Saint Louis, MO
I have a weird job.
I graduated high school with less-than-stellar grades. I didn’t go to college. Probably could have, but didn’t; I was tired of the school system and loved the simple freedom that came from living and working paycheck to paycheck. Part of the reason my grades were so bad was my incessant doodling; I wrote and illustrated my own comics instead of turning in my math homework.
After school ended I found myself working the slow shifts at a diner in South St. Louis called Courtesy. And when I say slow shifts, I mean, problematically slow. Working for tips ain’t no joke. After a few months of the dredge, I started to think a little more creatively. Folks on the morning shift would throw mickey-mouse-ear dollops on their pancakes to brighten days and open wallets, and I had a light-bulb moment: Pancakes don’t need to be round. Technically, any shape you draw on the griddle will cook solid and hold form.
The very first smiley face pancake I ever served netted me a $15 tip (thanks Chad) and changed my life.
Fast forward several years of this: After learning some layering and design tricks (thanks Tracy), all of a sudden a photo collage of me making themed pancakes and silly faces (thanks Brent) went viral. In November of 2013 I was flown out to NYC with my best friend, Hank, to appear on national television (NBC’s The Today Show) making celebrity pancake faces for the whole country.
Once you’re on national TV, folks just start getting in touch. “Do you do birthday parties?” they’d ask. “Absolutely,” I’d say. I had never done birthday parties before, but why wouldn’t I? They were offering a lot more than my wage plus tips. One thing led to another and Dancakes was born. I had the art chops, and Hank possessed a fantastic business acumen that made him an invaluable part of what we wanted to build.
That was several years ago.
Today, we have privilege to fly around the world serving pancake art to people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and from all walks of life; From Sao Paulo to Dubai to Bangkok to Louisville Kentucky, this medium makes people smile. Our brand is growing and our company now features multiple full-time professional pancake artists. We have millions of social media followers and are blessed not only with the chance to travel, but the chance to be a content creator for massive brands and personalities, and we get to do all of this as friends, and as a family.
To say it is a delight is an understatement.
As we move forward, I try to be mindful of 2 things.
First: Be in the moment. Everything is temporary and the joy right now is the only joy there is. So soak it up.
Second: Mistakes are delicious. Play fun games, win fun prizes.
- Pancake Day – We’ve Come Full Circle (3/30/2020) -
Life continues to find ways to surprise me.
If there’s one thing I value more than any other, it’s novel experiences. Having the opportunity to do something for the first time brings so much flavor and joy to my world. Most importantly, it changes me as a person. It expands
- It’s Happened, I’m 30 now. (2/17/2020) -
Oh lord. It’s here. I’m 30.
While acknowledging that several of my cohorts have been over 30 for years, this is the first time that *I’VE* been thirty so I’m gonna blog about it.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Pancake Art (1/20/2020) -
(This might be posted a bit late due to my own mild incompetence 😅 but better late than never, I suppose)
Hey guys. Dan here.
- The Dancakes Team Reflects on the Past Year (1/1/2020) - 2019 was one of the most fruitful years in Dancakes short history. So much has happened, and is happening that we thought we should get the Dancakes Team to mark some of our highlights from our last revolution around the sun while we barrel forward into the next one at 67,000 mph.
- Joker – Meditations on a Story (10/5/2019) - There’s a lot of conversation going around right now about the film that this piece of pancake art is drawn from. People are concerned that it’s going to inspire violence. They’ve got misgivings about the director’s attitude. At the same time, it’s...
- Getting Better – Pancake Art and Ego (9/10/2019) -
Dana and I had a pretty heated argument a few days ago. We were working on this studio project for a big client, and I was being difficult, and wouldn’t listen to her suggestions. It brought up a bunch of unresolved resentment around the Dancakes team’s ability to listen to
- Lost Librarian (8/21/2019) -
I collect strange books.
I haven’t always. It’s only been for the last two years or so that I’ve considered myself a serious reader, trying to set aside at least half an hour a day to a growing stack of esoteric tomes I have on various shelves around my home.
- My Name Is Daniel Drake, I Am Not Dancakes (8/19/2019) -
Y’all. It’s Dancakes. Not Dr. Dancake. Or Dr. Dancakes. Or Dan’s Cakes. Or, like, “Dan Dan the Pancake Man”??? What on Earth is that one about? (I went by Dr. Dan the Pancake Man at one point, but Dan-Dan???)
- How did we end up, like…here? (7/22/2019) -
This is exciting!
Ben’s exceptional redesign of the Dancakes website means that we’ve got a blog, it’s integrated with our mailing list and our store and all the other mammajammas, and I can hop on and curate my pancake-related thoughts from time to time. So, y’know, expect that, or whatever.
What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?
Bit of a head scratcher there. I’ve gotten some pretty “out there” asks from rogue event guests. I think the one that most sticks in my memory came from a gentleman at a brunch event in Orlando, FL, who requested I make a pancake of me making a pancake of me making a pancake of me making a pancake etc, etc, etc…yeah. That one filled the griddle. Not sure where the photo went, but he asked for a similar one the year after, too. I call it ‘Pancakeception’. We’ve got to go deeper.
Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?
Oh, all the time. Pancake art is such an awkward medium, there’s so much extra work you have to do that isn’t a part of, say, illustrating with pens and ink. You have to mix all of your colors fresh every session, you can’t really sketch things out and trace over them, you cover your drawing up as you go and can’t see the final product, the whole thing is mirrored, the layering is really important…yeah. You get better at all of that stuff with practice but sometimes you’re standing in the studio shake-mixing colors for the thousandth time and your arms are tired, and you think, “Man, why did I pick this medium to build a career around?”
I think on a more technical level the biggest challenge for me with pancake art in general is patience. I see Dana come in and take hours and hours mixing colors on the fly to give her pieces these brilliant and dynamic lighting effects, and it just makes me tiiiiiired. Consistency, too, is a problem for me. Sometimes, especially when I’m trying to draw a really realistic portrait of someone, it’s hard to straddle that line between “carbon copy” and “artistic interpretation”, and I mess up peoples’ expressions or fail to capture their ‘essence’. I dunno! I will never consider myself a master of this art form even if other people do – that way, I’ll keep learning.
What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?
Oh gosh. Definitely Southwest Diner just down the street here in St. Louis. The menu is simple and stays consistent, the food is delicious and affordable, the coffee is crap – but, y’know, in that awesome ‘this is a diner experience’ way – and the staff are all some of the best and coolest people in the city. ‘Course, I’m answering this question in month 4 of the COVID-19 pandemic, so…I, uh, hope they’re still around when this all blows over. Otherwise I guess I’ll have to open something myself.
What's the coolest place you've traveled to?
It’s kinda cool how hard this one is for me to answer. I’ve been extremely blessed, and had opportunities that have taken me all over the US, and then internationally to Sao Paulo Brazil, Bangkok Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sharjah and Dubai in the UAE. All of those places were crazy to visit in their own way and I’ve got really great memories of each. If I had to pick, though…
Gosh. This is hard! Visiting Dubai was really cool – there’s a peculiar cultural juxtaposition going on there that opens your mind to a lot of things. Waking up at a hotel in Sharjah – an epicenter of Islamic cultural heritage – and hearing the ethereal ‘call to prayer’ echo over the nearby towers and neighborhoods, or going into downtown Dubai and taking an elevator to the 150th floor of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world at the time I visited it – and looking out over the other skyscrapers like you’re playing a game of Sim City…that whole experience was surreal. Hank and I were in the same building as Al Gore at one point? Almost all the portraits I drew during that trip were women wearing abaya, the black headscarves, and they almost all asked me to draw their portraits with the snapchat flower crown filter. That was an interesting little quirk! Yeah, all in all I loved having the chance to go there, even if dancing in public is technically illegal.
Are your pancakes edible?
They absolutely are.
Pineapple on pizza?
Yes. It’s the sweet and the savory, what the sages of old have passed down as “delicious”.