While scrolling through my Facebook timeline one afternoon, I stumbled upon a detailed image of a crying Kim Kardashian pancake. I had no idea this type of art was possible. Instantly, I knew the story behind this batter-based creation had to be told.
Had I discovered the Vincent Van Gogh of pancakes? I did, and his name is Dan.
Specifically, Dr. Dan The Pancake Man, and he is quickly becoming a pancake art rockstar by taking edible art to a level never before seen.
It started as an ambitious attempt to earn extra tips while working as a chef at a run-of-the-mill-diner. Then, Dan Drake, began experimenting with artistic creations with one simple twist — he created his images with pancakes. And people started to notice.
“I’d been making pancake art at my diner day job for about 5 years,” Drake wrote in an email. “The very first time I served a customer a simple smiley face he told me he’d never seen anything like it and he gave me a $15 tip.”
Now, eight years removed from the diner job, Drake’s transformed himself into Dr. Dan The Pancake Man, who travels anywhere in the world creating incredibly detailed images of celebrities, sports icons and basically anything you can dream up. All with the help of some pancake mix, a hot skillet and a spatula.
We wanted to know who the badass behind the batter was, so we caught up with Dr. Dan to find out what it takes for him to flip this edible art so flawlessly.
The world met Dr. Dan on The Today Show in 2013. He didn’t use color in his mix then and stuck to pretty basic designs, but since then, he’s been spending his time trying to level up his mastery of color mixing, theory and techniques.
“After the Today Show happened, I was finally able to bid the diner adieu a year later, I started devoting a lot of my energy to mastering the craft,” he said. “It’s been wonderfully expansive, and I can do things with color that most people wouldn’t believe was possible until I show them it is.”
What’s even more inspiring is Dr. Dan has no formal art school training of any kind, nor did he attend college. He said he occasionally jokes that he’s just, “an untrained schmuck,” but his willingness and dedication to his craft kept him focused on his art.
“The universe just sort of opened up and thrust this path on me, so it hasn’t been terribly hard to convince myself to keep improving,” he said.
But, in order to be the best — you have to beat the best — and Dr. Dan is up for the challenge. In fact, he says he LOVES a challenge. But strangely, as Dr. Dan explained that there’s not much of a competitive pancake art world, and to add insult to injury, his two biggest ‘rivals’, Australia’s TigerTomato and Washington State’s Saipancakes, don’t really seem like they’re interested in battling Dr. Dan just yet.
“When we reached out to TigerTomato he kind of wanted nothing to do with us, and I once mentioned the branding value of playing up a rivalry to Saipancakes and he told me that ‘competition is antithetical to my art’,” Dr. Dan explained.
“Nothing is more cringe-inducing than being dismissed by people who work in your medium.”
Dr. Dan explained that he is constantly pushing the limits of his craft, to credit this, he suggests that others may not be as blessed with a zen-like disposition that makes failure less painful.
“I usually just tell myself that they can’t come close to my level of realism because they don’t embrace failure the way that I do,” he said. “And with such a tricky medium you have to be willing to mess up in order to learn.”
Dr. Dan The Pancake Man is never just chilling. He responded to our questions via email, while in Santa Monica, Calif., for a day. Then traveling to Wisconsin, then to Texas, then spending a weekend in Houston. All to make pancakes for people requesting his services.
“The flying gets to be a hassle, sometimes, but I never lose sight of what a blessing it is, he said. “‘flying around the country too much’ is my biggest life problem right now.”
As for now, Dr. Dan said he believes he’s doing what he was destined to do — become a rockstar. He considers himself beyond blessed to be able to showcase his talents wherever he goes.
“There’s a rush from successfully illustrating a concept so that other people see and understand it,” he said. “I just happened to discover a novel medium that has built-in showmanship, and people seem to have fallen in love with it.”
When asked to define his “Dancakes” in one word — food or art — Dr. Dan had an interesting take.
“I haven’t spent much energy improving or changing the ‘food’ aspect of what I do (plain buttermilk batter, served with syrup), so when people call me a ‘chef’ I feel a little wrong,” he said. “Some of the crazy hurdles true chefs go through to earn that title. They earned ‘Chef,’ it’s not mine to use!”
Regardless if it’s food or art, it’s safe to say that most people are blown away by each “Dancake” created. Simply put, Dr. Dan is living a dream come true.
“I always wanted to be a rock star,” he said. “Now I just happen to be a Pancake Art Rock Star. That’s still technically a rock star!”