It’s a windy day during orientation week at Sydney Uni, but among the tents, stages and heaving crowds, there’s a beautiful sight that catches the eye. A bright, canary-yellow Kombi van with the roof popped up, the side doors thrown wide and a patient queue out the front, Jafé Jaffles have set up shop and they’re feeding the hungry hoards.
“We wanted to spruce the jaffle up a bit and bring today’s flavours to something that was a bit of a poor man's treat,” says Luke Bridgford, half of the partnership that is the jaffle van.
“I like the idea of people really being pleasantly surprised about what can be done in a jaffle.”
And surprised they are. With fillings including hefty looking Reubens, homemade spaghetti bolognaise or roast pumpkin with quinoa and fetta, it’s little wonder the hungry are lining up. But it hasn’t been an overnight success. The final product was a long time coming and started with Bridgford hankering after a food van of his own.[fold]
“I was working in Japan at the time and I saw the food truck ideas that were happening there. Right near where I worked, there was this great park where the food trucks would come every day…it was near Tokyo Station and that was what started me thinking.
“I noticed that a few of them were in Kombi vans and so I started looking for the right one. When I found this one I was still in Japan, but I just bought it. I got a specialist back here on the Gold Coast, who does kitchens in boats, to do the fit-out…for me. Making sure it was compliant was very important.”
From there, the food truck adventure began, with the Kombi starting life as a Mexican truck before Bridgford took up with chef Marc Tucker from his local Bondi cafe The Lilliputian.
“I’d moved back to Sydney after three years studying acting in the US – I’m a highly unemployed actor,” he laughs heartily. “So I moved to Bondi to be near the beach. Marc and I became friends and [along with another team member in Lucas Hedge] it all came together from there. The three of us came up with the concept.”
Hedge might have peeled off to pursue lighting studies, but nine months after its inception the toasty jaffle dream is stronger than ever.
“Marc's the chef and I’m the other kind of guy,” laughs Bridgford. And despite a tough first few months, it all looks full of promise from here on in.
“Where we are seeing a really strong niche is in the independent festivals. We did Subsonic, we just did Lost Events, we’re doing Secret Garden.”
The jaffle concept is familiar, but just challenging enough that it gathers a lot of interest wherever the Kombi stops.
“Marc comes up with the ideas for the fillings… He’s the real pioneer behind the flavours. And we’ve introduced the dessert concept. We’re doing things like chocolate fondue and we’ve got caramel banana running today. With the brioche bread and a little bit of ice-cream it’s sort of oozing and full of flavour.”
It might be enough to have you drooling now, but the timing had to be right for this kind of idea to take off.
“I feel like my generation, the one under and maybe even the one above all grew up on jaffles and they remember them…as a childhood treat. So we felt it was the perfect time for this product to come back.”
And with cheekily named jaffles like the David Jafflehoff and the Quiche Urban on the menu, it’s easy to see the boys don’t take themselves too seriously. But we warned, the Monkfish is known to splatter and the desserts are addictive.
Jafé Jaffles' Raisin & Rice Pudding Jaffle
• ¼ cup medium grain rice
• 1 tbls raisins
• 2 cups of milk
• pinch of cinnamon
• ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
• 1 tbls caster sugar
• softened butter
• 8 slices of fruit and nut loaf
• maple syrup to serve
Place rice, raisins, vanilla, milk and cinnamon into a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently until rice is tender and milk is all absorbed. Stir in sugar and set aside to cool completely.
Preheat your jaffle maker until it reaches cooking temperature.
Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 4 slices buttered side down. Spread rice pudding evenly over these four slices and then cover with remaining slices of bread with their buttered side up.
Place into your jaffle maker, close the lid and cook for 3 minutes, or until bread is golden and crisp. Repeat until all jaffles are cooked.
Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.