Chef Matt Williams, who has lived in Charlotte on and off over the past seven years, is in love with a berry from the Amazon. That berry, called acai, has led him to a new commitment. In July, he opened a food truck called Rico's Acai. It specializes in the acclaimed super-food, Brazilian-style bowls that have become popular in other parts of the world, but not so much in the Q.C.
Shortly after graduating from Johnson & Wales, Williams moved back to his home base in Puerto Rico. It was there he was introduced to the antioxidant-heavy blends. One of his friends had started up an acai food truck there and Williams became a frequent customer. After deciding to move back to Charlotte, he jumped at the opportunity to share acai bowls with Charlotteans and to make a business out of his addiction.
Creative Loafing: What's your go-to acai bowl?
Matt Williams: For sure the rainbow bowl. That's definitely the favorite and that's the bowl that has the majority of our fresh fruit on it. I line up the fruits so that it looks like a rainbow. It's got pineapple, mango, strawberries, kiwis, raspberries and blueberries in addition to our base bowl — everything starts off as a Brazil bowl, which is acai puree, granola and banana and that's the traditional Brazilian acai bowl.
The bowls are often referred to as breakfast kind of item, but they look like they'd be good to consume any time of day. Do you have any that are geared more towards being a dessert type treat?
You can eat them any time of day and I like to market them as a meal replacement. There's something about the acai bowl that has a very satisfying quality. Adding Nutella and honey is the way to go if you want to make it a little more sweet like a dessert. It can be added to whatever bowl you pick.
Another premade bowl I have is the Butter Bro bowl and it's packed with the acai base, topped with granola and banana, and has all three butters — Nutella, almond butter and peanut butter — and then it also has hemp seed. It's not really a dessert bowl, but it can be. Any of them can be made a little more sweet.
How's the reception been so far in Charlotte? Do most folks even know what an acai bowl is?
I get the chance to educate people every day on the qualities of acai. First of all, I educate them on the way to pronounce the word acai (ah-sah-ee). I let them know where it's from and what's so good about it. There's a lot more people than I thought initially that are familiar with it from supplements and flavoring — in yogurts and stuff like that — and it's big in juices. The same manufacturer that produces the puree that I use as my base, produces juices and stuff like that. As far as the bowls go, there's a little less familiarity with them. Sometimes there's people from Hawaii and California who walk by my trailer and get excited. I'd say 60 percent of people are familiar with it and 40 percent aren't.