Meet the short-order cooks so good Waffle House officially calls them “Rockstars”


Waffle House is a large chain of diners, more than 1,800 stores in 25 states, although mostly in the south. The locations are clustered near highway exits. You will have seen their high-rise yellow signs. If you want, you can buy a decommissioned Waffle House property. Waffle House corporate has a division that sells them. Waffle Houses stay open 24 hours, year round.

But I was interested in the cooks. There were three. One man covered the two-foot flattop devoted to cooking meat. Another was stationed beside the seven electronic waffle irons. In between them, cooking eggs and potatoes on the griddle with his back to me, stood the man I had traveled to Atlanta to see. I had been told he possessed in abundance what Anthony Bourdain described in Kitchen Confidential as a “Nijinsky-like grace” at the griddle: light hands and supple feet and an unflappable disposition. His name was Charles Thurman, and he was a Rockstar.

Even though I lived in the South for several years, I never actually set foot in a Waffle House. But, as a motorcyclist, I am a huge fan of diners and always appreciate the stories of a good short order cook.