Rod Dupen on his "killer waffle" and the soon-to-open Waffle Brothers in Uptown
"John had just spent a few weeks in Belgium, and every day, he'd go buy a waffle or two from the waffle cart, and when he got back to Denver, he asked if I'd be interested in going into the waffle business," recalls Dupen. For more than a year, the two researched waffles and recipes, ultimately creating "a killer waffle that friends and neighbors loved." They started peddling them at charity events and festivals, farmers' markets and concession stands, and it wasn't long before the two wafflers began to enjoy the sweet smell of success. "Everywhere we went, we had lines and a constant stream of people, and we realized that we were on to something," says Dupen, who launched a cart on the 16th Street Mall in 2008.
A brick-and-mortar Waffle Brothers opened in the Alamo Placita neighborhood in 2010, followed by a Boulder store in 2012. In mid-May, a third Waffle Brothers will open in Uptown -- and this one will serve beer and wine and boast a beer garden. "We're really excited about opening another Waffle Brothers in such a great neighborhood, and the patio is going to make one helluva cool beer garden," promises Dupen, who in the following interview attacks Brussels sprouts (with a vengeance), recalls the night when his restaurant was smashed by a drunk driver, and explains how Groupon made him humble.
How do you describe your food? We're built around breakfast and lunch and incorporate an array of sweet and savory food items, from delicious, healthy sandwiches and salads to variations of wholesome waffles with sweet toppings, fruity toppings, sausage, bacon and egg toppings. And the combinations are endless from there.
Ten words to describe you: Australian, driven, eternally optimistic, friendly, outgoing, social, athletic, ambitious and lucky.
What are your ingredient obsessions? I love anything with flavor -- just give me a lot of spice like jalapeños or cayenne pepper. I also enjoy basil, olives and olive oil, and...oh, yeah, lots of fresh fruits. My favorites are strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, blackberries, pineapples and mangos.
What are your kitchen-gadget obsessions? Anything you can buy from a 1-800 number. If it's available in two-for-one and it's under $25, I'm probably going to buy it.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Belfiore's breakfast sausage. It's lean, spicy, and you can eat it all day and never have an upset stomach.
One ingredient that you won't touch: I'd normally say Spam, but we just created the Hawaiian waffle, which incorporates Spam and pineapple. It's shockingly -- and surprisingly -- good. In light of that, I guess I'd have to say lard. It's just gross.
Food trend you'd like to see in 2013: More Waffle Brothers restaurants. I'd also like to see real gluten-free and vegan-produced products.
Food trend you'd like to see disappear in 2013: Dollar menus. If you buy something for a buck, it's going to taste like it costs a buck, and while most of us are trying to advocate healthy eating, the fast-food, suck-them-in dollar menus just keep multiplying.