How do two childhood friends who both work fulltime in the medical field end up in the food truck business? Cindy Smith and Julie Derringer said it was one of many ideas that they just couldn’t think of a reason not to do.
“We come up with stuff all of the time, but usually we talk ourselves out of it by the end of the conversation,” Cindy explained. “The idea of a food truck started like a lot of our other ideas. We were sitting on my porch looking at Pinterest and saw these cute little waffles on a stick,” Cindy explained. That was all it took. They thought, “Why not all kinds of chicken and waffles served from a food truck?” The Flying Waffle was born and the wheels started turning quickly.
Waffle works of art
After some research, the found a company in Texas to build their food truck. Julie, who is the creative one according to Cindy, designed the eye-catching website, as well as the distinctive Flying Waffle logo and truck wrap.
While they waited for their food truck to be tricked out, Julie and Cindy got down to the business of figuring out what would be on the menu.
“All summer, we worked on developing our craft waffle menu. We held “waffle weekends” and served so many kinds of waffles to our families — my kids, Brady, Eric and Cassie, Julie’s mom, Lil, and my husband R.J. — we stuffed them full of waffles,” Cindy said. “They all gave their opinions and the fun part of this whole venture is that Julie and I are the bosses so we get to decide what we do.”
The Flying Waffle serves up “waffle works of arts,” according to their website. “Our Signature Chicken and Waffles is definitely our best seller,” Julie said. “I like experimenting with cultural twists on the same idea, like flavors incorporated from Thai, Korean, Indian and African dishes. Cindy is definitely the grounded Southern cook — I am the future “Chopped” contestant.”
“We aren’t just talking plain waffles with butter and syrup…we are building waffle works of art…with Kentucky Proud meats, cheese, sauce, spices, fruits and vegetables.”Cindy Smith and Julie Derringer — The Flying Waffle, owners
At the food truck window, Cindy and Julie offer entrees including South of Kentucky Hot Chicken and Waffles featuring Nashville Hot chicken, Thai Peanut Waffles, Whiskey Meatballs (with Cindy’s secret sauce), and Kentucky Proud Shrimp and Grits; along with an assortment of dessert waffles, such as Bananas Stephen Foster and Mary Margaret’s Lemon Pie. Customers can also order interesting sides like Street Corn in a Cup or Cheesy Garlic Mac and Cheese.
From the very beginning, Julie and Cindy decided that The Flying Waffle would be a Kentucky Proud Partner. “That was one of the very first things we discussed as being important,” Cindy explained. “We have found Kentucky Proud vendors for food items like shrimp, pork, cheeses, produce, spices and honey.” One of Julie’s goals for the food truck is to have a larger reliance on partnerships with local agricultural producers.
The business has also committed to using only sustainable and biodegradable products. “We use paper straws, so we tell our customers to drink fast!” Cindy said, smiling.
“We made a deal that we weren’t going to quit our day jobs,” Cindy remarked. Julie and Cindy definitely stay busy. Besides owning and operating The Flying Waffle, which they describe as “a side hustle,” they both work fulltime and are pursuing advanced academic degrees.
Julie, a staff development specialist for neurosciences at the University of Kentucky, is working toward her PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing. Cindy, who is pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, works as a clinical applications trainer with Common Spirit Health. In talking about how she juggles everything, Julie explained, “… every day it’s a challenge to prioritize and get my current work done everywhere, but I just dig in and do it until it’s done.”
Help from family and friends
Julie and Cindy know that this venture wouldn’t be possible without the support of their families and their friends. In the short time that The Flying Waffle has been in business, they’ve found that there has been a steep learning curve.
“The challenges haven’t been about the food,” Cindy said. “It’s the things we didn’t know about — the nuts and bolts of owning a food truck — like how to level the trailer, figuring out the amps and the wattage for the generator and learning the things we just didn’t know.”
Julie explained that they have been fortunate to have a circle of friends who know how to build or repair the things they need. “I have missed my dad’s knowledge and experience every single day of it. I am still learning to think first, ask a lot of questions, and try not to make knee-jerk decisions,” she said.
“Julie’s mom, Lil, has been fabulous,” Cindy said. “She’s been instrumental behind the scenes and, really, just putting up with us. She washes towels, does dishes or stores things for us in her garage. She and Julie even hauled our food truck back from Texas at the end of a trip they took out west last summer!”
Cindy’s husband and adult children have been invaluable, helping in the truck, doing whatever needs to be done. “My mom is on the truck with us, too,” Cindy said. Her mother, Mary Margaret, passed away 11 years ago. As a tribute, The Flying Waffle menu boasts Mary Margaret’s Lemon Pie Waffle.
Gearing up for 2022
The Flying Waffle took flight in the fall of 2021, attending events in Frankfort and surrounding counties. “We’ve been so pleasantly surprised with all of the events we’ve done in Frankfort. Bourbon on the Banks last October has been one my favorite events. The weather was beautiful and they did a great job putting it together,” Cindy commented. “We absolutely love the crowd at Sig’s (Sig Luscher) and adore West Sixth Farm. At the Frankfort Christmas Parade, we even served the First Lady Britainy Beshear chicken and waffles.”
Cindy and Julie are excited about what 2022 has to offer for their new venture. “We may be getting too big for our britches, but we think we’re ready to add some fairs and festivals into our calendar,” Cindy said. “We have applications submitted for some pretty fun events in Central Kentucky,” Julie added.
When people ask, “Why waffles?” Cindy and Julie reply, “Just try them!”
The Flying Waffle’s Pimento Pepper Waffle
1/4 cup Block Cream Cheese-softened
1/2 cup small jar pimentos
2 ounces chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 cup Dukes Mayo
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups cheese, shredded (A mix of sharp, mild and white cheddars)
1 teaspoon pepper
Mix together and chill. Top waffle with pimento cheese, Kentucky Proud Red Pepper Jelly, bacon pieces and green. onions.