A waffle of a different flavor
When 23-year-old Rachel Thompson was young and thought about what she wanted to be when she grew up, a waffle maker wasn't her top choice.
In fact, it wasn't even on the list.
But now that's exactly what Thompson, a 2012 graduate of Jefferson High School, is doing in Minneapolis as the owner of Tbsp. Liège Waffles.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in product design and business, Thompson worked part-time for a Minneapolis bagel company. That's when the idea to start her own food business started taking root.
"I was like, 'Why don't I do this?'" Thompson recalled. "It was so much fun, working at farmer's markets, selling food, meeting a bunch of awesome local entrepreneurs."
So, Thompson decided to take a chance on her own business. But first she had to decide what type of food to focus on.
"I had been traveling in Europe the year before and I had heard about these liège waffles," Thompson said. "They're all over the place. You can find them on any street corner. But they're not a thing in the States."
For the next six months, Thompson learned what she could about liège waffles and started testing recipes. Liège waffles differ from traditional waffles in that they are made from dough rather than batter.
"If you've never had one, it's really hard to explain," Thompson said. "They're not really waffles. They're like doughnuts. ... It's basically like putting bread dough on a waffle iron."
Liège waffles also contain pearl sugar, a type of sugar that does not melt when baked.
"You mix that in the dough and those kind of caramelize," Thompson said. "Some of them stay crunchy in the waffle."
After perfecting her recipe, Thompson began selling her waffles at farmer's markets and pop-ups in April of 2015.
"The education process of getting people to see me at a market and kind of being like, 'Oh, those aren't waffles,' has been tough," Thompson said. "Slowly but surely I'm kind of educating the Minneapolis area on what they are and how different they are."
Many people prefer the waffles with toppings. Thompson has a few types of waffles that are always available, and others that she changes out often.
"I always have a take on a churro, coated in cinnamon sugar," she said. "And then my brown butter salted caramel, I can't take those off. Other than that I try to switch up one or two of the toppings every week."
As for the future of Tbsp. Liège Waffles? Thompson says she doesn't have any concrete plans, and will go wherever the career takes her.
"I'm open to anything, but I'm just kind of having fun now," she said.
Try Tbsp. Liège Waffles
March 11 from 9 a.m. to noon at Anelace Coffee, 2402 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis
March 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Northeast Winter Market, 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
March 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at Wedge Table, 2412 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis