Introducing GANYC industry partner Wafels & Dinges
Phone: (212) 510-7114
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube
Q: What year did your business open?
Q: Can you tell us a little about your ideal customer?
Well we like to think that we make "best moment of the day" for our customers. We see a lot of people looking to share a special moment of indulgence with a best friend, with their mom, their kid, their colleague...It's fun, it's just wafels. And dinges. Dinges is Belgian slang for toppings. Everyone likes to be a kid again.
Q: Has your company or organization or any members of the organization received any awards?
+ 2009 NYC Vendy Award for Best Street Vendor
+ Thrillist "The best dessert cart in NYC, bar none"
+ Time Out NY - Top 5 Best Fast Food Restaurants in NYC
+ "Best Dessert Truck in America" by the Daily Meal
+ "Most Popular Food Truck" in the USA
+ "25 Most Fantastic Food Trucks" in the USA by Forbes
+ "Best Belgian Waffle" in NYC
Q: Has your company or organization been featured in print, broadcast or online media?
+The Today ShowQ: What drove you to work or create this company/organization?
It was the summer of 2007, when the King of Belgians, Albert II, got word of soggy “Belgian waffles” in that far away Land of America. They were found in obscure diners, made of pancake batter. “These so called "Belgian" waffles are a disgrace!” So his majesty commissioned the Special Forces from the Ministry of Culinary Affairs, Department of Wafels. He knighted Thomas DeGeest to "Special Envoy for Wafels", and later crowned Rossanna Figuera as "Ambassador of Good Things". Wafels & Dinges was born. It all started with a ‘68 Chevy Truck roaming the streets of NYC. "Wafels & Dinges' mission shall be to give America's “Belgian waffles” a serious upgrade", Albert II declared. And the rest is history...Q: What upcoming or annual events, promotions or sales would you like to promote?
There is of course International Wafel Day (March 25), when anyone dressed in yellow gets a free waffle.
On National Wafel Day (August 24), we have an "art challenge". In exchange for a drawing of a waffle propelled bicycle, a waffle rocket ship....every year it's another theme, you get your free waffle. We have a lot of fun with it.
The biggest event of the year however is the ANNUAL CROWNING OF THE WAFEL KING & QUEEN OF NYC. This happens usually two week after Labor Day. It's a big contest with big prizes. The King & Queen not only win a Year of Free Wafels & Dinges, but thanks to Brussels Airlines they also make a royal trip to Belgium in business class, and a whole week of royal treatment in Belgium.
Q: What is the most gratifying part of your work?
Simply said - delighted customers and happy employees.
Q: What celebrities (if any) have patronized your business or organization?
King & Queen of Belgium of course....quality control. True story. Tina Fey is a big fan Katie Holmes & Surie We've catered with Jack Nicholson, Martha Stewart, Rod Stewart, Matt Lauer, Bon Jovi...they all love Wafels. And dinges. We have catered to virtually every movie and TV show that's shot in NYC.
Q: What special deals, sales, events or promotions are you offering to GANYC tour guides and their customers?
Well, GANYC guides and their customers get a FREE scoop of ice cream on any wafel (full size) they choose.
Q: Any fun stories or favorite moments you can share about why you love working at your business?
Ok - so people need to know that Wafels & Dinges was really the first "gourmet" food truck that emerged in 2007, and set the trend for the food truck wave in NYC and across the country. The whole story is below. We've since been part of daily life in NYC, with carts and trucks and kiosk in many of the most iconic NYC locations: 3 carts in Central Park, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Bridge, Bryant Park, Herald Square and now Times Square. We started from nothing and now I like to think we're a little NYC institution. When it comes to waffles anyways.
People just go crazy when they can build their own waffles. We have people walking out with Double Deckers, Triple Stacks packed with strawberries, chocolate, whipped cream, spekuloos, bananas, ice cream....crazy crazy.
Here's the whole story:
It was in the summer of 2007, when the ailing King of Belgians, Albert II, got word of the “Belgian waffles” in the far away land of America. He was told the waffles were soggy, sometimes even greasy. They were served in low-life diners, with bacon, sausages and corn syrup. Horror. And worst of all, they were made with pancake batter!
America’s fascination with Belgian waffles had started 40 years earlier, at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. It felt like summer romance back then. At the “Bel-Gem” waffle stand of Maurice Vermeersch, World’s Fair visitors discovered the temptation and joy of a light and crispy Brussels waffle, covered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The flame of waffle love slowly faded though, and by the early seventies the waffles felt neglected and misunderstood. By the beginning of the new millennium, no one ever remembered the Brussels waffles. It was all diner-waffles now, round instead of rectangular, mushy instead of crunchy.
“These waffles are a disgrace to the culinary heritage of our Flemish and Walloon people. We just cannot let this go on”, his majesty said. So he commissioned the Ministry of Culinary Affairs, Department of Wafels, to remedy the waffle situation in the USA.
What happened next, you all know. The Ministry activated its dormant waffle-cell in New York City. After 10 years of living undercover as an IBM Management Consultant, the waffle-guy was called to duty. The King allocated an annual budget for the “waffle-surge” and let it be known that going forward, Thomas DeGeest would be the “Special Envoy for Wafels” to the USA. He was tasked with drastically improving the “Belgian waffle” quality in America, starting in New York City.
The King had no idea of the cost to start a business in NYC, and so the budget was based on Belgian franks instead of dollars. With meager funds but with substantial moral support from the Ministry, his wife Rossanna and waffle lovers everywhere, Thomas bought a 1968 Chevy box truck and hit the hot dog and shish kebab jammed jungle of New York City. The Ministry wanted to name the truck “Les Waffles Royals”, but in an act of rebellion, Thomas baptized it in Flemish: “Wafels & Dinges”. Very few New Yorkers knew the true meaning of “dinges”, and that’s a good thing because it could really meaning anything. “Dinges” is the Belgian word for “stuff”, or “whatchamacallit”, or “what’s his/her name”. For us, “dinges” means toppings.
On October 17th of the year 2007, Thomas sold the very first waffle (one topped with Nutella) on the corner of Broadway and Prince Street to an unsuspecting waffle-loving trendsetter who may never know (or have the opportunity to brag to their friends about) being first among millions.
The world began to take notice. Food blogs raved about the elusive waffle truck. On November 12, 2007 the New York Post published a full-page article titled “He’s the Iron Man”. The next day the phones rang of the hook and Wafels & Dinges had a started its catering business, serving its Belgian goodness to private and corporate parties everywhere. The truck began to gain fans. More newspapers came. Morning show weather men started showing up, Belgians began descending to the truck en masse. A strange number of Japanese television shows began to take interest. Even Al Roker nearly lost his mind over a waffle on the Today Show at one point, but not all was well. Papa truck had begun to give out.
You may have heard the stories or seen the videos. It’s all true. Like when an aging family member begins to act irrationally, there was not much that could be done. The truck blasted fire from its exhaust. It broke down on the way to a very important date at the 2008 Vendy Awards. It made sounds that set off all the car alarms across the block. On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, we were driving up Park Avenue South when friendly pedestrians pointed out that the bottom of the truck had caught fire. The FDNY cordoned off the avenue and we continued baking that day. Later we lost both our mirrors and the horn gave out. Something happened that made it permanently tilt to one side. At one point the gear shift stick came right out of the floor driving up First Avenue. After that and a few too many trips to the mechanic, the truck was no longer a manual, yet not quite an automatic vehicle but a beautiful if bittersweet hybrid, probably the first of its kind.
But try we did. We got to know all the towing guys in the city and found out which ones could be bribed with waffles. They took the old ’68 Chevy on countless, fruitless visits to the mechanic. Soon the truck had to be tow-started every time it had to move. It was a spectacular endeavor that involved a rope, the waffle-guy’s station wagon and a lot of making sure there were no cops around. Eventually they were around and after a very amusing episode in criminal court, the truck retired itself to the corner of 7th Avenue and 22nd street where the waffle guy of turn would try to stay awake while daydreaming of customers and the joys of the open road.
Flash forward to April 2009. The Congress in Belgium finally approved a bill to increase funding for the waffle-surge. With a brand new truck, a whole new era had started. Real Belgian wafels were now being served across 14 locations in New York City, 7 days a week, 14 hours per day. The wafels never sleep. The success of the surge started taking hold. Four mini-trucks were added in 2010. Vanilla waffle-aromas were noticed daily from Central Park all the way down to Battery Park. In over 38 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, soggy waffles were expelled to make room for the crispy real deal.
On a trip to Belgian in late 2009, the waffle-guy discovered a new dinges. It was a spread made out traditional Belgian gingerbread cookies – “spekuloos spread”. If you don’t know about it, you will. The Ministry challenged us to make it our signature topping. Thousands of samples later, we can proudly say that we put spekuloos-spread on the map in America. Even Bobby Flay experienced its secret dark powers as he got slayed by a spekuloos wafel during the “Throwdown”.
That year we made it back to The Vendy Awards and in classic Dinges style we were redeemed in full view of the world and on our own ancestral wafel grounds of Flushing Meadows taking home the top prize in our category. The dream was working. Our fan base was growing with fans as distinguished as Els Scheppers, the lovely lady who invented the Spekuloos spread, the legendary cyclist Eddy Merckx, even the Crown Prince and Princes of Belgium gave the Wafels their seal of approval! Holy Dinges!
Zagat woke up one morningin 2010 and rated us the number one food truck in the city. TLC, the Learning Channel even decided we were the number one food truck in the country. The culinary shows “Man vs. Food” and “Eat Street” dedicated a special feature to the “Wafels & Dinges” surge. Jerry Seinfeld recommended the waffles to Andersen Cooper. And the rest, as they say, is history.