Marlen Caudron and her husband Oliver never thought they would open Miami's first artisanal waffle shop. But when their youngest daughter, Vivienne, was born with a rare epilepsy disorder, Marlen decided to leave her longtime job in the tropical plant industry for recipe testing and baking.
"I realized that I needed to start something that I could do from home," she says. "My main priority became caring for Vivienne, and I wanted to make sure I was always able to be with her."
The Caudrons, who are Cuban-Belgian-Americans, revived an old family recipe for Belgian waffles and created Viv's Little Waffle Shoppe.
With help from the couple's two other daughters, Caro and Nati, Marlen began to make as many waffles as she could and set up shop at local farmers' markets such as the Miami Flea and hosted occasional pop-ups at the Wynwood Yard.
"Everyone always told us how much they loved our waffles," she says. "So it only seemed natural to do something with them. And since there aren't many places in Miami to get a waffle like this, it's been really successful so far."
At Viv's Waffles, all varieties are made with 100 percent butter and cane sugar. There are no preservatives, chemicals, or colors, and Marlen avoids less expensive alternatives for butter such as soybean oil or palm oil.
Her recipe calls for only eight ingredients: unbleached flour, cane sugar, butter, eggs, milk, spring water, yeast, and vanilla extract. She offers four varieties ($4 each) — original, organic, gluten-free, and matcha — which can be topped with sweets such as Nutella, strawberries, and whipped cream.
In addition to opening pop-ups across Miami-Dade County, Viv's Little Waffle Shoppe operates out of a small retail window on the Upper Eastside at 860 NE 79th St., next to Half Moon Empanadas and down the street from the Anderson.
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Waffles are sold daily from 7 to 10 or 11 a.m. from a grab-and-go window connected to a commercial kitchen used by dozens of local chefs and bakers, including Wynwood Parlor, which sells its popular ice-cream sandwiches from the window in the evening.
"It's fun as a whole family to do this," Marlen says. "My kids help me out a lot, but my number one is to get the best care and opportunities for Vivienne before finding ways to continue to grow the business."
Marlen's goal is to donate a portion of the profits to the International Foundation for CDKL5 Research, which seeks a cure for seizures in children. For now, Marlen strives to sell enough waffles to support her daughter's treatments and therapies, but she dreams of making enough money to open a foundation in Vivienne's honor.
Viv's Little Waffle Shoppe. 860 NE 79th St., Miami; 786-256-2816; vivswaffles.com. Summer hours for the retail window are 7 to 10 a.m. Check Facebook or Instagram for more information and pop-up locations.