“I have created a product that I am beyond proud of, that I believe will make a real difference in the food space."

My favorite quote is: “Take the stairs, not the elevator” - Richard Capizzi My favorite food is: A hot fudge sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream

Susannah Schoolman

Spreading a love for baking using plant-based ingredients

TUNING IN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. Susannah Schoolman's passion for baking runs deep. Having worked in professional kitchens since she was 18, baking has played a significant role in shaping who she is, both personally and professionally. "Food is so emotional. It's an extension of who you are, and I think that's very powerful. It's helped me to understand who I am and what my senses are and to trust my gut feeling."

Drawing on her hugely successful career as a pastry chef at some of the world's most renowned establishments, in 2019, Susannah founded Tourlami, a plant-based ingredients company specializing in butter for professional use.

The idea for Tourlami began while Susannah was working at the popular b.Patisserie in San Francisco. When they opened an outpost in Hawaii, she moved there and was inspired by how the locals lived. “They are so at one with nature, and I loved their approach to food and overall outlook towards health and wellbeing. It inspired me to look at how I was eating, so six years ago, I went vegan cold-turkey."

Susannah's decision to start with the basics and focus on butter was due to a lack of quality plant-based food options at the time. The aim was to create a product made for chefs by chefs that uses high-quality ingredients. With 65% of the global population being lactose intolerant, there's also an inclusive angle to her enterprise. "A lot of restaurants aren't that inclusive. Only recently will you see a vegan burger on the menu. I want to help establishments expand on that."

To formulate her product, Susannah built a kitchen in her parents' basement. After months of fine-tuning and endless recipe testing, she had created two types of butter: one all-purpose and one specifically for lamination. "What we've seen from companies in the plant-based food space like Impossible and Daring Foods is they're creating products for specific uses, rather than a one size fits all approach. I felt like that same application needed to go into butter."

LEARNING FROM LIFE’S CHALLENGING MOMENTS. Susannah says her years working grueling shifts in high-pressured professional kitchens has been character-building in many ways, especially as a young, queer woman working in a male-dominated space. "When I started out, I would be the only woman working the line. My queerness wasn't a topic I openly discussed until I was older and I was leading kitchens where I could create that safe space to do so."

The experience also equipped Susannah with many vital tools to launch a startup. During her time as Head of Pastry at Copenhagen's renowned Hart Bageri, she remembers the challenges of managing a staff of 12. "I was constantly having to think about not only the product that was coming out but how efficient we were, their health and wellbeing, as well as my own. There was a lot of multitasking, which can be incredibly taxing on your mental health and physical body."

As Susannah prepares to launch Tourlami's plant-based butter products, she often reflects on the advice given to her during a moment that proved pivotal in her career trajectory. It was while interning at New York's famous Bouchon bakery, working under pastry chef Richard Capizzi. "He set the foundation for me of how to stand my ground in a room full of male chefs and how to position myself to get to the next step. He was the first person I looked up to and respected, telling me that I was good. The kindness he showed me is something I'll never forget.

"I always thought I would be in restaurants until the day I died, but as I got older, I realized it wasn't the right choice for me. Now, here I am; I have created a vision, a name, a brand, and a product that I am beyond proud of, that I believe will make a real difference in the food space."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.