By Rachel Hergett EBS COLUMNIST
With its somewhat daunting list of healthy attributes, I wasn’t expecting to like the Unwaffle. The creation of chef Erik Walnum, Unwaffle is gluten- dairy- and egg-free. It’s vegan. It’s high in both protein and fiber. It has low sodium and is low on the glycemic index. And the entirely readable ingredient list is topped with oats, lentils and flax seed—none of which I have ever associated with waffles.
But don’t let that fool you.
Walnum says food should be “delicious first,” but in nearly 20 years as a private chef, he has leaned into the idea that it can also be good for you. Nutritional lessons from his days as a competitive cyclist helped Walnum adapt foods for the dietary needs of his clientele and ultimately led him to Montana.
“My resume kept improving in a way that says, ‘This guy cares about the connection between clean food, nutrition and healthy outcomes’,” Walnum told me on Dec. 21.
Eight years ago, a family in Big Sky took notice and asked Walnum to move to Montana to cook for them. The family eventually moved; Walnum stayed. He runs Planted Kitchen with his wife Mollie, a teacher and pastry chef, and has cooked for professional athletes and business executives with the world’s largest companies.
But Unwaffle is Walnum’s dream for the future, for a way to work more regular hours and spend more time with his family. The father of three developed the recipe with both picky clients and picky children in mind. It uses organic oats from Montana Gluten Free in Belgrade and organic lentils from Timeless Seeds near Great Falls as its base, meaning Montana-grown ingredients make up 70% of the mix.
“This project has been the culmination of 25 years working with food,” Walnum said. “Can I take eight of the healthiest ingredients I know and make something that is surprisingly delicious and will make you feel great?”
Walnum posted his recipe for the mix on his website. It involved milling the ingredients into flour. The post got one like. Walnum wasn’t deterred. He pivoted, enlisting an incubator and business partners to help grow the idea into a company.
As an alternative to carb- and sugar-loaded offerings in most freezer aisles, Unwaffle now comes in freezer packs of six waffles. There are three flavors—original, blueberry and cocoa chip. Walnum’s go-to is the blueberry, topped with peanut butter and fresh berries.
They can be toasted or eaten right out of the pack for those on the go, as one of the partners in the company Joe Sheehan demonstrated in a video posted on social media, pulling Unwaffles from his pack and dunking them in coffee with the man in the airplane seat next to him.
This week, Unwaffle launched a campaign on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, seeking $25,000 to help support the company’s growth. This includes moving into a new allergen-free space and upgrading packaging to lessen environmental impact. Rewards for backers include private chef services, cooking classes, T-shirts, stickers and a whole lot of waffles.
I was more than pleasantly surprised that Wednesday when I ordered the Unwaffle special at The Farmer’s Daughter’s Cafe and Eatery in Bozeman. The waffles were served with a scramble, a schmear and sides of gently pickled onions and maple syrup. But they remained the star. Toasting the waffles to crisp their many edges brought out the nutty flavor of the batter (nuts, however, are not present on the ingredient list, along with the other top 14 food allergens). Inside, the waffle was soft and light. Like I said, surprising.
In addition to Farmer’s Daughters, you can try an Unwaffle at Steep Mountain Tea House and Well Juicery in Bozeman.
“All three of those locations do something totally different, which is really cool,” Walnum said.
The version I had is a special mix for Farmers Daughters, Walnum said, without the original version’s cinnamon and vanilla so the cafe can serve it sweet, savory or a little bit of both. Recipes for modifications like lemon poppyseed, pumpkin spice or everything bagel waffles using the Unwaffle homestyle waffle and pancake batter mix are available at https://eatunwaffle.com/.