Gaufre de Liege (Liege Waffles) by The Waffler

For more then ten years, Russell Viers has wanted to recreate the taste of an authentic Liege Waffle in Kansas City. He, and a few local Belgians, believe he has.

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A Perfect Blend of Dough, Belgian Pearl Sugar and a Cast Iron Krampouz Waffle Iron

These are not made from batter (don't even suggest it). Liege Waffles are made from a dough with ancestry related to French Brioche Bread and the added magic of beet sugar nuggets straight from Belgium.

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The Sugar Matters

The Waffler buys sugar certified by the Belgian government as 97.8 percent pure Belgian Pearl Sugar. Made from beets, this sure makes all the difference in recreating authentic Liege Waffles.

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This industrial-strength Krampouz has Cast Iron plates

The Waffler uses Krampouz Waffle Irons from Belgium to create the most realistic, highest quality waffles possible.

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Thanks for filling the “tip” jar generously

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Center of Hope

This is on the back of a t-shirt worn by one of the volunteers at the Central Ave Center of Hope, home of the Lloyd Siebert Food Pantry. The Center gives freely to a needy community, thanks to donations from many, many people. This image is the short list of what they do.

The first day we took the Wafflemobile out, somebody said “You need a tip jar!”

Oops…I thought we had everything covered, but I never thought of that one. As one of the boys got a coffee cup and started writing “tips” on the side, I thought about just how lucky, advantaged, blessed…whatever descriptor you want to use for it, we are.

“Do we need to keep the tips?” I asked my kids. They made a face like “of course not”, shrugged, and we all agreed that we would find a local charity to give ALL tips to from then on out.

One requirement is that it has to be so local, that the money stays right here in Kansas City. Another is that it has such low administrative costs that the donation is going mostly to the people who need it.

As we were chatting about it, I thought of the Lloyd Siebert Food Pantry, started more than 40 years ago by, well, Lloyd Siebert. It wasn’t called that when he ran it. They changed the name after his death in his honor. He was a great man. He was like a third grandfather to me. He gave very generously, with his heart, and asked for nothing in return.

I remember a time riding with him in his car, which really was taking death by the horns, as he was a horrible driver, and something popped up that angered him a bit. I don’t remember if it was something said about someone living in a mansion, or driving an expensive car, but the point is what he said in response: “People don’t have a RIGHT to live like that, as long as there are hungry people in the world.” And he lived that life.

I see a lot of memes floating around about how these poor are “entitled” or should just “work harder”. I am not going to get political here…I simply challenge anyone who feels that way to donate a few hours and serve a meal at the Central Ave Center of Hope where I was yesterday. They are the home of the Lloyd Siebert Food Pantry now and serve meals five days a week, along with many other services to the disadvantaged.

If you serve a meal there, you will see a few things…

People are served without judgement

It’s easy to look at the way someone is dressed and think “they don’t need a free meal”, but who really knows what someone is going through. They might only have enough money for gas money to start a new job, nice clothes from the thrift shop, but not enough for lunch.

There are people there who obviously are in need. Yesterday I saw adults with learning disabilities, but are able to live alone. Some had children, who wouldn’t have eaten lunch without the Center. I saw older adults in the community and it’s obvious their Social Security isn’t enough. I saw some whom you might call “people of the street.” They get hungry, too…and who knows WHY they are in that position. I’m just glad I’m not.

But in the end, remember this is not a fancy meal. The Center does the best it can with the resources and donations given. They cook their own food and sometimes it’s not fancy. So if someone is there to have overcooked meatloaf leftovers, stale corn chips and a kook-aid, they probably don’t have $3 in their pockets for a couple of QuikTrip hot dogs.

The people appreciate the meal

I know I would be a bit embarrassed if I had put myself in a position where I needed to stand in line at a Food Pantry for a free meal. It’s just the way I am. I think most people would be. These people seem to truly appreciate not just a free meal, but a welcoming group of volunteers who are kind and empathetic.

In talking with all the volunteers, my father and step mother among them, they are all there because they really do care and want to do what they can to help.

And as people finish their meals and trickle out, most will come up and give a genuine “thank you so much”.

There is Free Stuff for them to take home

Volunteers at the Center work hard to locate food for those in need to take home. My dad and Lois go out twice a week to Panera and get the bread at the end of the day. They have to be there AT 9:00 pm, sign a waiver, then take the bread the next morning to the Center for anyone who needs bread. “Limit One Per Day,” the sign reads.

But yesterday there wasn’t just bread from Panera. There was bread donated from local grocers, bags of salad, donuts and other foods that were about to expire and donated.

There is also a Thrift Shop where one day a week locals are allowed to come take clothing for FREE.

They have shower facilities for people who might be living on the street, or just can’t afford the water bill at home. No questions.

We can do more…and we will

Tomorrow is the first month anniversary of The Waffler being on the street. I’m not out every day, and we’re still building a following, but I’m proud to announce that in that month, the “tip” jar brought in $489.70.

Thanks so much to all who gave freely to this cause.

The Lloyd Siebert Food Pantry is important to me, and we’ll target it again in the future. In our second month on the road, we’ll be donating the “tips” to a different local group.

Stay tuned.

Yes I saw “Chef”…that’s not why I have a food truck!

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Cass, executive chef at Williams Sonoma on the Plaza in Kansas City, as well as the rest of the staff, have been VERY supportive and generous with advice. She even invited me to come into the store on a Sunday and demonstrate my Waffles and have customers taste the various flavors.

Cass, executive chef at Williams Sonoma on the Plaza in Kansas City, as well as the rest of the staff, have been VERY supportive and generous with advice. She even invited me to come into the store on a Sunday and demonstrate my Waffles and have customers taste the various flavors.

Anyone who has known me more than two months is wondering what the joke is. I’ve had the question come up when I go to speak at an event: “Soooo…what’s the deal with the waffles…I don’t get it?” people will ask.

This is not a lifelong dream come true. This just happened. Much like Gazette The Board Game. What started out as a joke, got out of hand and turned into a real game. Yep…there are a few copies hanging around. I blame Mike Hodges, Executive Director of the Texas Press Association for that one.

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Last July I spoke at the Arkansas Press Association’s Summer Convention and a surviving copy of Gazette The Board Game ended up in the Silent Auction. I was asked to autograph it. I have horrible handwriting.

Other jokes that got out of hand might be the Quadra 950 T2SQuijaProofproducts made from old equipment at the newspaper and Dewey the Pressman Action Figure. I’m sure there are many others my friends and family could list. Please don’t.

But I digress.

Yes I saw “Chef”, but that’s not why I did it, either.

For the full story, we’re going to have to go back about ten years to Brussels, Belgium, when I had my first Liege Waffle.

I was in the Central Train Station with time between trains. I thought I would mosey on over to the Grand Place and have some frites. I found my way down to the lockers to stow my luggage for a few hours and, as I was walking back to the exit, I caught a whiff of heaven. I literally followed my nose to a little window tucked away in a hallway, not even in the main passageway. Inside sat an old woman and her waffle iron.

I don’t speak French, she didn’t speak English, but somehow we managed the business transaction of purchasing my first Guafre de Liege.

One bite and I was hooked. I said to myself then (more in my head than audibly) “Some day I need to learn how to make these.”

I travel to Belgium several times each year, and I’m sure they know I’m in town due to a nice little blip in the sales of Waffles in the train stations. I’m an addict.

Over the years I’ve tried to make them at home. I’ve brought the Pear Sugar over from Europe and tried various recipes I have found online, but nothing that was worth sharing. I always ended up with a lot of dirty dishes and a trashcan full of bad dough.

A few months ago my daughter Meghan pushed me to perfect my waffles, as she thought they would be great for her upcoming wedding. So I spent a weekend doing research, trying various recipes, adding my twists, playing…until I created a Waffle that was good enough to share.

“You’re at 90 percent,” she said.

“Needs more humidity” said my 18-year-old son Turo. What 18 year old says “humidity” when describing food?

So I went back in the kitchen, tried a few things, and BOOM! I knew I was VERY close. Since I wanted to make the best waffle possible for her wedding, I invited friends and family over to the house for taste tests. I started playing with flavors, like orange, almond (almond extract in the dough, then rolling it in crushed dry-roasted almonds before going in the iron) and espresso (coffee extract in the dough, then rolling it in coarsely-ground espresso beans before hitting the iron).

People started saying “You should start a food truck.”

“I’m not starting a food truck,” I would reply. “Maybe in 2017, or something.”

But then there was the First Fridays at the Crossroads June 4, 2015. I was there with Meghan and my future son-in-law Jeff. We were walking around trying the various trucks. After I saw a beat up old camper being used as a food truck, I asked Jeff “How much can something like that cost?” We batted around some numbers and I said “Okay…I’ll start a food truck.”

Six weeks later I was open for business at Gregory & Wornall.

I have to say it has been some of the most fun I’ve had in my life…and the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Those who know me know how hard I’ve worked on various projects…I work hard. But NOTHING like I have in the past two months. I’m an idiot. I picked a product that is VERY difficult to make and I have a standard for it that makes it even harder.

Perhaps if I made corn dogs it would be easier…but not as satisfying. I have a product I’m very proud of. And although it has been around since the late 1800s, I feel like I’m adding my own flair to it…this is MY product. It’s not a mix. It’s not a recipe I took from allrecipes.com. It’s a product that starts by bouncing around in my head and into my kitchen for testing, pushed in front of willing friends and family, then, maybe, eventually, on the truck for the public.

I want to thank all those who have tasted the waffles and given honest feedback. I also want to thank those who have politely listened to me talk on and on about waffles, patiently nodding their heads. Thanks, also, to all who have come to the truck to buy waffles, liked The Waffler on Facebook and Twitter, told friends and more. You have all made this rewarding.

Typical of Hollywood, there isn’t much about the movie Chef I have found very factual. Great movie, don’t get me wrong, but they make it out to look easier than it is. But there is one thing that has been VERY true, at least in the case of The Waffler, and that is that the truck has unified our family in many ways. This isn’t MY truck, alone. It’s something my kids, parents and I all work together on and share a love/like/hate for. We’ve had some good times in the past month on the truck trying to make things work.

If nothing else, that has made the investment well worth it.

Categories: The Waffler