Vegan cheese born from bad news

The origin story of Jule’s Foods vegan cashew Brie began with a diagnosis of stage 4 colorectal cancer. In 2014, Davis resident Julie Van Dam got this news, and after her successful treatment, she and husband Stefen Janke, a classically trained chef, chose to go vegan to protect their health. Van Dam began tinkering with making a cashew-based Brie with traditional cheesemaking techniques, and at first, Janke said, “I didn’t want to try it.” But he did, and was hooked: “We’ve got to get it to people.” So Jule’s Food was born. The Davis Food Co-op (620 G Street in Davis) sells the Brie, and Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. offers a cheese plate with it on its vegan menu. Jule’s also developed a faux-cheese sauce that Hook features in vegan mac and cheese and poutine dishes. Janke, the chef behind Plant Punk Kitchen pop-up vegan dinners, sometimes uses Jule’s products for his events. But most importantly, Van Dam is cancer-free now.