Blog from Robyn Yousef – an Unlikely Food blogger

Introducing Robyn

You’ll be seeing my face and (hopefully) reading my blogs on this website on a regular basis. I’m the wife of CEO, Adel Yousef –  a sleeping partner of the business in more ways than  one.

My friends say I’m a “very unlikely food blogger” as I really don’t like cooking. It’s Adel who is the clever one in the kitchen in our family, while I’m a writer and prefer to be in front of a computer rather than a stove. But, like many of us, I do claim to be a dedicated “foodie” and Adel’s great passion for the global food industry does inspire me.

Being part of a very large Egyptian family for nearly 44 years has also had a profound effect. They discuss food as much as we talk about the weather here in New Zealand.

I also have become more interested in Food International since we introduced our amazing range of European cheeses, YOLO. Our son, Khaled, was responsible for much of the creativity and the exciting launch of YOLO, which gathers in popularity every day.

We now have more than 50 products under the YOLO label in retail and food service. And we will continue to add to the range.

Adel is attending Gulfood in Dubai next week. It’s the world’s largest food, beverages and hospitality exhibition, which usually attracts nearly 100,000 visitors from all over the world. He’ll be looking out for exciting new lines to include in the Food International repertoire.

I know he has vegan cheese on his shopping list and is keen to expand our range of Middle Eastern ‘mezze’ style items for easy entertaining.

He’ll definitely return with some exciting and innovative products. Watch this space. And in the meantime, make sure you get in to your local supermarket and stock up on our YOLO Halloumi. Sales are sensational!

VERSATILE HALLOUMI BURGERS

01/09/21

For those who love YOLO’s Halloumi – now one of New Zealand’s top-selling cheeses – there is great news. Now selling at South Island supermarkets and coming soon to the North is an innovative new product from Food International’s Turkish supplier, Muratbey with their classic Halloumi in practical burger shapes selling in four-slice packages.

All you have to do is dip the Grill Burger Cheese in warm water for 10 minutes or fry it as is on a pan, grill or toaster (oil-free) and serve hot. Slap the burger between a wholegrain bun and add some fresh salad and you have a quick and healthy (not to mention tasty!) lunch or even dinner.

The burgers do not contain any preservatives, artificial colours, GMO or Gluten and are the perfect option for vegetarians. Muratbey’s classic Halloumi also has a low sodium content.

This product has a long shelf-life so is a handy addition to have in your fridge for those unexpected visitors.

Food International’s CEO, Adel Yousef, had met the team from Muratbey at several international food expos over recent years and was always impressed by their innovative products. Last year Food International imported this country’s first shipment of Turkish cheese, with a selection including TOPI, HELIX and MISTO cheeses from Muratbey.

“These have been well received in New Zealand – children particularly love the animal shapes in the MISTO range – and we expect the Halloumi burger shapes will be even more in demand, Adel says.

Muratbey was launched from a small cheese shop in Eminonu (near Turkey’s capital, Ankara) in 1965. Their first production plant was opened in 1992 and they soon became market leaders in the “Special Cheese” category.

This Turkish company combines cheese with traditional flavours along with modern technology. And their motto is “Flavour Matters”.

Muratbey began their export business in 2008 and now sends their products worldwide – it’s even used by Carl’s Junior in New York. With an extensive range of over 300 products, the company employs nearly 400 people. The aim of the company is to ensure that more people have access to healthy dairy products derived from healthy milk.

Muratbey carries on environmentally responsible production, strives for energy-saving and zero chemical waste in production, and continues to be a leader in setting an example in the industry not only with its products but also with its technological projects.

Let the Pictures Say It ….

Let the Pictures Say It ….

22/03/21

We all know that old chestnut that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And it’s so true.

To say that CEO, Adel Yousef (known to many as Mr YOLO) is thrilled about how these new Turkish products have been received is an understatement. I’m not going to wax lyrical about the amazing success of YOLO’s new snacking range, but instead I’m going to let you feast your eyes on some images taken (after she prepared the treats!) by our Canterbury-based dynamo, Desere.

Just don’t wait too long to try come of these combinations with the TOPI, HELIX and MISTO cheeses from Muratbey with YOLO.

Yours from YOLO

Robyn Yousef

EXCITING NEW FIRST FOR FOOD INTERNATIONAL – TURKISH CHEESE SHIPMENT

EXCITING NEW FIRST FOR FOOD INTERNATIONAL – TURKISH CHEESE SHIPMENT

28/02/21

Food International, has taken delivery of a shipment of Turkish cheese – believed to be the first imported from Turkey into New Zealand.

“This is an exciting and innovative move,” says CEO Adel Yousef. “Turkey is renowned for its cuisine and specializes in white cheeses – recommended as healthy options. The possibilities for other lines from there are huge.”

The new Turkish shipment (which is already on the way to supermarket shelves) embraces a totally new concept in cheeses – it is a versatile and amazing snacking range. Co-branded Muratbey and YOLO brand this includes the TOPI, HELIX and MISTO cheeses. These cheeses represent a new innovation on Mozzarella with a similar profile and applications.

The texture of all three cheeses makes them very adaptable – suitable for grilling, baking, barbecue cooking and deep frying.

The TOPI range is a traditional cheese with an excellent flavour presented in balls as a unique and modern twist. It contains 25% less sodium and is Gluten Free. See the illustration with this story as an example of use – combined with avocado on a quality bread.

First introduced in 1994 after four years of research and development by the Istanbul-based company, Muratbey Foods, HELIX cheese is exported to 20 overseas countries. A braided white cheese, it has a milky taste (like mozzarella) with less sodium. It is popular with children and other cheese-lovers wanting to reduce their salt intake.

In funky shapes kids will adore and with the extra health benefit of fortified Vitamin D, the MISTO range is sure to be a winner with all. Throw the pieces on pizzas or perk up those boring school lunches with these novel cheese shapes. MISTO is a great way to lure reluctant children to eat a healthy product.

All three lines are sold in tubs with attractive and eye-catching designs.

Food International CEO, Mr. Adel Yousef, has worked on acquiring the agency for this Turkish company for many years and is delighted to introduce it to local supermarkets. “This is a real coup for us – excellent cheese products and offered at affordable prices,” he said.

THE REAL THING

THE REAL THING

18/02/21

It was Valentine’s Day in Auckland. It was a perfect day and two elderly Valentines (the YOLO CEO with the Unlikely Food Blogger) went out for lunch.

I ordered a Halloumi and Chicken Salad and was salivating by the time it was delivered to our table. But, no … it was not what I’d envisioned. The Halloumi definitely wasn’t from the YOLO stable. It was pale and floppy – not golden and delicious like its YOLO counterpart.

I was about to storm the kitchen and have some words with the chef. But, the kindly CEO advised against it. And I had to agree it wouldn’t be a good look for me to rush in with the flaccid Halloumi on a fork. Ever the peacemaker, he said he’d talk to the buyer for the chain of restaurants when the time was right.

But, this disappointing plate of food got me thinking about real quality ingredients and how we should be enjoying those – especially in these fraught pandemic days. With the YOLO Halloumi (now also in lime and chilli as well as Mediterranean herbs) you get an affordable and authentic product produced in Europe. We have some superb cheesemakers here in this country, but I believe it’s very hard to beat the original products.

Our YOLO  Spanish Manchego is straight from La Mancha (where old Don Quixote went tilting windmills) from sheep raised there and our UK cheeses are often produced by companies who have been making cheese since the 1800s.

CEO, Adel Yousef, has spent years and travelled extensively to create the YOLO range of cheeses.  Of course, it’s up to the individual (if you go for floppy or a firmly-textured Halloumi) but if you haven’t tasted YOLO cheeses don’t waste valuable time!

I have not blogged for many months for a whole raft of reasons, but hope 2021 will be a good year for you and yours. We will obviously face further COVID challenges, but we Kiwis are made of tough stuff…

Cheers

Robyn Yousef

(Unlikely Food Blogger)

Bruce of Arabia

Bruce of Arabia

1/07/20

It was his sweet success with Chocodates – launching and selling them through the South Island –  that lead to a whirlwind tour of Dubai and Egypt for Bruce Cleave.

Part of the dynamic  team selling Food International products on the Mainland, Bruce works alongside Keith Robinson of Gourmet Food Agencies.  He attended the Gulfood Expo (promoted as the world’s largest) in February and then went on to tour Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt.

With more than 30 years in the food industry, Bruce has worked with Food International products since 2016.  He had a wager with CEO, Adel Yousef, on just how many Chocodates he could sell when the first container landed in the South. After a runaway success with sales of about 12,000 packets of the luxury product in less than four months, Bruce ended up with the trip of a lifetime to the exotic Middle East.

“Just being in Dubai was amazing, while attending Gulfood and then meeting the manufacturers of the Chocodates were incredible experiences.”

Gulfood, which was first launched in 1987, attracted nearly 93,000 visitors from 186 counties between 21 to 25 February, this year.

Bruce was very impressed with the level of organization and professionalism of the huge show. He was also excited by the array of products. “I was especially interested in products – such as the Arabic Mezze food and a superbly-packaged Saffron Tea –  which I could see selling well in New Zealand.”

And visiting the cutting edge facility where the Chocodates are manufactured in Dubai was of incredible interest. “Although I know when I do a sampling that once people have tried this unique product they will definitely buy it, I’ll now have even more knowledge to promote the Chocodates.”

The Chocodates are fleshy dates stuffed with roasted almonds and coated in delicious chocolate. Bruce has been selling milk, coconut, white,  dark and extra dark  chocolate varieties of the delicious sweet. With the next shipment, caramel and sugar-free options will be added.  All the products are 100% Gluten Free.

“I tell people sampling the Chocodates that it is a very healthy treat – complete with the date, almonds and especially with the dark chocolate variety.”

In Egypt, Bruce had an excellent guide in Food International’s CEO, Adel, who was born and raised there. The Kiwi was fascinated with the many contradictions of Egypt and surprise, surprise, his trip to the Pyramids was the highlight of the trip. The local food scored very highly too.

Bruce might just have his don his Arabian robes again soon to introduce Chocodates throughout the North Island.

 

PRESENTING YOLO’S PANEER

PRESENTING YOLO’S PANEER …

23/06/20

YOLO has a new cheese with interesting origins. It was originally made in India and Iran and now Food International is importing a Hungarian-made Paneer (using the traditional recipe with fresh milk) and selling it throughout New Zealand.

Paneer is an unaged, unmelting soft cheese made from curdled milk with some sort of fruit or vegetable acid like lemon juice. It is similar to cream cheese and very popular with vegetarians as another option to tofu to bump up the protein content of dishes.

With a biological value of protein between 80-86%, it contains all the nine essential amino acids. It can be used as a snack and can also be eaten raw. Paneer is bland in taste, so can be flavoured to an individual’s taste and paired with almost anything, making its consumption easy and hassle-free.

It’s also light on the stomach and easy to digest. Dishes that famously use Paneer include Tandoori Chicken, other Indian fish, shrimp, seafood and rice-based dishes and chef’s specials such as Shai Korma Chicken or Lamb Bhuna.

Paneer also fries up beautifully like Halloumi and can be used this way for breakfast dishes or salads.

When you see YOLO’s Paneer with the distinctive yellow-coloured wrapping do buy some as a versatile addition to your pantry.

Experiment.  And remember YOLO – You Only Live Once.

By Robyn Yousef.

NEW FREEDOM & NEW YOLO PRODUCTS

NEW FREEDOM & NEW YOLO PRODUCTS

11/06/20

It’s been an unprecedented time… And how many times have we heard that word “unprecedented” since COVID-19 entered our vernacular? But, here in New Zealand we’ve made it – we are out the other side of Lockdown – and YOLO was available right throughout that very strange period.

Many people bought YOLO Cheese as a little touch of affordable luxury during trying times. Good old comfort food – like cheese and vegemite on toast, cheese scones lathered with butter, cheese straws or puffs and cheesy pizzas – was very popular for those of us who were housebound.

For me it was a very generous slab of our UK Cheddar with Truffles on a savoury biscuit that made those days slide past just a little bit easier. Many of us are now sporting a few extra COVID kilos as a result.

The Food International team worked on throughout Lockdown.  YOLO sales continued to be very strong. The food service sector was dormant, of course, but this is now steadily recovering.

We are enjoying so much the freedom of being with family and friends again and dining out. But, at the same time our hearts go out to those overseas who are still struggling with the scourge of COVID-19 and we dream of al being reunited in a world free of this dreadful disease.

As a brand, YOLO continues to flourish and grow. New products that are just superb and proving very popular are our YOLO Halloumi with lime and chilli and YOLO Halloumi with Mediterranean herbs. If you haven’t sampled these new lines yet make it a priority this week.

Our website has also suffered over the last few months and we apologize for that. But, we are back and plan to bring you a better website with much more practical product information. Enjoy your new freedom to socialize – and make it always with YOLO!

Robyn Yousef

CHAMPAGNE HAM & YOLO HAVARTI Mini Pies with Special Aioli

 

CHAMPAGNE HAM & YOLO HAVARTI Mini Pies with Special Aioli

Robyn Yousef

Instructions
 

Notes

Mustard & Rosemary Aioli
Ingredients:
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
 1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
Ham and Havarti  Mini  Pies
Ingredients:
1 package o flaky puff pastry
 About  150 gms Champagne ham cut into small squares (about 120 cms)
YOLO Havarti cheese, sliced thin (shred about 1 tablespoon for topping)
 1 egg, beaten
Rosemary leaves for garnish
Aioli Instructions:
  1. Crush the garlic, sprinkle with the sea salt, then smash the mixture into a paste.
  2. Add the garlic mixture, mayonnaise, the two mustards, olive oil, lemon juice, and rosemary in a bowl and combine. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
 Instructions :
Mini Pies
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to  220C (or according to the pastry’s package directions).
 Lightly dust a work surface with flour.
Unroll one of the pastry sheets.
Use a round cookie cutter ( about 10 cms or a similarly-sized round object ) to cut out as many circles as possible (you’ll need two circles for each pie).
 Gather up the scraps of  pastry  and roll them to about  3mms thick.
 Cut out more circles, and continue until all the pastry is used.
 Place half the circles on the baking sheet.
Spread about 1/2 teaspoon of the aioli onto the center of the circle.
Add 1 slice of YOLO Havarti cheese to the centre, then top with a few pieces of the ham, mounding the ingredients
Moisten the outer edge of the circle with wet fingers
 Use another circle as the cover.
Wet the outer edges of that one, too, and place the wet side down over the top of each circle on the pan.
Press the edges together tightly to seal the pies.
 Lightly brush each hand pie with the egg.
 Use a sharp knife to cut a small “X” into the centre or Y for YOLO!
Sprinkle just a few pieces of the shredded Yolo Havarti over the top
Continue with the remaining pastry and ingredients.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden, rotating once.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve garnished with rosemary leaves.
YOLO  Goat Cheese/Chevre Dip
200gm YOLO  French Goat’s Chevre Natural Cheese
3 tablespoons natural Greek yoghurt
Juice from ½ lemon
2 tablespoons Olive Oil  (Top Quality Extra Virgin)
Pinch sea salt
Pinch of Cayenne pepper as garnish
Finely chopped fresh herbs such as mint, parsley or oregano
Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve with crunchy vegetables (such as carrots and radish) along with crackers or toasted Pita Bread
YOLO Danish Creamy Blue Cheese and Broccoli Soup
Two tablespoons butter
2 chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 head of broccoli – chopped roughly
1 kumara – diced
1 litre of top quality chicken stock or broth
100g YOLO Danish Creamy Blue Cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.
In a large pot, melt butter, Add onions and garlic – cooking for five minutes to soften but not brown.
Simmer and cook until kumara is totally soft.
Put in blender and whizz until a smooth consistency.
Crumble in cheese, keeping some aside for garnish.
Serve bubbling hot with more cheese melted on toast.
Aioli Instructions:
  1. Crush the garlic, sprinkle with the sea salt, then smash the mixture into a paste.
  2. Add the garlic mixture, mayonnaise, the two mustards, olive oil, lemon juice, and rosemary in a bowl and combine. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Gulfood Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Gulfood Celebrates 25th Anniversary

14/02/20

 

A belated Happy New Year to all. We are already nearly into the third month of the new decade, which has started with a huge surge of business for Food International and amazing growth in our YOLO cheese sales.

We have put our international expansion plan on hold (to Australia, Singapore and Samoa initially) as we strive to streamline our burgeoning Kiwi operation. We are very grateful for the hard work of our team throughout New Zealand with some amazing efforts from the group.

 As I write this on another balmy Auckland day (the whole city seems to be wilting as we need rain do desperately), Food International’s CEO Adel is flying off to Dubai with one of our Christchurch business partners, Bruce Cleave. After attending Gulfood, the pair will travel to Egypt where they’ll be tourists and also trawl the local supermarkets for inspiration. 

 And they’ll come back buzzing with a whole raft of new food ideas. This year’s Gulfood (which attracts over 100,000 visitors from 200 countries every year) is celebrating 25 years as the global food industry’s quintessential meeting point.

This show will be looking towards the next 25 years. As the blurb goes:

 “Which staggering innovations will reshape the industry? What trends will become future norms? Let industry titans, innovators and game-changers talk you through on the future that we need to be ready for now.”

One of the really exciting firsts Adel and Bruce will be able to check out is Gulfood’s first hydroponic homegrown café with fresh and organic produce grown with the very latest in agricultural technology.

Your Most Unlikely Food Blogger would love to be there and looks forward to their reports. The show starts on 16 February for four days at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

We thank you for your support as YOLO grows into a new era.

 

Robyn Yousef

 

YOLO GOING GLOBAL

7/10/19

My sincere apologies – this is my first blog in a while. No excuse really, but life has been very, very busy for the Food International crew. And we have lots of exciting news.

First and foremost, it looks highly likely that the YOLO brand is about to go global – well at least into Australia and Samoa as a starter!  At the moment we have tentative negotiations going on in both places.

In September I attended Fine Food Australia in Sydney with Adel and we have just returned from two weeks in Samoa. At Fine Food, Adel discussed a possible YOLO representation with an experienced Aussie operator and in Apia, we had talks with a Kiwi based there. She is very accomplished in the food trade and hopefully will be able to obtain the appropriate licenses so we can export the European cheeses there.

We will keep you up to the minute with progress on the YOLO international initiative.

The feedback we get on our Haloumi is always incredibly positive and our sales are increasing steadily. If you haven’t sampled YOLO’s Haloumi yet, now is definitely the time. It looks (fingers crossed) as if we are about to enjoy some good Spring weather and outdoor living. YOLO is great on the barbecue (gets a lovely golden colour) and works well mixed in with a whole range of salad veggies. It’s also great as a morning treat (or brunch delight) with fried eggs. Or you can serve it with crackers or on crusty French bread as an easy snack.

We have several shipments due soon – notably a big selection of our popular UK cheeses. These are great sellers to British expats and Kiwis alike. Cheese-lovers know it’s hard to go past the distinctive bite of a Westminster Cheddar or the luxurious delight of Somerdale Wensleydale and cranberries.

And we have to remind you that the Silly Season is rapidly approaching. You’ll need to stock you pantry for visitors and think about the gorgeous cheese boards you can create as presents. But, in the meantime just sit back and savour our cheeses.

Cheers

Robyn – The Unlikely Food Blogger

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