Twenty-five-year-old Drew Cordell has been messing around with doughs while his peers have been trying to find jobs and pay off student loan debt.
The dough he’s playing with makes the waffles he’ll serve from his food truck Dough Heads Waffles in April.
I had the pleasure of chatting with the business-savvy and ambitious entrepreneur at Lancaster Central Market, and he told me all about the making (and eating) of Dough Heads.
Blayne Waterloo: What all does Dough Heads entail?
Drew Cordell: It mainly entails waffles that are made from dough instead of batter. So they’re a little bit thicker and denser. They have a really crispy outside, and the inside is a little more soft and moist. It’s kind of like a doughnut consistency.
Traditionally, dough waffles are only sweet. So that’s what I first started making, because that’s what other places did. I was working at Auntie Anne’s for a while. So I tried making a pretzel dough, cooking that on the waffle maker, and it turned out really well, so I said, “Why not make other savory doughs.”
I started making doughs with cheese, and spices and herbs, and then just stuffed them with fruits, or meats, or anything savory.
BW: How did that start? Did you just start making waffles and say, “I think I want to stuff these”?
DC: The first waffle like this that I had was at Waffallonia in Pittsburgh, and they do just a sweet dough waffle. And the only options they had would be to just put stuff on top – just like, strawberries, bananas and ice cream. Simple stuff you might expect to be on a waffle. When me and my wife went there, we sampled it, and the product was good, but the experience as a whole wasn’t that great, because it was a really, really small place and there wasn’t any seating, the tables were really badly laid out and we were in a nice spot in Pittsburgh. And my wife actually said, “It’s too bad that they couldn’t just stuff it, because then we could’ve walked around town, and looked at some of the stuff near here.”
Then I was thinking about how you could stuff one, and then I talked to one of my friends about it, and he was interested in trying it. So we bought a waffle iron together. The first time I tried what I thought would work, it worked really well. And it made a nice pocket, so we just stuffed strawberries in it.
BW: On your Facebook page, I saw some of the creations, and it looks like entire meals stuffed in a waffle.
DC: My wife’s cousin – his name’s Tanner – he’s a chef who has a lot of experience in the Lancaster area. And for the first six months he didn’t really take it seriously. But then he saw that I was buying commercial kitchen equipment, and I bought the truck, and he was like, “All right, I can see you’re really serious about this now, and I really want to be a part of a new upcoming thing.”
He liked cooking, but he said it’s not as rewarding to be cooking for someone else, when you can create whatever you want [on your own]. I think that he’s been helping to take the waffles and their flavors to a different level. I have an economics background, and I make good dough – so I have the business background and a good base. So, the process now has been making it more like a gourmet meal, with not just two things, but 15 ingredients in each item.
BW: Which waffle are you looking forward to making the most, and that you think will be a hit?
DC: I think the pretzel waffle – after messing around with it – turned out to be the most successful. We put butter on it and coarse sea salt, and then I’ll put something sweet inside, and it gives it a good sweet-and-salty mix. That’s what we’ve been talking about – making things where every bite isn’t the same. We like when someone bites into something and wants to try it again. It makes them want to eat more.
BW: Where are you in the process of getting your food truck started?
DC: Right now, we have all the equipment we need to put in the truck, and we have the truck, but it’s empty. So, right now we’re talking with two or three different places who are getting quotes together for us to actually do the last pieces. Then all we need is someone to get a wrap done, or someone to paint the outside. So it should be ready by the end of March, beginning of April based on the people we’re talking to.
BW: So, the truck implies that you won’t be stationary.
DC: Yeah, Lancaster City’s going to be a big spot. We think it’s going to be a really good item for outside of bars Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s something that we can do with a lot of breakfast items, which is kind of cool. Depending on what time of day we’re setting up, we can have a totally different menu – breakfast, lunch, dinner and after hours. So we can really make our waffles appeal to wherever we’re parking. I’d like to park at some of the local breweries. I know some of them have food trucks parked nearby. Colleges are another place we’d like to get to. And that’s the fun thing about a food truck, is we can just test wherever we want, and if somebody says, “Hey, I live over here, and there’s never any food around,” then we can try that out, too.
BW: Do you have events that you’re lined up to do?
DC: I’ve started applying to some of the festivals and fairs, and some of the charity events. Some of those people have contacted me online. In October there’s Wish Upon a Foodtruck, by the Make a Wish Foundation. I’ve learned that all the events usually have food trucks booked six months out or more. So, while the truck’s getting worked on, I’ve been applying to get these things planned.
BW: You obviously want to make a career out of this, but what are you doing right now in the meantime?
DC: I sell clothes online. My wife worked at a consignment shop for a long time, and she knows all the good brands. So we thrift a lot, and are always looking for really cheap clothing, and then just resell it on eBay. It hasn’t been very sustaining in the long-term, so I’ve been putting a lot of money into Dough Heads. That’s why I’m really ready to get it rolling.
BW: Aside from stuffing waffles, what sets you apart from other food trucks?
DC: One of our major focuses as a business is to use local and non-GMO ingredients. We’re going to make everything from scratch, including all our jams, sauces, peanut butter, etc. We believe that, by buying all quality, whole ingredients and making them ourselves, we can design the flavors and textures to match exactly what we desire, while simultaneously making the healthiest and most nutritious food options, which will be free from preservatives. Our sides for example are going to be things like mini popcorn, carrot hummus, chia seed pudding and fruit chips. We’ll have a lot of gluten-free and vegetarian food options, because sometimes it’s hard for people eating those diets to find foods they can eat.