Story Behind the Food: Artisan Tofu from 21st Century Foods

by Dayna Burtness, Midwest Fellow for the Bon Appétit Managment Company Foundation


Here's an unlikely sentence: The highlight of my recent trip to Boston centered around coagulated and pressed soymilk, aka tofu.  As a Fellow for the Bon Appétit Managment Company Foundation I travel around the country speaking with college students who eat in our onsite restaurants at colleges like MIT.  While I'm in town, I pop in on some of our Farm to Fork Partners to take pictures and learn their stories.  When I found out that the supplier of artisan tofu and seitan for our cafe at MIT was on the docket, I was stoked!

See, I love tofu. I love eating it straight from the package, cold and plain, or smothered in fiery sauces in a stirfry.  I'll even pop a few cubes into my spinach and blueberry smoothie to give it a nice creamy aftertaste. (Seriously, it's good!) 

However, my love for tofu has grown exponentially after meeting with Rudy and Lovin Canale, the owners of 21st Century Foods in Boston, MA.  They've been creating artisan tofu and seitan for the past 30 years and were kind enough to give me a behind the scenes tour. 

Rudy, a native of northern Italy, first became interested in tofu after his time in the Italian army inspired him to be a vegetarian and "become peaceful in all ways." He began making tofu for his macrobiotic restaurant in Italy and brought his unique method of processing with him when he moved to Boston in the 1970s. 

Today, Rudy, Lovin and their daughters handcraft tofu and seitan using solar-heated water and local, sustainably grown soybeans for Bon Appétit cafes and other restaurants and grocery stores.  For local accounts, Rudy delivers via bicycle!

And the taste? Light, creamy, and fresh! 

The process begins by grinding special soybeans soaked overnight:


The process ends less than 30 minutes later with giant, delicious slabs of tofu cooling on the table!


Check out more photos of 21st Century Foods on the Bon Appétit Facebook page.