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.
Other jokes that got out of hand might be the Quadra 950 T2S, QuijaProof, products 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.