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Pokemon pancake artist flips 'em all

Let’s face it, the closest you’ve ever come to making a Pokémon pancake was that time you accidentally slipped when you were pouring the last of the mix into the pan and it looked a little bit like Ditto. That’s ok. Us too. At least they tasted nice, eh? In fact, we use the excuse that all our pancakes are game themed as they’re in the shape of Pokéballs anyway… However, in the case of Missouri-based professional pancake artist Daniel Drake, aka 'Dan the Pancake Man' (opens in new tab), his 151 original Pokémon creations are almost terrifyingly true to pixelated life.

Drake has previously created pancakes – or, more fittingly, Dancakes – of film and television characters, but it’s his full Kanto Pokédex that has drawn him the attention of the clearly hungry gaming world. Yet how do you kick off a professional career as an artist with a spatula and a jug of batter? “I started doing pancake art because I was a short order fry cook with a real need to make better tips, as server wages in the States are draconian,” he explains. “It started simple; just smiley faces. But the first one I served earned me a $15 tip, and I said, ‘Hey! May as well make every pancake crazy, right?’ So I kept on doing it. Eventually, I guess, I got good enough that the internet caught notice. After that, there were a bunch of websites that found out about me, and The Today Show had me on live TV. I started hiring myself out for parties and private events, and then I met the owners of Corvid’s Cafe and they were the first folks to hire me on a regular basis. Because of the excellent relationship I have with them I was given lots of practice and an excellent venue. I made the Pokémon pancakes at their restaurant.”

When it came to crafting each of the fancy flapjacks themselves, Drake’s quest for pocket monster perfection took a steady hand at the griddle and a couple of gallons of batter. “It actually took me two ten-hour sessions to make all those ’mon,” explains Drake. “I knew it was for an online piece so I wanted to take my time and create the monsters with the best fidelity I could muster. If I’d have rushed it I might’ve been able to pull it off in one session but I’m glad I didn’t.” The YouTube video is a sight to behold, as all 151 Pokémon bubble impressively into life without the need for any kind of stencil or mould. Starting with the outline, Mew and co appear magically from a squeezable bottle of Drake’s own special pancake batter. Of all the 151, it was fiery #059 that caused the most problems on the toasty griddle. “The hardest one was definitely Arcanine!,” says Drake. “My gosh, that critter has so much fuzz!!”

But the question, of course, is can they be as tasty as they appear? “They are absolutely as delicious as they look!” enthuses Drake. “I use a simple buttermilk recipe that I've never had a complaint about in six years of pancake art, plus there’s always butter and syrup. How could they not be delicious?” And never fear: nothing went to waste as the lucky customers at Corvid’s Café took on eating duties for the 151 pancakes featured in the footage.

“I've been surprised by the video’s success,” says Drake. “I mean, we knew it was a killer concept, and we knew it would be impressive to pull it off, but this is the first time that anything I’ve made has done so well intentionally. Plus I’m really glad we put our band’s music in the video, because now 100,000 people have heard us whether they like it or not.”

This won’t be the last we’ll see of game-related edibles either, as Drake has equally tasty plans for another beloved Nintendo franchise. “My friends and I are really excited about the release of the new Smash Bros,” he explains. “We intend to do a big event at Corvid’s Cafe in the next couple of weeks where folks party and play while I cook the entire roster. Being a pancake artist is the silliest thing I’ve ever done with my life, and I love every minute of it."

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Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.