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Hey, these bowls are healthy and delicious

If you are what you eat, then SSI Group president Anton Huang and SaladStop! CEO Adrien Desbaillets are the best billboards for their new brand Heybo, healthy meals in a bowl that are right in step with the current grain-bowl trend.

Huang looks super-fit and healthy, after changing his workout routine and making tweaks to his diet.

“I was biking or running, and I just kept gaining weight,” he says. “And then Nikki, my daughter, got me a trainer. She said, ‘No more cardio. And I just lift weights every morning.”

He also stopped the six to eight cans a day of Coke Zero he used to drink. “That was my coffee,” he admits.

Desbaillets, meanwhile, who lives in Singapore, is tall and slim, and has been on a plant-based diet for 10 years: “I grew up in a home where my mom made the effort to cook everything from scratch,” he says, “so my diet is more based around vegetables, fruits, and not so much on protein.”

Guilt-free snacking: Sweet potato fries and chips, taro chips, and (clockwise from top left) White Bean & Cauliflower, Beetroot Chipotle, Avocado Edamame and Red Pepper dips

Not coincidentally, that’s the concept behind Heybo, which he calls “sunshine in a bowl. It is all about flavors,” he says. “It’s different to SaladStop!, but we wanted to make sure that we created a brand that was complementary. SaladStop! is the slightly older sister. Heybo is the more rebellious younger brother that's more playful in terms of the food.”

Heybo (the name is a portmanteau of “hey” and “bowl”) is indeed playful, with colorful, inviting interiors, and an appetizing menu that doesn’t scream “health food.”

Vegan, dairy- and soy-free: Caramel Crunch and Merry Berry ice creams

Want to snack without guilt? They have sweet potato fries and Chips N’ Dips, your choice between taro or sweet potato chips and four kinds of dip: Avocado Edamame, White Bean & Cauliflower, and my faves thanks to their bright, intense flavors — Beetroot Chipotle and Red Pepper.

Want a breakfast muffin without guilt? Try the Heybaos, the Chicken Bao or vegan Mexican Bao with plant-based patty. Both come with egg-white frittata, cheddar cheese and Smoky Ranch dressing sandwiched in between a soft, white bao bun.

Want to drink sodas without guilt? They have refreshing Raspberry and Calamansi sodas, the latter made from our local calamansi. (They also have canned kombuchas for those seeking to increase their gut health.)

It’s important for Desbaillets to source local ingredients from whatever country he’s in, not only to reduce his companies’ carbon footprint but also because one of his core values is authenticity. “We make sure that we are able to speak the local language and bring local flavors, working a lot with local communities.”

Thus, two of Heybo’s five Signature bowls are Philippine exclusives and inspired by our cuisine, and Desbaillets worked with a Philippine team for over a year to develop them: Humba Wumba, featuring braised pork humba with garlic black rice, charred corn, fried eggplant, winged bean salad, spiced peanuts, White Bean & Cauliflower dip and Pineapple Tamarind sauce; and Off the Hook, halibut adobo also with garlic black rice, charred corn, Thai basil tofu, winged bean salad, coconut-lime spice with Red Pepper dip and Moringa vinaigrette.

The humba was very tender and juicy and went well with the sauces, according to my husband Scott. The spiced peanuts are so addictive I wish they would offer them as a separate snack. We both thought the proteins were very well composed with the various grains, salads and sauces. One of Heybo’s strengths is its capacity for customization; not only can you Build Your Bo, mixing and matching ingredients according to your taste, you can eat your bowl however you wish, enjoying each component solo or mixing it all together for a unique flavor experience.

In internal tastings Desbaillets reveals that Humba Wumba was one of the favorites, along with Sunday Roast, slices of char-grilled steak on top of tri-color quinoa, a roasted pumpkin wedge, charred corn, tomato salad, and garlic breadcrumbs, with Beetroot Chipotle dip and balsamic butter. “It’s very much centered on home cooking and what would come together on Sunday,” he notes.

Another standout bowl is Kampong Table. “Kampong means ‘village’ in Malay, and it's very much around what in the old days people would be able to pick up in their own backyard,” says Desbaillets. Hence you’ll get roasted lemongrass chicken with mixed grains, crispy tempeh, a soft-boiled egg, oriental cabbage salad, a lime wedge with White Bean & Cauliflower dip, and green chutney. I love lemongrass chicken, so this was one of my favorites.

Desbaillets’ personal fave is Spice Trade, a vegetarian bowl of falafels, spiced chickpeas, cauliflower-lentil rice, fried eggplant, carrot salad, and Murukku chips with Red Pepper dip and tzatziki.

Dessert was also guilt-free: Heybo’s Merry Berry and Caramel Crunch ice creams are vegan, dairy- and soy-free. The Caramel Crunch, in particular, with its roasted pecans, is to die for.

“We thought very long and hard about building a brand that was fun, and that could hit the sweet spot with the younger generation,” Desbaillets says.

That also means being technology-first and focusing on the digital part of the brand. Heybo features touchscreen kiosks in-store that enable you to build your own bowl, and starting Sept. 1, customers will be able to do that online and have their bowls delivered to their homes or offices.

“We believe that customization is about the younger generations also,” Desbaillets says.

The CEO chose the Philippines for Heybo’s first international branch because he strongly believes in our country’s potential.

“It is a full-circle moment for us,” he muses. “About nine years ago we actually opened SaladStop! next door. So to be back here for the first Heybo international one, we're very excited. We're also very appreciative of our partners. SSI believed in SaladStop! nine years ago, when healthy food was still a question mark in the Philippines. We saw a few initial trends, but for us, obviously it was our first international market and it was a success, so to be back here now nine years later, we've grown up.”

When Heybo was born in 2019, “our thesis really was that SaladStop! could obviously continue to grow, but that brand alone wasn't enough to fill the demand. We saw that across all the markets we were in there was definitely a trend towards healthier food — post-pandemic, especially. But we could see these trends evolve and how Heybo would ultimately fit into it.”

* * *

Heybo is located on the ground floor of Central Square Mall, 5th Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Visit www.heybo.ph and follow @heyboph on Facebook and Instagram. Delivery starts in September.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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