Halfway around the world, Kelli Twigg didn’t expect to be inspired by a food she probably had boxed up in her freezer at home.
Twigg has tasted hummus and falafels in Israel. On a stop in Barbados, she tried a flying fish sandwich. The Long Grove resident has traveled all over — she usually makes a trip once or twice a month — and she makes a point to eat as the locals do.
“It’s the best way to explore a place,” said Twigg, who works part-time at the Quad-Cities International Airport. “Go for that custom dish that that city or neighborhood is known for, and you end up trying a variety of strange things.”
But the thing that grabbed her taste buds, and her attention, wasn’t so much of the strange variety.
At a hole-in-the-wall shop in Brussels, she sampled an oversized Nutella-doused waffle.
“The waffle was huge and delicious, and we couldn’t even eat all of it so I had to throw it away,” she said. “I remember being really sad about that.”
She was sad, she said, because it wasn’t a normal waffle — she hadn’t tried anything like it before.
As it turns out, it was a liege waffle, and Twigg was hooked.
She did some research and found out that these waffles were made with a dough instead of batter and the mix is tossed with pearl sugar. While baking, some of those beads of sugar melt and caramelize, which creates a sweet flavor and crunchy texture.
"It's not like a waffle at a fast-food restaurant," she said. "Even without any toppings, it's super sweet."
Those waffles, and the casual stands they were sold out of, got Twigg thinking.
“For some reason, that moment really stayed with me,” she said. “I wanted everyone to try it.”
The wife and mother of two jokingly told some friends she wanted to open a bakery or cafe that served only waffles and crepes. She casually Googled recipes for liege waffles. She brainstormed logos with her coworkers while cleaning airplanes to pass the time.
After a while, it stopped being a joke.
“One day, I just decided I was going to actually take action,” she said. “I think a lot of people thought I was crazy.”
In 2013, she wrote a business plan, got a loan and bought a trailer for $6,000. She wrote a menu and practiced making crepes out of a small makeshift kitchen.
In May of that year, Twigg opened a food truck serving liege waffles plus sweet and savory crepes.
“You put an idea out there on Facebook and ask for advice and just hope enough people support you,” she said. “It was terrifying. You just don’t know if it’s going to work.”
Opening the food truck was a big and serious undertaking, but Twigg didn’t want to lose her light-hearted tone. So, she called the business Load of Crepe.
“I think the name happened because I laughed so much the first time I heard it,” she said. “I just stuck with it.”
On her website, a tagline reads: “Have you had a good crepe today?” When making a Facebook post about where she'll park the truck that day, she often writes: “Come by and take a crepe.”
“It makes people laugh,” she said. “And it takes me away from the stress sometimes; it reminds me why I do it.”
The “why” goes back to a moment in Brussels, where she was simultaneously doing her two favorite things — traveling and eating.
She puts up with the stresses of travel for the same reason she often labors in the kitchen — the end product.
“Those two together, and I’m happy,” Twigg said. “There’s nothing like being able to explore, and there’s nothing like eating a good sweet.”
She sets up her bright red trailer at farmers markets and outside various business in Eldridge, Davenport and Bettendorf. It’s usually just her in the small kitchen, flipping the waffle maker, letting her griddle sizzle and adding the right combination of ingredients. She has a menu of flavors as well as a make-your-own option. If you take her advice, “Nutella is a requirement.”
“I try to plan it out and prepare as much as I can,” she said. “But with a food truck, you can't control the weather, and if people follow you on Facebook and if people know where you are, you just never really know what will happen after you show up.”
She keeps showing up, usually five times per week from May through October, because she has an end goal in mind — opening a brick-and-mortar bakery.
“That’s definitely the goal, but it just might be a few years down the road,” she said. “That was my dream a long time ago, and I definitely think it’s within reach now.”
First, she’ll have to keep spreading the waffle and crepe news across the Quad-City area.
“A lot of people still don’t know what a crepe is,” she said. “Plus, some people still think anything out of a food truck is a hot dog.”
She also spends plenty of time explaining what’s so different about her waffles.
“I tell people over and over, ‘It’s not your ordinary waffle,’” she said. “They see a waffle on the menu, and they think it’s like any other waffle."
It's not, and that's what Twigg will keep preaching as her busy season ramps up.
"I'll spend a lot of time with crepes and waffles this summer," she said. "I just want to get more people to try it — it's right here, but you'll get a taste of the way they do it across the globe."