Wood and Water Foods: An Interview with Jillian Leo

It's not an overstatement to say that vegan artisan cheeses and desserts have taken the spotlight over the last year in Toronto. I am always pleasantly surprised to see more restaurants, local supermarkets and even pizza joints offering vegan alternatives, especially when it comes to dairy. Wood and Water Foods is one of my favourite local companies creating handmade, raw, organic and vegan Tree Nut Cheezes and Cheezecakes. Earlier this month I served a full selection of Wood and Water cheezes at my birthday celebrations. They were a huge hit with my guests, especially those who were vegan cheese newbies. 

Jillian Leo of Wood and Water Foods. Photo by Wood and Water. 

Jillian Leo of Wood and Water Foods. Photo by Wood and Water. 

Wood and Water’s products are made using whole, plant-based, unrefined ingredients that are not processed or artificial, with a focus on foods that are nutrient dense and easily digestible. I had the opportunity to interview one of the creators of Wood and Water, and my friend, Jillian Leo about her company, her delicious raw vegan nut cheezes and her personal food philosophy. Jillian's passion for creating healthy, delicious, cruelty-free dairy alternatives truly shines through in all of the products she creates. You'll find the full interview below. Jillian also shared a beautiful recipe for Sweet Cashew Cream Cheeze that can be found here.

Jillian grew up inspired by good food, in a home with a father who is a Chef and her mother who was always cooking up something delicious for her family in their kitchen. Jillian received formal vegetarian cooking training from Chef Sara Harrel, a well respected Toronto vegan/vegetarian Chef who played an instrumental role behind making Canada’s first certificate in vegetarian cuisine available at George Brown College in Toronto. Jillian has worked in the food industry for 10 plus years, in all sorts of establishments and positions. 

A soft and creamy Cheeze round and it gets sharper as it ages. Add a little tart preserves for an extra dose of flavour. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

A soft and creamy Cheeze round and it gets sharper as it ages. Add a little tart preserves for an extra dose of flavour. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

Buttery and savory, firm but creamy, with classic herbs and spices. Lovely on crackers, melted on a baked potato or pasta, or as a delicious spread on some sprouted toast. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

Buttery and savory, firm but creamy, with classic herbs and spices. Lovely on crackers, melted on a baked potato or pasta, or as a delicious spread on some sprouted toast. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

At the end of this article you’ll find all of the details on my current giveaway featuring Wood and Water Cheeze! 


What inspired you to create you to create Wood and Water?  

I was inspired to create Wood & Water by a lot of things, one being my passion for healthy, delicious food. I wanted to create products that there was a need for, that were nourishing, pure and eco-friendly. I was/am inspired by nature and the environment, by food, and by health and well being. The name really comes from feeling connected to our environment and the importance of plant based and eco-friendly, I love the great outdoors!   

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? 

I have definitely always been entrepreneurial spirited! My business partner Tim really inspired and encouraged me to build something doing what I love. It's an amazing feeling to see people really enjoying the products that I have put a lot of love and work into. 

What sets Wood and Water apart in the world of vegan artisan cheeses?

I think what makes Wood and Water products unique is that we make beautiful, raw, cheese like products, free of any junk and that are vegan! Our presentation of the product, being handcrafted and using eco-friendly packaging also sets us apart. All of our packaging, including the labels, are natural, compostable and eco friendly. Free of bleach and plastics, there are no chemicals to contaminate your food or the environment when you’re done using them.

I understand that you only use raw ingredients of the highest quality. What types of factors do you consider when it comes to sourcing ingredients for your products?

We are diligent when sourcing our ingredients for the products, everything we use is Organic except for our Pink Himalayan Sea Salt - which is wild harvested from the heart of the Andes Mountains. Fair Trade is also very important to us and when creating specialty items I try and incorporate local and seasonal produce. 

Toronto-based Wood and Water Foods is always serving up the best in artisan vegan cheese. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.

Toronto-based Wood and Water Foods is always serving up the best in artisan vegan cheese. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.

Why raw? 

I decided to create raw food products because I really like the purity of them and also the health benefits. It always fascinated me, what you can create using raw, soaked nuts. 

Does Wood and Water support any charities/community initiatives?

As the company grows, we plan on donating to more charities/community initiatives. We recently donated to Animal Justice Canada, a not-for-profit dedicated to advocating for the humane treatment of animals.

What is your personal food philosophy?

My personal food philosophy is to eat a plant based/vegan diet, I don't believe we need to consume animals or animal products. That being said, I understand everyone is different, but I would never support cruelty and inhumane practices.

Eat lots of leafy greens and whole foods, but have a donut or cookie or whatever you're into every once and a while! There are lots of great gluten free/vegan bakeries in the city. Don't deprive yourself.

Cook often, experiment with cookbooks, there are so many fantastic blogs filled with beautiful photos and recipes.

Seasona Cheezecakes: Candy Cane Chocolate Crackle. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

Seasona Cheezecakes: Candy Cane Chocolate Crackle. Photo by Wood and Water Foods. 

What’s the most popular Wood and Water product?

I think the Herb + Garlic is the most popular product. The new flavours are definitely getting a lot of praise but the Herb is still a lot of people's favorite.

And if you could only choose one, what would be your favourite Wood and Water product? 

My favorite product is the Original flavour of Cheeze, it was the first one I ever made and I just love how versatile it is! Also our seasonal Cheezecakes.

What’s next for Wood and Water? 

We will expand on our flavours and will introduce a variety of Cheezes in the future. As well as different products that complement our Cheeze.

Toronto-based Wood and Water Foods is always serving up the best in artisan vegan cheese. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.

Toronto-based Wood and Water Foods is always serving up the best in artisan vegan cheese. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.


Instagram Giveaway Details

Thanks to Wood and Water one lucky winner will receive a Prize Pack with their choice of Herb & Garlic, Original, Sharp & Smoky or Cranberry & Pumpkin Seed Cheeze Log!

Two simple steps to win: 

1 - Follow both @lovewildlivefree & @woodandwaterfoods on Instagram.

2 - Under today’s post of the Sweet Cashew Cream Cheeze bowl tag 2 friends, or more to increase your chances of winning! 

Contest closes Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 11pm EST & is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area.


Click here for more info about Wood and Water and to learn where you can find their products at The Big Carrot, select Noah’s Natural Foods, Raise the Root Organic Market, Front Door Organics, and shipping across Canada through The V Word Market, as well as other shops too.  

Click here for Jillian's Sweet Cashew Cream Cheeze Recipe.

Find Jillian's Recipe for Sweet Cashew Cream Cheeze here. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.

Find Jillian's Recipe for Sweet Cashew Cream Cheeze here. Photo by Wood and Water Foods.

Special thanks to Jillian for her time! Don't forget to check out Wood and Water on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and on woodandwaterfoods.com! 

Much love,

#LoveWildLiveFree