Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Bryan Leong and Desmond Ng, owners of Amazebowls food truck, who gave me the low-down on why their nutrition-packed acai (ah-sigh-ee) bowls make a much better post-yoga snack than that frozen yogurt you just “rewarded” yourself with. Or anytime snack for that matter… really, they’re delicious. I’m a sucker for anything topped with granola.
Bryan and Desmond, two young University of Southern California graduates (fight on!) decided to jump ship from finance to start Amazebowls after Desmond tried his first acai bowl on a trip to Santa Barbara. Now, with their truck and a storefront set to open in July, they agree that starting a food truck “teaches you a lot more than business school.”
But Bryan and Desmond aren’t done with their educational careers just yet; they are on a mission to inform the public on healthy eating practices without having to sacrifice taste. They deliver the detoxifying nutritional benefits of the Brazilian acai berry and other fresh fruits and super-foods in an affordable, healthy, and delicious way. Their bowls are vegan-friendly, dairy-friendly, soy-free and made with “100g of love,” as they like to put it.
Desmond and Bryan are very passionate and mindful of the quality and preparation of their product ,and it shows – their meticulously and uniquely prepared icy fruit puree sets them apart from other simple “acai smoothies with granola on top.”
(photo credit: https://twitter.com/Amazebowls)
How did the Amazebowls truck come to be? Why did you choose to focus on acai bowls?
Desmond– “It was really hard to find good acai bowls in LA, basically, so we started making them at home and got really good at it, and found there was a market for it.”
Bryan– “There’s not many things that are healthy and affordable. It’s typically very expensive, or it doesn’t taste very good, or you’re uncomfortable with what you’re eating because you don’t know what’s inside. We wanted to do a concept that fulfilled three things: it’s good for you, affordable, and delicious; all in one.”
Desmond– “That’s why we call it the Amazebowls.”
Bryan– “We want to be that stepping-stone for people to transcend to what’s a healthier lifestyle… I never used to be a very healthy person, but this was one of the first things I was like, ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m enjoying this and its vegan’.”
Desmond– “Once you have better health – better living – all other aspects of your life get better as well. That’s the whole point of our motto, ‘grab life by the bowls’ – getting our customers to live life to the fullest.”
What challenges have you faced?
Bryan – “(Chuckling) Too many… nearly every new food truck owner in LA that we’ve talked to has been shouted at by someone [a restaurant] on Abbot Kinney.”
Bryan – “Because we are a healthy truck many people don’t know about, people are unfamiliar of the concept of acai bowls; a lot of people stay away because they want to stick to what’s familiar – that’s our biggest challenge – educating people that something healthy can come out of a truck.”
So what are the health benefits of acai bowls?
Bryan – “The acai berry is a berry from Brazil. It’s known as a super-blueberry that has a lot of antioxidants in it. Antioxidants help give you extra energy, keeping you naturally healthy. When you pluck it from the tree it dies within 18-24 hours, which is why it’s so expensive, because the nutritional value goes away… our acai is freeze-dried as soon as its plucked in Brazil.”
What is the blending process like?
Desmond – “It’s much more complicated than that, it’s not like Jamba Juice. There’s a fine line between a perfect blend and a overblend… if you don’t blend right, it’s not going to be good. You’re doing almost 300 bowls a day, it’s really easy to push out just an ok product because you’re so tired, but that’s why we really make sure to put in a lot of care.”
“The blenders that we use you can actually make soups in. The longer you blend it the more ‘watery’ it gets. When we first started, we tested out 12, 13 blenders. Even the order of the fruits matter. Different fruits have different textures which depends what you put in first.”
Bryan and Desmond– “Other places don’t know a lot about the blending process. People prefer us because we can produce something that’s kind of similar to frozen yogurt, but it’s very good for you, and you don’t have dairy in it… every ingredient has a specific purpose; if it’s not the texture, it’s the amount of nutrition, we got very scientific with it when we first started. We even wanted to look at the calorie count. The base alone is only 200 calories. And it keeps you full too!”
Any future plans for Amazebowls?
Bryan – “We are the type of people who always want to improve, we’ve got so many plans for the future. We’re actually opening a store in July.”
Bryan & Desmond – “We really want to showcase what we’re about with the store. It’s hard in the food truck because everything is behind closed doors for the most part. But in the store we are going to make a lot of our toppings in-house – flaxseeds, bee pollen, chia seeds, more fruit – we’re going to make our own almond milk, cashew butter, almond butter, we even want to grow our own mint leaves. We also want to do a huge granola wall.
“We make the customer comfortable because they can see exactly what they are eating being blended right in front of them… it’s not like McDonald’s where you don’t know what’s in your hamburger bun. We want our customers to feel good.”
(photo credit: https://twitter.com/Amazebowls)