Ghent’s Belgian chef says ... ‘Enjoy your eating’
By Gayle VanVooren
Ghent’s Dan Verkinderen wears an apron that says “Smakelijk eten”, and that means “enjoy your eating” in Belgian. And he wears that apron very proudly.
As it is nearing Christmas, Verkinderen has been warming up the Belgian Cookie Iron and is making dozens of cookies to share with family and friends.
“I make about nine batches each year,” said Verkinderen this past week, “and I give most of them away.” That may not seem like much, unless you consider that each “batch” makes about 20 dozen cookies.
Verkinderen started to sell the old-fashioned Lukken Yzer irons back in 1981. He was working in the post office at the time and Dirckx Hardware was no longer going to handle them.
“One time I was in Detroit and I met the guy who made the old style cookie irons,” recalled Verkinderen. “I said I thought I could sell them and a couple years later he gave me a call. And that’s how it started.”
The older styled irons baked one cookie at a time over the cookstove so it was a very lengthy process to make 20 dozen cookies.
“It was about 1993 or ‘94 when Arlene (his wife) asked me to make a model that could make more than one at a time,” he said. And that got him to thinking.
He found a contact in a factory and asked if this could be done. After some discussions, it was decided, indeed, it could be possible.
The first model to be used was Daisy, and then Rival, and then Toastmaster, and then Black and Decker. The iron grates come out of these waffle makers, and the iron cookie plates go into them for the electric grills. And just like that — you can bake four cookies at a time.
While this all sounds quite simple, the research and development period was very expensive. “Making the molds was very high,” noted Verkinderen, “but it’s finally starting to pay off.”
(More in The Mascot, 12-2-09)