a vegan book and then it explodes in the public consciousness.

The movie, all the documentaries out there got a lot of coverage.

In a general sense, not Ellen or Portia singularly, but how do you see the role of celebrity and famous people bringing this movement to another level? What is that like?

What happened with the Golden Globes? They went vegan. We were down there. We had our products down there. They ordered. The Beverly Hills Hilton ordered our products. We also had a little booth down there. The power of celebrity can be used to shape how the average American thinks about what they buy, etc. I am happy that Hollywood celebrities are getting on board with the vegan idea and making it sexy and hot. That’s going to change people’s consciousness. It will make many people think vegan is sexy. That’s the new cool.

We have all the athletes who are showing that it’s not just sexy and cool, but it’s also something that can make you strong and improve your performance. That’s why The Game Changers documentary, which I still haven’t seen for the record. I keep meaning to see it. It’s one of those things sometimes we’re like, “I’m already a vegan.” Everyone’s already talking about it. I would like to see it and have my perspective on it. That movie is impacting people because it’s showing that veganism, it’s not going to get in your way of being an athlete. It’s not going to interrupt.

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It’s going to enhance your being an athlete. I want to tip my hat to Louie Psihoyos, the Director-Producer of that movie. He also did Racing Extinction. The Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove. He’s working on a new film about food and he’s a vegan. He wants to spread veganism. This is his one goal. He wants to change people’s perceptions. We’ve got some major talent. That of course was backed by James Cameron. We’ve got major Hollywood talent trying to push this message to the American public and it’s going to resonate. It’s such an effective communication method. More so than people picketing and boycotting this that and the other thing. We got to make it as sexy and phenomenal. The hottest thing that you can do is to go vegan.

We can use entertainment, creativity and art for activism. You feel that’s one of the most profound.

Food, don’t forget the food. They’re all forms of activism. There are forms of activism that inspire people and enrich their lives. It doesn’t shame them. It doesn’t make them feel bad because shaming and guilt and making people feel bad doesn’t work. You got to inspire them. You got to give them the superpowers. You got to make them feel like they are also effective to change-makers. You can do that through the arts. You can do that through creativity. You can do that through food, but you don’t do that by putting them down.

It’s well said, Miyoko.

It’s tough for any progress to be made by putting people down. It gets in the way. We still have a lot to learn and I don’t know if we’ll ever be at a point as human beings where we won’t be negative or critical. I think about that a lot. There’s always this dream of world peace. We all have different definitions of what world peace means. A lot of us had this idea, “Why can’t we all get along?” I don’t know, maybe we’re not meant to all get along, but we can certainly try. It’s a daily decision.

We can’t give up. We have to keep trying.

I feel energetically that we’re getting closer to wrapping this episode up, but I would love to know, Miyoko, for people who are making a difference in this world, whether that is in the vegan movement, the sustainability movement. There’s much overlap in our activism and our heart. For people feeling like it might be too late or that it’s hopeless or why bother? To be honest, I sometimes battle with that. I talked to other activists and artists and people we know, friends of ours that it’s like, “There are some days it’s like, why bother? Is it too late?” I don’t know if you have that conversation with people or you might have those thoughts ever. You seem optimistic. What advice or message would you give perhaps some of the readers if they have those types of feelings? How do we continue to move forward with positivity, optimism and power even when we have perhaps feelings of hopelessness?

Hopelessness is something that gets to a lot of people. Negativity can beget negativity. Even if you think in your head that it’s hopeless, in your heart, you have to believe in hope. You have to believe if you have free will. Your free will can determine the future. If you give up on that, then all is lost. You can only count on your own heart and you have to keep driving. Especially if you’re an artist, if you’re a creative person, we plunge into despair and depression much more than a lot of people who don’t think deeply about things. We’re thinking deeply about things all the time. First of all, I’m surrounded by love and I feel that love gives me much hope. When I look into the eyes of our animals, the goats and the pigs, how can I give up? I have to create a world where they’re going to survive. If I give up, then what’s going to happen to them? If you give up, what’s going to happen to them? We can’t. We share the world with people. If we care about all living beings on this planet, human and nonhuman, we can’t give up. We have to keep going until we achieve the most beautiful world. Not until it’s over because we will create the most beautiful world. We have to do it.

It’s such a powerful message because I love researching how to be successful. What leads to a difference and in our personal lives, but on a global level at any step forward is progress? Whether it’s a big step forward, multiple-step forwards or a tiny step, it’s about creating that momentum. If we think about it as any movement is powerful.

Any movement is powerful. You give up meat for one meal, that’s powerful. For me, my goal in life isn’t to become the world’s famous jazz singer or the beat to be crowned as the queen of vegan cheese. My goal in life is to inspire people to become change-makers, to feel empowered, whether it’s one little thing they do or a lot of things. That’s all I want to do is hopefully be able to inspire people to take up the cause and not give up.

It’s Miyoko’s Kitchen right now. Was it Creamery at some point?

That’s the name of it. It’s confusing. The corporation is Miyoko’s Kitchen. The brand is Miyoko’s Creamery. Does that make sense?

Yes, 100%.

Kitchen though could mean things other than it could be creamy foods.

It could be other things in the future.

Do you see yourself in the kitchen for in the indefinite or are you taking it year by year or do you have a path?

We have a product pipeline. We’ve got the next couple of years mapped out. We think it’s smart growth strategies. We know what the white space is in the marketplace and what we need to come out with? We have a roadmap. That’s important to have that strategy and figure out what channels you’re going to go into to think about that smartly. We do that not by doing market research or using our intuition. We also talked to buyers at retailers to find out, “What are you looking for? What do you think is needed?”

There’s a jazzy vegetarian but there’s not a jazzy vegan as far as I know.

That’s the new show there, The Jazzy Vegan.

Were you ever on that show, The Jazzy Vegetarian, as a guest or something? Were you ever involved?

No. Never.

She did Vegan Mashup. Miyoko’s had the series Vegan Mashup, which was way out of its time. I feel like that Pantheon we talked about this years ago. 

You had the show.

We both did. That was around the same time, in 2013, 2014 Vegan Mashup and How to Live to 100 and also, What Would Juliana Do? In 2013, 2014 there were four vegan series.

They were too soon. Now, would be the time. I’m surprised no one’s talked to you again.

The shock though is that six years ago, there were four vegan series people could watch on television and now, there’s nothing. That blows my mind because it’s bigger than it’s ever been.

BOSH! has a show in the UK.

They do a series.

There’s a lot of little things happening in the mainstream jazz or the US mainstream, however. Some of us just don’t know. We’re at a point where there’s much going on that you can’t even keep track. That’s a beautiful thing. 

I’m finding new YouTube channels all the time. There’s so much talent out there. It’s amazing.

There always has been. Social media has supported us in getting the word out more than ever. As much as we would love to talk, we have parties to go to. Perhaps Jason and I can share the behind the scenes of what the party was like in our next episode. We never know when these episodes are going to come out. We follow them organically. If we do another follow-up episode with me, Miyoko, one day or if we talk more about the parties we’re about to go to, whatever we do, we will post it for you. It’s hard to know exactly how to end, but I feel like Jason has one more thing. 

My only request, Miyoko, is that I would like to come to take another trip to Rancho CompasiónA few years ago when I came to visit you and we shot that incredible video, it literally, and I don’t use this word lightly, I had a moment of, “This is paradise.”

We have quite a few more animals living in paradise, come and visit them.

I would love to come and see them again and I still wish myself in that beautiful compassionate paradise.

As long as you shovel some manure. It’s a never-ending thing because on a farm, crap happens all the time to the tune of about 300 pounds a day.

We’ll shovel shit for pets.

We’ll shovel crap for vegan food.

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About Miyoko Schinner

MGU 24 | Vegan CommunityMiyoko Schinner is the tenacious, award-winning vegan celebrity chef behind Miyoko’s. Her passion for her craft and mission is unrivaled. The publication of her groundbreaking book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, kicked off the start of the vegan cheese revolution. Growing up as a vegetarian, Miyoko’s passion for fine food ignited during the 1980’s when rich and flavorful French cuisine and gourmet cheeses were a huge trend in her home city of Tokyo.

As a self confessed cheese-a-holic, she found herself conflicted by her culinary tastes and her compassion for animals. Like many vegetarians, she struggled to give up these dairy rich foods. In true Miyoko style, she went vegan and boldly set out to create plant-based cheese and cuisine as artistic and decadent as the finest French foods she fell in love with. Touching people through food, and animals through activism and actual care, Miyoko balances her love of food and animals. In the wee hours of morning, she can be found shoveling manure and feeding hay to the motley crew at Rancho Compasión, and later, leading the charge at Miyoko’s.

Whether in the kitchen or the farm, Miyoko makes her mission of feeding the world with delicious, compassionate food the drive behind everything she does.

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