A chat with an all-rounder who’s making his mark with a range of all-natural foods.
It’s not a single dream that motivates Bendjamin Udomkaewkanjana, founder and creator of all-natural food brand Heimat. It has been a combination of dreams: working with healthy food, having his own company, creating a culinary challenge and doing something good for the community he lives in.
Bendjamin was born and raised in Germany. He moved to London for his postgraduate studies in marketing. He has lived and worked in major cities in Germany, worked on the Olympic Project in Beijing and lately has joined a small start-up firm in London. He also has completed a professional culinary education as one of the top students of his class at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School, has worked in internationally known kitchens such as Charlie Trotter’s and has worked with Top Chef season four winner Stephanie Izard in her restaurant The Girl and the Goat in Chicago, Illinois. After moving to Bangkok in 2009, he worked as a university professor in the international programme at Thammasat University.
The Heimat brand and its current product line was born out of Ben’s personal interest in and search for healthy yet tasty food options in Bangkok. In German, the word ‘heimat’ denotes a love of home and feeling of being connected to friends and family. Heimat aims to bring this feeling to the table of all. Heimat’s all-natural nut products contain polyunsaturated fats, which promote heart health, contribute to a stronger immune system, help moderate blood pressure and prevent diabetes. In fact, research has shown that high-quality nut products can aid in weight loss as they are a great source of energy, thereby reducing food cravings as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Additionally, Heimat is committed to creating products that are free of wheat-gluten, dairy products, refined sugar, processed oil and chemical stabilisers.
Ben has created great-tasting products such as sweet and savoury roasted almond butters, chocolate hazelnut praline spread and hazelnut praline, unrefined honey and infused honey, certified organic pressed virgin coconut oil and coconut flower syrup, as well as seasonal jams and nut mixes. Heimat’s most popular product is Deep Dark Chocolate Pudding. It’s loaded with anti-oxidants and best enjoyed chilled, straight from the jar. Customers who sample the chocolate pudding are hypnotised by the rich velvety chocolate texture that soothes your taste buds.
Ben highlights the difference between Heimat products and those of other brands. For example, compare Heimat’s Chocolate Hazelnut Praline to a conventional store-bought chocolate hazelnut spread. Heimat Chocolate Hazelnut Praline contains roasted hazelnuts, roast almonds, pure coconut palm sugar and organic cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. Typical store-bought spreads contain refined sugar, modified vegetable oils, nuts, reduced-fat processed cocoa, milk powder, emulsifier, soy lecithin and artificial vanilla flavour.
Ben believes that the quality of the ingredients used in a product truly determines and influences the taste. He has spent months conducting trial-and-error tests to perfect his recipes, sometimes creating dozens of samples and versions of a product before getting it just right.
Heimat’s cold-pressed virgin coconut oil and coconut flower syrups and honey come from the north of Thailand. These products are farmed under organic regulations. This kind of coconut oil is great in stews and curries, and it also can be used as a natural, nutrient-rich moisturiser for hair, skin and lips. The coconut flower syrup has a wonderfully distinctive flavour combining caramel and molasses with a hint of golden syrup and a fruity, flowery taste of blossom nectar. This is also delicious on ice cream, toast, in tea, or as a replacement for conventional sweeteners in baking. Ben emphasises that his other ingredients are ‘natural’ rather than ‘organic certified’ since he puts more emphasis on having a low impact on his surrounding environment than a paper certification.
So what’s the best way to incorporate Heimat goodness into your food? Ben likes to scoop products right out of the jar, but adds that they’re good on any kind of bread. In Ben’s kitchen, nut butters are also used in squash-pancake batter and added as a topping. He was gracious enough to share the following recipe:
The official launch of Heimat was at Bo.lan’s Eat Responsibly Day. ‘All the hard work we went through seemed to have just paid off the second we had our first customer,’ Ben recalls. Judging by the curious customers and visitors at Heimat’s debut, Ben feels that there is a lot of interest in natural foods and eating healthy. ‘It's the right concept at the right time.’
As for the future of Heimat, Ben is thrilled to see a growing number of customers, followers and fans, which is incredibly rewarding. Ben was particularly touched when he received a phone call from a mother thanking him for providing healthy alternatives for her family’s meals. He is very touched, humbled and honoured by such reactions from his customers and will continue to provide top-notch natural foods for your table.
12/07/2012 - 07:34