We had a chat with Leeann Rybakov, founder of BuckWHAT!, about her expertise in health and fitness and why she began making buckwheat snacks. In her interview, she shares with us the numerous health benefits associated with buckwheat, including the surprising fact that it is actually gluten-free! Check our newest artisan from Brooklyn, New York!
What is the story behind BuckWHAT?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine and buckwheat was a staple when I was growing up. After graduating from the International Culinary Center in Soho, I wanted to create a healthy snack that I could eat before and after workouts. I chose buckwheat as the main ingredient because of its fantastic nutty taste and it's incredibly nutritious and energizing!
How did you come up with the name "BuckWHAT!"?
I originally wanted to make buckwheat bowls cooked with different vegetables and sauces. One day, my husband's friend came over to try the bowls and help us come up with a name. He also tried some of the noshes that I had made for myself but ended loving those more! He was the one who shouted, "BuckWHAT!" and it totally made sense! Buckwheat is actually gluten-free so we took out the "e" to make it BuckWHAT!
What are the health benefits of buckwheat?
People often confuse buckwheat as being from the grain family but it's actually a seed, which is why it's gluten-free! It's filled with protein and fiber, has tons of minerals, and is low glycemic. It balances out the sugars in diets, so it's great for diabetics!
Why did you decide to make healthy snacks?
My passion and knowledge for health pushed me to create BuckWHAT! Many bars out there that advertises itself as "healthy" either have tons of ingredients (half of them I can't understand) or lots of sugar like honey, agave or fructose corn syrup. When you eat a snack loaded with added sugar, you'll get a sugar spike. You're instantly hungry after, which defeats the purpose of a snack.
Do you like to workout a lot?
I love spinning and I've ran a bunch of half marathons and a marathon before. I even worked out up until the day I had my daughter! (Leeann is expecting another baby this June!)
What makes BuckWHAT! unique?
There are very few snacks out there made with buckwheat. Our snacks have no added sugar or oil. It is naturally sweet from dates and raisins, which has lots of fiber and leaves you feeling satiated.
How do you make your buckwheat snacks?
I don't use buckwheat flour. For the noshes, I take whole buckwheat and grind them out myself. For the bars and the granolas, I keep the buckwheat whole because they have an amazing crunch when they're baked and add a lot of texture.
Where do you source your ingredients?
None of my ingredients are imported. Most are sourced locally in the New York area; buckwheat is grown in the Hudson Valley. Others, like dates and raisins, tend to grow better in the West Coast so I get them there. I take pride in having a short list of ingredients that are natural and recognizable.
What does the words "artisanal", "small batch" and "handcrafted" mean to you? How does it apply to your products?
We are small batch because we can only turn up to 200 bags of noshes during an 8-hour production time. Everything is done by hand, from scooping to measuring to baking to packaging, so it can't be made in bulk.
What are some creative ways to use your buckwheat snacks?
I've seen people cut up the noshes and put them on yogurt and oatmeal. Almond butter with buckwheat bars and granola on toast with cream cheese also taste really good!
What are your business values?
Staying true to what I'm advertising and making snacks that are good for adults and children alike. BuckWHAT! is the kind of snack that I would feed my daughter.