Helena Teichrib sells her Sonntag plant-based cheese at Grey Lynn Farmers Market on Sunday mornings.
How did you come to live in New Zealand?
I came here on a working holiday visa, more than seven years ago. I loved it and was lucky enough to move here permanently.
Was there a particular area that you fell in love with?
Nelson and the Takaka area were highlights for me. But even in a big city like Auckland, nature is so close, and people are very connected to the outdoors. The Auckland beaches are beautiful and easy to get to - I love that.
Have you always worked with food?
I worked as an industrial designer in Germany, mainly designing furniture and lighting. Then, when I came here, I worked on aircraft interiors.
What happened to change that?
It started as a Level 4 lockdown experiment. Cheese is such a delicious food and, since becoming plant-based, I was missing it. In Germany, I had always dabbled in traditional cheesemaking and lockdown gave me the space to try making an alternative that is just as good.
Is it hard to find good vegan food?
I have enjoyed the adventure of discovering new foods and the creativity of trying new ways of cooking and eating. For me, that has been one of the attractions of becoming plant-based. And veganism suits my sustainability values.
Is it really cheese when it hasn’t got any dairy product in it?
I use traditional cheese-making processes, including fermentation with specialised cultures just like the dairy version. Calling my product cheese, also helps people understand how they might eat and use the product. It can be used the same way as dairy cream cheese. I spread it on a slice of sourdough or on bagels with jam. I used it in baked cheesecake, lasagna and as a topping for burritos or savoury pancakes. You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy this.
Is it good?
It’s delicious. My friends first tried my cheeses, loved them, and encouraged me to make this a business. My goal is to deliver a taste and eating experience that is as good as dairy-based cheese. It's full of good, healthy ingredients too.
Where did the name Sonntag come from?
Sonntag is German for Sunday. Sunday is typically the day of rest in Germany and many people use this day to enjoy good food like extended breakfasts. Making food that I want people to indulge in, Sonntag was the perfect name.
[Ed. ... and the name is a great fit with the Sunday Farmers Market.]
You bring all your products and signage to the market on a bike, is it an electric bike?
I use a bike trailer to carry everything, but the bike is powered by my legs - it is not an e-bike. It’s just how I get around.
What hobbies do you have?
I’m a co-founder of Hackland and I love to tinker, make and design things. We have some fun tools like a laser cutter, wood lathe, and sewing machines that members can use for their projects. I really enjoy this vibrant and creative community.
As published in Ponsonby News : September 2021