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!

Bruce of Arabia

Bruce of Arabia


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.





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.




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



Mustard & Rosemary Aioli
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
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
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



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




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.


Robyn – The Unlikely Food Blogger

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A married couple I know (their identity is protected) once turned up to a 1960s fondue party in matching purple caftans! Now I’m not suggesting you go to that retro extreme, but Kiwis are definitely now reviving fondue parties, which were mega trendy in the 1960s and 70s. And it is such an easy and relaxed way to entertain during the chilly months.

Guests sit around dipping bread or vegetables into a communal pot (or two or three) of creamy melted cheese fondue. It can be very messy but is great fun and for keen ‘op shoppers’ like me,  wonderful (usually in a garish orange hue) fondue sets are often selling with very affordable price tags. Of course, Food International has a huge line-up of cheeses to fit the fondue format.

Fondue originated in Switzerland and so the cheeses most commonly used to make it are Swiss – such as Emmental and Gruyère. Raclette and Gouda also work well in fondues and there are many other possible combinations of cheeses and recipes available.

By now, you will have noticed the switch in restaurants and cafes menus throughout New Zealand to serious winter food – steaming soups as starters, more substantial mains and hot desserts. Your home cooking will have changed now too and with the cooler temperatures, your repertoire will include more warming and hearty dishes.

Think grilled cheese bubbling on hot toast, French Onion soup with a huge chunk of baguette lathered in cheese, a Monsieur Croque sandwich using the best quality tasty cheese, wholegrain mustard, shaved ham and sourdough bread, our famous “Southern Sushi” (Mainland cheese rolls) or good old Macaroni Cheese… While the uses of your selection of Food International cheeses might be different from those on balmy summer days, they are an essential part of a varied winter diet.

Food International is also importing some sensational cheeses from Somerdale International, one of the largest UK exporters of very high-quality English and Irish cheeses.

Look out for these three names in particular for hearty winter eating:

El Truffelino Cheddar:
This really has to be tried to be believed. Somerdale Il Truffelino is a premium cheese combining the creamy texture of classic English cheddar with the complex and luxuriant flavour of Black Summer Truffle. Il Truffelino is suitable for vegetarians and does not contain Gluten.

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar:
Aged for at least 24 months, Vintage Reserve has a creamy texture and smooth finish, containing naturally occurring crystals that give it a distinctive crunch. Refined sweet notes balance out its tangy sharpness. The Barber family has been making cheddar since 1833, which makes them the oldest surviving cheddar-makers in the World!

A New Irish Addition –  Claddagh Bó:
Claddagh Bó is a handcrafted Irish aged Cheddar made in County Limerick using milk from grass-fed cows. The name comes from two traditional Gaelic terms. The design of the ‘Claddagh ring’ is said to symbolise the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown), while Bó is Gaelic for Cow and its partnership in nature. Claddagh Bó’s Irish provenance is complemented by its stunning hand waxed packaging in the colours of the Irish tricolour.

YOLO also has some exciting new flavours including Gouda with Lime and Chilli and another Gouda with Truffles. Both are excellent and I’ve heard the latter described as “orgasmic.” How can we argue with that?

Keep warm, healthy and happy,



YOLO Man in Palmy – Kuljeet Singh
Posted on: 15/05/19

YOLO will soon be covering the whole of New Zealand with the opening of a new support office in Palmerston North scheduled for June.

This follows increasing sales of YOLO products throughout the country. The new support office – to be launched in June 2019 – gives Food International the ability to cover New Zealand nationwide and to provide better service to clients.

Kuljeet Singh will be relocated to Palmerston North to look after the lower region of the North Island from Taupo to Wellington. Kuljeet joined our Auckland office in March 2015 and has a very strong knowledge of all YOLO products.

Back in late 2017 YOLO retail products were introduced to the South Island. The Canterbury-based marketing team – led by Keith Robinson and Bruce Cleave –  has successfully launched the YOLO product range throughout leading South Island supermarkets.

Desere du Preez joined our Christchurch support office in August 2018 to take care of YOLO food service clients.

The Auckland office will continue to look after the region north of Taupo through to Kataia. And further good news is that Food International has now partnered with Vertical Sales to grow the YOLO brand in the Chilled and Deli Sections throughout the  North Island supermarkets. Vertical Sales have a great team – made up of passionate foodies.

YOLO has the country covered! 


Posted on: 06/05/19

Food International CEO, Adel Yousef,  Desere du Preez (Sales and Marketing) and Our YOLO Man from Holland, Sjoerd Melman, all look very relaxed and happy at last week’s Christchurch Trade Show for BidFood.

All the YOLO cheese products look wonderful too and beautifully displayed – a perfect set-up to inspire and network with customers and suppliers. But, there was a last minute panic when the products for the Food International display never arrived.

Mysteriously, the pallet is being transported to the Christchurch show seemed to disappear into thin air. Even when Desere put her “detective hat’ on the consignment just couldn’t be traced. So instead of setting up in a nice, relaxed atmosphere, the above trio had to make a mad last minute rush to gather some products together. 

Thanks to the help from the staff of Bidfood Christchurch, Merivale Fresh Choice and the Riccarton branch of Pak’NSave, the day was saved and a great presentation was put together – just in time.

It was a very successful show and an excellent opportunity for our Dutch connection to meet the local customers.

And later in the week, the mystery was solved. The missing pallet loaded with YOLO supplies had arrived in Timaru.

Salon de Gourmets – Spanish Success



Your Unlikely Food Blogger is still in a Spanish state of mind. Travelling with Food International’s CEO, Adel, to the 33rd annual Salon de Gourmets Food Expo in Madrid was a sensational experience.

I’ve attended three times before, but each time the number of exhibitors and visitors grow as does the glitz and glamour. And, of course, the range of amazing food products also increases – with more than 470,000 products on show. This year the expo had 1600 exhibitors and an estimated 93,000 visitors. Apparently King Carlos was there but I didn’t spot him doing any samplings.

The biggest overseas contingent was made up of Canadians and Americans, but I noticed among the international visitors this year, people from many countries who hadn’t attended before – such as Oman and Bangladesh. The interest from Pakistan and India also seems much stronger.  Obviously the popularity of Spanish food is spreading globally!

The show highlighted innovations in Spanish food and culinary applications. But, as in other years it was the hundreds of different virgin olive oils – all from different olive varieties and regions of Spain – along with their famous ham (jamon) and many types of cheeses and wines which really dominated the expo. The country’s huge variety of fish and shellfish were also top runners.

For Food International, it was the selection of cheeses (el  queso ) which was naturally a top priority. We found a gorgeous Brie, which we thought might fit the YOLO profile and are still debating if it would be suitable for New Zealand or not. The only problem there was that it has a strong cabbage-like aroma. In other words, IT STINKS.

We had to wrap it with three heavy bags in our hotel fridge and we could still get that gentle cabbage waft. But, for us the flavor was so incredibly rich and good, it was well worth it! We’ll keep you posted on that particular cheese.

Adel was particularly interested in the ‘heat and eat’ paella dishes (the readymade meals are very popular and of a very high quality), the different varieties of that classic Spanish cheese, Manchego, with the addition of truffles, garlic and even one style which has been washed in red wine. On offer too were wedges of Manchego cut in the classic Spanish triangle. We thought these would fit well with our YOLO assortment of sliced cheeses.

After the expo, we travelled into the province of La Mancha (famous birthplace of the legendary character, Don Quixote, who was always tilting at windmills) and home to that special breed of sheep which produce the milk for Manchego Cheese. We met with the Export Manager for one of the country’s top producers and toured their state-of-the-art factory.

It was beautiful countryside to travel through and plenty of those historic windmills Don Quixote was fighting in the famous legend, but I’m yet to see any Manchego sheep. The man at the Manchego factory said the sheep were kept “close to the home”. So obviously, they are more intensively farmed than their Kiwi counterparts for the milk to make Manchego – arguably Spain’s most famous cheese.

Other New Zealanders to attend the expo were Amelia   Farras-Knowles  of Auckland’s Iberian Foods, and Celebrity Chef,  leading restaurateur and food importer, Simon Gault, of Sous Chef. Simon is pictured here with Adel and a Spanish exhibitor.

Both Simon and Amelia were also very impressed with the fair and excited about new export possibilities from Spain.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our products and keep in touch. Finding new and exciting food ideas from overseas is challenging and rewarding. We plan to have some new Spanish products in your pantry soon.

Adios YOLO Amigos,