Made in the Northwest: Cheez

SPOKANE, Wash. — Leo Walters was running Glorious Artisan Bakery in Browne’s Addition when he started playing around with recipes for a non-dairy cashew cheese. And when people would try it, Walters says they’d always ask two questions.

“First was, ‘What is this?’ People would try it and their eyes would light up and they’d be like, ‘What is this?’ And then second was, ‘Can I buy it?'”

That lit the light bulb for Walters, who started a four month process to be able to offer Cheez commercially. The company officially launched in July.

But what exactly is it?

“It’s a natural product produced from cashews. So it’s a plant based, completely non-dairy product that is just incredibly tasty,” explained Walters, the company’s owner.

Cheez uses only six ingredients. It fills a need for non-dairy or health conscious customers and Walters says it has some great health benefits as well.

“So the promotion of a probiotic within our gut microbiome, as well as it’s all natural. There’s no chemicals. There’s no additives. There’s no preservatives.”

Cheez has the consistency of a soft goat cheese, so it can be used in a variety of ways.

“Just right out of the jar, just add it to your sandwiches, to your wraps, to your spreads, to your salads,” said Walter. “Super versatile and really easy to work with.”

Walters’ personal favorite application for Cheez may be adding a dollop of it to a salad.

“It’s going to add this really lovely tang. It’s going to blend super well with the dressing that you use or if you a nice, light olive oil or balsamic vinegar.”

Not coincidentally, Walters makes Glorious Olive Oils and Balsamics as well, which you can find at the Kitchen Engine. Cheez can be found at several specialty markets around town.

“Huckleberry’s (Natural Market) at 12th and Monroe, My Fresh Basket over in Kendall Yards, Rocket Market,” said Walters, who added that he’s also in talks with Method Juice Cafe.

And because COVID-19 has made it difficult get the word out, Walters may soon start offering Cheez in two ounce sample cups.

“And just give it a try and notice for yourself the great taste, the great depth, the great umami and the great flavor and versatility is has.”

Walters hopes to have Cheez in the Seattle and Portland markets soon and have national distribution in three to five years.

“Ideally, one day you’ll be able to walk into your Whole Foods back in Kansas City and purchase or out on the East Coast or what not.”

Time will tell if this Spokane Cheez spreads nationwide.