It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon and I’m waiting at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters to meet Torill Myre. I first met Myre a couple of weeks ago, also in the rain, at the 4th Street Pancake Showdown during The Calgary Stampede. Her sunny demeanor and infectious smile made up for the lousy weather. So too did the pancakes she served from her very own Torill’s Table gluten-free pancake and waffle mix.
If you haven’t heard of Torill Myre, stand by, because her product may just be a household name soon. Myre was recently a finalist in the 2019 Mompreneur Award and Torill’s Table was one of five companies selected for Arlene Dickinson’s District Ventures program.
Torill’s Table makes a hearty, fluffy and grainy pancake and waffle mix. It features an original and gluten-free version.
And it’s amazing.
She sells both the original and gluten-free mixes in-store for BC and Alberta residents and online for the rest of Canada and the USA. Online shoppers can take advantage of a subscription service which will regularly deliver her pancake and waffle mix straight to your door. Stay tuned for more details about how to do this and why it’s a great idea.
Torill walks in with a bright smile and a calm demeanor exactly as I remember. We each order some tea and retire to a cozy corner table for our interview. We chat for close to an hour before I remember to record the interview. She’s as engaging as her brand. I learn how important Norway and family are to her. And it’s an important part of her product.
One concept that’s important to you is the Norwegian custom of kos. Can you tell me more about that?
I think it’s the fundamental thing that puts a smile on your face. It’s like us now, having a cup of tea, savouring the tea and having the visit. That’s an example of kos. We’re talking about things we’re passionate about and this is a moment of joy.
The words I’ve seen connected to kos are love, joy, family, togetherness.
Yes. Are you familiar with the Danish word hygge? It’s the same thing. When you are enjoying the moment, you don’t want to be somewhere else. You’re happy. These moments of connection often sustain us for days. You enjoy it for what it is.
Cooking with kos seems like a big part of the family fabric for you.
Happiness comes from the heart and food is a catalyst that brings you to that experience. And enjoying good quality food together is probably the greatest thing you can create for a family.
I grew up with kos. It’s a part of my value system. I talked to my childhood friend growing up recently and she said, ‘You know, the tradition of us making waffles at your home on Fridays and Saturdays were some of my greatest memories growing up.’
How did your family help shape Torill’s Table?
When my oldest son was in grade one we got a book by Jan Brett. She had a book about Christmas in Norway and the illustrations have waffles flying through the air. I thought we could share this with his class at school potlucks. I didn’t expect that the kids at school would love the waffles so much. They asked their parents to make my waffles. I went into other moms’ kitchens to show them how to make it.
When did you know that your waffle mix was a product that people wanted on a mass scale? What made you feel like it was time to start a business?
I started giving away the waffle mix with instructions. Then I thought, I have to do something about this or I have to stop. It was like I couldn’t get away from it. It was meant to be. Also, my friends kept pushing me. I got very valuable advice from a friend who said, you don’t need to know how, you’ve just got to do it.
And I come from an entrepreneurial background and am familiar with being self employed.
I’m a blogger in the gluten-free community and have readers who are very interested in gluten-free products. What made you decide to make a gluten-free mix?
There was a lot of interest but I also struggled with irritable bowel. (Jen’s note: gluten is mostly restricted on the low FODMAP diet for IBS). So I struggled with that and was almost gluten-free for a year. I had done a ton of research at that time but it was put on the back burner. When I launched the original recipe, many people asked, what about gluten-free?
What feedback have you received from the gluten-free community?
The feedback I kept getting was that their common experience was that (in general) gluten-free pancake and waffle mixes had an aftertaste and a cardboard texture. And they would say to me ‘your product doesn’t have any of that’.
What’s the most important aspect to you about a gluten-free product?
I looked at some of the gluten-free products that I knew on the market and they were void of nutrition. I wanted a gluten-free product that was nutritious, comforting and had taste.
I was asked once what’s more important to you, protein or fibre? And my answer was both. I knew I didn’t want to launch a gluten-free product until it was equal to the original.
What was your biggest challenge with creating a gluten-free recipe?
The biggest challenge was to make it bind and be moist at the same time. Buttermilk can help with moisture. Flaxseed alone wouldn’t be enough for binding so I used a touch of xanthan gum. You don’t need much. In the end, I needed all of the ingredients I used to find that sweet spot between good quality, nutrition, taste and texture.
Any funny stories about testing gluten-free waffles?
I have a picture somewhere of the first gluten-free waffle recipe. It wouldn’t hold. It wouldn’t fluff up. It spilled out of my waffle maker when I cooked it. Then one day I am working on it and nothing came out. I opened it and it was fluffy. I squealed. It wasn’t my final version but I knew I was close.
Gluten-free products are more expensive. What do you say to someone who says your product is expensive?
I was doing a store demo in Inglewood and I met a lady who was a Celiac and a cookbook author. She read the ingredient list, asked the cost and said based on your ingredients, the cost is not bad.
There are 14 waffles per bag and you pay about two dollars per waffle. If you have two waffles that sustain you and you don’t eat anything else before your next meal, you’ve had good nutrition at a low cost. If you ate a waffle made with white flour, you might have to buy a snack (that’s three to five dollars ) to tie you over to the next meal. So now you’ve spent that much more plus you’ve eaten extra calories.
It’s also important to keep in mind that every single gluten-free ingredient is certified gluten-free. So gluten-free oats, for example, are three times the cost of regular oats. We use more almond flour. We use flaxseed. We use spices that other gluten-free products don’t. Ingredients with good nutrition cost more.
There’s a movement to lower the amount of sugar we eat. What do you say to someone who comments there’s a small amount of cane sugar in your waffle mix?
Yes, there’s a little bit of sweetness in there but it adds so much flavour that you don’t need syrup on your waffle. So if you look at what you consume at the end of your meal, you have a lot less sugar and it’s combined with fibre, protein and healthy fats. It doesn’t give you the spike in your blood sugars that sugar with a waffle made with white flour would.
I’ve asked many people, after you eat my waffle, how long does it take before you feel hungry to eat something else? People say it’s three to four hours before they’re hungry. They’ve gone from one meal to the next without needing something because they got the nutrition they need.
There’s a large vegan community that would love your pancakes.
We’re actually working on a fairly comprehensive comparison chart that we’ll have on our website. You’ll be able to use almond, cashew, oat or soy milk but you’ll need to add fat. My favourite fat to add is coconut oil but there are some nice butter alternatives. That said, both pancake and waffle mixes are vegan.
What’s the biggest challenge with an egg substitute and which egg substitute do you prefer? Flax eggs? Chia seed eggs?
You can absolutely enjoy vegan pancakes but people need to understand the way food ingredients perform. For example, we tried three egg substitutes: chia seed, flax seed, Earth’s Balance egg substitute. It was amazing the difference between the three. Chia is more ‘gooey’ but it makes fluffier waffles. However, you’ll want to add more liquid or use less chia. If you do the full amount (1 tbsp chia seeds in 3 tbsp water) like you would with flax, it’s too much. I actually prefer the chia seed egg to flax egg once I figured out the chia seeds to water ratio.
The vegan egg powder smells less desirable but when you put it into the batter and use it, it performs really well. I would use that egg powder any day.
It’s not a problem to make a great tasting vegan pancake. You just have to make sure there’s fat in there. You can use the original or gluten-free waffle mix right now. The package ingredients are vegan and it’s optional to use an egg substitute or plant-based milk.
How do you adjust the consistency of the batter?
If the batter is too thin, what do you do? You can add any type of flour until you reach the right thickness like rice flour, potato flour. You won’t do any harm if you don’t use too much of it.
A Belgium waffle recipe works well for North American pancakes. We recommend you use a little baking soda when you want traditional North American pancakes. If you want something a little thinner, you can follow the instructions for the Norweigan style waffle. It’s like a crepe inside.
Any new products you’re working on?
I’m actually working on a nut-free version. We have done seven versions and we’re pretty much there. We're using the gluten-free waffle mix and are substituting the almonds with pea protein and fava beans for protein. I didn’t want to substitute it with more carbohydrates.
We’re becoming more aware that we should be reducing our meat consumption but what do you substitute it with? The key flours have very strong tastes and it’s important to include them without having them take over. It’s equally important to have both protein and fibre. I wanted to see that we have at least 2 grams of fibre in each waffle.
When will the nut-free flour be available?
Hopefully this fall in September or October (2019). We’re not that far away. There is a trade show coming up and we’ll see how the product performs.
What advice would you give someone about pursuing this as a passion?
You’ve got to be willing to work hard for very little. It’s risk and expense and time. And don’t be discouraged by that. You’re building something new and that takes time.
We’ve all seen something missing that we have an answer to. You don't want to do what someone else is doing. You want to do something different where you’re filling a need in the market. If you know there’s a gap and there’s a demand for what that gap will be, then you have something to work with. Being a ‘me too’ product is tough. Being a ‘me only’ product is opportunity. It doesn’t guarantee you success but it gives you a chance.
What makes you happiest about Torill’s Table?
It’s the fact that I can make a difference. I get emotional saying this but when I started Torill’s Table, it needed to feel valuable. I needed to feel good when I fed my kids. I knew it had the nutrition that would sustain them. I couldn’t send my kids off to school without proper food.
Here’s a story. My friend’s son didn’t like protein foods but he liked my waffles. She purchased waffle mix from me and when the car was driving away, I heard my friend’s little boy shout “yay” in the background. These moments drive me when life is bad.
I feel I make a difference when people tell me they gather around the table to have my waffles, when mornings flow easier for parents because it’s easy to make or when someone like you (with Celiac disease or someone else with a gluten sensitivity) can enjoy food without missing out. For me, those stories are the reason to get up in the morning and keep doing it.
You have the option to subscribe for pancake and waffle mix on your website. Can you tell me more about that?
You can subscribe to have my pancake and waffle mix delivered to your door every 30, 45, 60 or 90 days and you’ll save 15% on your order. We’ll deliver the products on your schedule and you can cancel or modify the subscription anytime. We offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee with no hassle or questions asked.
Want more information about Torill’s pancake and waffle mix? You can find it at www.torillstable.com.