Artist Biographies & Portfolios – Meet the Team

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Hank Gustafson - Co-Owner/Manager/Media

Hank Gustafson
Co-Owner/Manager/Media
Saint Louis, MO

I’m the guy to call.

Meaning if you want to talk Dancakes, book Dancakes, or have Dancakes make a video I’m the guy that’ll help make it happen.

I met Dan through our mutual friend Mike. Mike worked with Dan at the infamous diner where Dan started slinging his first unique pancakes. I was told Dan was looking for someone to film a music video for his band; I was an amateur video guy. We met, we talked, we laughed and….we never made the music video but we did become fast friends.

Skip ahead just 3 months (to November 2013) and Dan texts me saying that he was on the front page of Reddit; a picture of him making a Mario Mushroom pancake had gone viral.

A few days later a local news station that had caught wind of the phenomenon filmed a story on Dan at the diner. I headed to his apartment to watch the story with him on the 5 o’clock news. The segment airs, it’s charming and feels like the perfect end to this 15 minutes of fame.

While we’re sitting there, Dan mentions that an intern at the Today Show called and asked him to make the faces of the hosts and then send her a pic of them, but he hadn’t heard back since. Then his phone rings: It’s the Today Show producer and they want him on the show in 2 days. “You fly out tomorrow!” I ask if he needs a friend to join him; he did.

We fly to New York, he goes on the show, I chill in the green room with Charlie Sheen’s doctor. It’s crazy.

We get back and people start calling for events. We end up doing local events throughout 2014, and at the end of that year Dan wants to make a pancake art video. I figured he’d suggest something like a Mario Mushroom time lapse (since that was the pancake that went viral in the first place), but no; Dan wants to make all 151 Pokemon as our first pancake art video. “Go big or go home,” he says. We filmed and edited it over 3 days, posted it on our newly created Dancakes YouTube, and the next day, we wake up to virality. Calls came in from around country and around the world asking if we could do live performances.

Dan is not the best with handling logistics; before I was seriously involved, gigs were dropped left and right. I, on the other hand, am good with logistics. “I’ll handle the business side, you handle the pancakes,” I told him. Thus, Dancakes was born.

Since then Dan and I have traveled to several foreign countries, preformed gigs in almost every major US city, and have made videos for huge brands. It was me and him for 2+ years and it was crazy, interesting and more than anything amazing.

Now I handle booking events and for multiple pancake artists, as our team has grown since the beginning.

So if you ever need to book Dancakes for anything, you’ll probably be hearing my voice soon.

We have a crazy job!

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

Are your pancakes edible?

Pineapple on pizza?

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Daniel Drake - Co-Owner/Artist

Daniel Drake
Co-Owner/Artist
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.

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

Are your pancakes edible?

Pineapple on pizza?

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Benjamin Daniel - Co-Owner/Artist/Webmaster

Benjamin Daniel
Co-Owner/Artist/Webmaster
Saint Louis, MO

How’d you get into pancake art?

Dumb luck, mostly.

I met Dan filling in for drums in his band, no clue that pancake art was a thing or that Dan was internet famous. I thought it was awesome, but I never thought, “Man, I’ve gotta get in on that pancake art game,”.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and I had talked Dan into going on tour with me, music and pancake art. It was a wild adventure, but Dan had to fly out for a comic-con gig during the tour and miss a show.

With few options available Dan said, “Well, do you wanna learn how to do it?”
“Ummmm… Sure. Why not?” was my over eager reply.

So after a quick crash course in his step-mom’s kitchen I drove to Austin in a blistering thunderstorm and made terrible pancake art and played (hopefully good) music for some awesome folks.

Fast forward to now and I’m jetting all over the world making pancake faces, befuddled to how the heck I fell into this line of work. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither do most things in life. Just enjoy.

  • The Why, How & History of the Dancakes Name (11/12/2019) -

    We get a lot of questions about why we use the name “Dancakes”, which is fair, only one of our chef’s jackets has the name “Dan” on it. What usually follows is an abbreviated answer about why we decided to keep the name.

    Now, I’m more than happy to keep …

  • Comfort is a Trap, Don’t Fall for It (9/18/2019) - Purpose is a welcome curse. A spell cast upon you that gives you a drive and ambition to achieve something. It permeates your thoughts and informs nearly every decision you make. You invest money and time into planting seeds that may never bloom, and if they don’t, you go back and do it all over again.
  • Ben and Dan - Cigars and Stripes How I Met Daniel Drake and Became a Dancakes Artist (7/23/2019) - It was a hot day in Austin, which isn’t saying much. When isn’t it hot in Austin? It would probably be more interesting to start this story with, “It was an inconceivably cold day in Austin,” But alas, truth, no matter how insignificant rues the day...

    Continue reading

  • Welcome to the NEW Dancakes.com! (7/6/2019) -

    The only constant in life is change, and here we are again, the same place but a different destination.

    I’ve spent the last couple of months piecing together this site in whatever off time I’ve had from our ridiculous pancaking adventures. Going through multiple iterations and ideas to try and …

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Weird is relative. And in this job trying to figure out the “weirdest” request is like trying to figure out what river has the wettest water.

However, I think I might have the answer. In this instance, context is everything.

I was making pancake art at a 5th grade graduation party in 2016, and even though they’re just kids they’re obviously aware of the fact an election is happening that year. They know who the candidates are, but beyond that not much, they’re only 10 years old, politics is still a few years away.

As was the norm for that year, I made both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton pancakes. It was all very benign though, they just wanted to see these people they keep seeing on TV in pancake form. I was happy to oblige.

Then a little kid came up to me, short, red hair, freckles all over… He looked like Howdy Doody, aka, an adorable kid.

He looked at me and said, “Could I get Hillary behind bars?”

All I could think was, “Woah, I wonder where you learned that from.” (And I’m not sure if I’d wanna know)

So, I did my job and made him what he requested. It was quite the challenge to since you have to draw the bars first and then figure out what pieces of the face to show through the empty spaces, which is not easy to say the least.

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

Cars.

Not straight on or from the side, but the 3/4 skewed perspective. Doing two point perspective without any guides to help is really challenging for me. I’m always glad when someone requests one though because I get a little better every time!

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

There’s a little place on the southside of St. Louis (my home) called “Southwest Diner“. They are by far my favorite breakfast spot anywhere in the world (And I’ve eaten at SO many).

 

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

Probably Hong Kong. We got to spend a week just wandering around the city and only had to do any real work one day. I took my camera and got some pretty amazing photos, we saw some absolutely stunning sites and Dan and I went out one night and found a little speakeasy with an open mic/jam and I got to sit in for about an hour on drums with a couple of amazing musicians. It was a pretty magical experience and it really cemented how lucky I am to be part of this pancake circus.

Are your pancakes edible?

Not only are they edible, they’re actually pretty delicious. Not long after I met Dan, and long before I ever tried pancake art I tried one of Dan’s pancakes at a show we were playing at the Heavy Anchor.

I honestly didn’t have high expectations, but they were really, really good. Was it the best pancake I ever had? No. But it was still pretty darn delicious.

Pineapple on pizza?

Heckin yeah.

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Dana Baldus - Co-Owner/Artist/Social Media

Dana Baldus
Co-Owner/Artist/Social Media
Saint Louis, MO

It’s a pretty interesting story, how I became a professional pancake artist.

After graduating high school in 2016, I decided to take a gap year to make a more serious decision about where I wanted to go to college and to make money by getting a few jobs in town. A few months after the start of my gap year (wasting my life away scrolling on Instagram) I saw my first pancake art video, posted by Dancakes. I was immediately impressed and intrigued by the medium, and took it as a challenge.

After binge-watching enough videos to understand how it was done, I gathered equipment and tried it for myself. I posted my attempts online; to my surprise they saw what I had made and sent me a message about how they liked my art and if they could ask me a few questions. It turned out that I was a perfect candidate to be an employee: I was looking for work, not tied down to school, I was an artist, I had tried pancake art with decent results, and I was a mere six hour drive from St. Louis, where they were based.

As baffled as I was by the proposition my parents didn’t seem to see the strangeness in all this and encouraged me to go down for a job interview. We did, and it was part time work for a few months, before I got a call in February, my laptop literally open to browse college options. Dan presented me an ultimatum: You can go to college and work part-time for the company, continuing to do events on the side, or you can move to Saint Louis to be a full-time, professional pancake artist, traveling around the country and possibly the world making art for people. I had two weeks to think about it, and in the end, I made one of the strangest decisions of my life: to go along with it.

Now I get to fly to new cities frequently, have free access to incredible events, have huge exposure for my artwork, and have met and worked with some amazing people and even some personal idols.

I’m still confused as to the direction my life has gone in the last year or so, but I’m loving every unorthodox second of it.

  • Dana as Kevin from The Office Spilling Batter The Making of The Office Pancake Art (3/14/2020) -

    Running Dancakes is a real clusterheck of a job. We’re a small company trying to do a lot of things, and  as most small business owners know that means we’re all wearing as many hats as possible to help us move forward and continue growing (social media, web content, filming/editing …

  • Dancakes Mad Art Gallery Showing 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.
  • A Venture Into The Stars (9/9/2019) -

     

    Hey all! Dana here (I’m in the middle)! I thought I’d write a little bit about our recent travel, if y’all would entertain me~ (Originally written January 26th, 2019)

    First off, I’d like to give credit to Ben (mruncredible.com ) for this FANTASTIC shot of us (him, Dan, and …

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

Are your pancakes edible?

Pineapple on pizza?

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Jenny Harrison - Artist

Jenny Harrison
Artist
Los Angeles, CA

I got a BFA in Animation…. and became a PANCAKE ARTIST

Art has always been in my life. I had always loved drawing and painting. In school, I used every craft project to go overboard with creativity, and my parents were very supportive about it. The high school ROP (regional occupation program) introduced me to Animation as a career choice. I was already a huge admirer of the art of animation, so convincing myself that I was going to be an animator wasn’t difficult.

I enrolled at California State University Fullerton to study Animation. Instead of refining my skills and tailoring my portfolio for an artistic position, I focused on my GPA and worked part time jobs to support myself through school. When I was a Junior in College, I finally landed a creative job, doing pastel portraits at the local theme park. I also learned to face paint and started my side-hustle. When I graduated in 2012, I left my part-time portrait job for a full-time job at Art Supply Warehouse.

The first time I had heard of Dancakes, I was at work at Art Supply Warehouse in 2015. While working on our Facebook page, I came across the Dancakes Avengers Video. Normally my boss was the one calling me over to watch youtube videos, but this time it was me. “Mark, you have to see this! It’s amazing!!” We gawked at my monitor as the video continued, “I could never do that.” I was wrong.

I finally got a job in animation a few months later. A production job was opening at Film Roman, on the show I interned on, Ultimate Spiderman. I worked in Animation production for a few years, eventually ending up an Assistant Production Manager on Justice League Action at Warner Bros Animation. The whole experience was surreal! I loved the people I was working with, and the show I was working on. Incredibly Inspiring, and Humbling, and at the end of the day, tiring.

The long commute from Orange County in combination with my long hours at work was taking a toll on my health, and I was missing spending time with my husband (then fiance) and dog. I felt unfulfilled, even though I was good at what I was doing, and I was passionate about the project I was working on. I didn’t have time for myself or my loved ones, and I wasn’t doing any art anymore. When we started wrapping up Justice League Action, I made the decision to leave my job at Warner Bros. I felt confident enough that I could make enough money face painting on the weekends to afford to paint at home during the week. I was right. I have been making a living as an independent artist and event entertainer since February 2017.

Dan and Hank found me less than a year later. I had learned to do Pancake Art for one of my face painting clients. To practice, and motivate myself, I began doing pancake art challenges and posting them on my instagram. About a week after I started posting my videos, Dancakes reached out to me. 6 months after that I was on a plane to St. Louis to train with them in person. Now I am their Southern California Artist, and Dancakes events have taken me as far as London!

When I am not doing Dancakes events, I am painting at home, selling at pop-ups, or face-painting. It has been a crazy journey, and I can’t wait to see where else it takes me!

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

When I was working at Premier League Fan Fest, one fan couldn’t decide between two teams, so he decided to have me do both. Half Chelsea logo & Half Arsenal logo! 

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

There is always room for improvement. Right now I’m focusing mostly on simplifying and increasing my speed.

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

Black Bear Diner has the best biscuits and gravy, but I order out because I’m a Diet Coke girl…. and Black Bear is a Pepsi establishment. 😂

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

I think the coolest place I’ve traveled to is The Tower of London. Ben and I had an event there for the premiere of The Kid Who Would be King. It was really cool to work INSIDE the Tower of London! 

Are your pancakes edible?

Yes, they are edible and delicious. 

Pineapple on pizza?

Yes!!! Pineapple Pepperoni is one of my favorite combinations on pizza. 🍍 🍕 

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Lee Goldberg - Artist

Lee Goldberg
Artist
Phoenix, AZ

In 2014, I was a cook at a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in Phoenix. During a brunch I made someone sunny side up eggs and I gotta say they looked like eye balls. So obviously I had to make the rest of the face out of hash browns, bacon, and sausage.

One day I had a resident helping me serve breakfast and he asked if I had ever heard of pancake art. I had not. I spent the rest of the day pouring over pictures and videos. I decided to try it using coffee filters and left over batter (think piping bag).

Let me tell you those pancakes looked…bad. Really bad. They were, however, the most fun I’d had in a long time.

I reached out to Dancakes about tips for improving my technique, and holy cow they responded. We became friends and after a year or so, they invited me to apprentice with them.

Fast forward to now, I travel the world making pancake art for wonderful people.

I’m the resident geek of the company and I love table top roll playing games. I always have a D20 in my pocket because, you never know.

  • Dancakes Mad Art Gallery Showing 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.
  • Dragon About to Breathe Fire Live Pancake Art A Return Form, Lee Goldberg, Back in the Saddle (12/1/2019) -

    Hey friends, it’s your favorite Phoenician and Dancakes Artist Lee!

    Life has been crazy, four months ago my partner and I had the sweetest, most beautiful baby boy, a wondrous little flapjack named Miles.

    One of the many side effects of having a child is that I haven’t been able …

  • Group Photo at TwitchCon Wizards, Twitchon, and a view (10/19/2019) - My name is Lee Goldberg and you may not recognize me, that's OK, don't beat yourself up too much. I am the Arizona artist and resident twenty sided dice roller. I love TTRPGS and my love for it and networking has landed us a few really unique gigs.

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

Are your pancakes edible?

Pineapple on pizza?

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Ryan Lewin - Artist

Ryan Lewin
Artist
Dallas, TX

I have always loved to draw.  Ever since I was little I’ve loved it.  I only took a couple art classes in high school but didn’t pursue it in college.  I’m not really sure why.  I went a completely other route in college…Business and Accounting. Hard right turn from art huh?!

I have always drawn for fun, for gifts, commissions, etc in my spare time.  But finding the time to sit down and draw took a backseat after having kids (I have a 6 yr old daughter and 4 yr old son) and a full-time job in Finance. 

So how did I get into pancake art?

One night I randomly stumbled upon some Dancakes time lapse YouTube videos with my wife.  I thought they were the coolest thing ever and I said to myself, “hey, I want to try that.”  This seemed like a fun way to tap back into my creative side while also using it as on opportunity to do something fun and different with my kids.

My first pancake art attempt was Ariel, the Little Mermaid for my daughter one morning in April 2019.  Seemed like an easy task at the time…I’d been able to draw Ariel on paper before…but nope…I quickly learned that drawing with pancake batter is a whole other story! The pancake ended up horrible! The colors were so sloppy, proportions way off, and I learned a valuable lesson in how everything is reversed in pancake art….oh, and I burnt it of course.  But, we had a lot of fun making it together.  Plus, getting my kids to eat anything is a struggle in itself (pickiest eaters), and seeing that they still ate this weird looking Ariel, I wanted to keep trying.

That night I watched some more Dancakes videos and remember thinking, “wow….how in the world do they do this? I could never get to that level”(especially seeing how embarrassingly, horribly wrong my Ariel pancake went).  But, I kept trying, practicing, and having fun with it anyway with my kids.  I went through trial and error on colors, bottles, all of it.  Eventually, my pancakes started getting marginally better, where they at least sort of resembled what I was trying to make!

I started making my own time-lapse videos of my pancakes and began posting them on my FlippinArtDude Instagram page and got a very positive response with people requesting more.  Over time, I started building a following and getting requests for pancake art commissions and live events ranging from pancake art workshops and private parties.  The Dallas Mavericks even reached out to me to make pancake art for an event which was so much fun to be a part of! This little hobby has turned into a nice little side gig!

Then, in September 2019, Dan reached out to me asking if I would be interested in joining the Dancakes team as a Dancakes Artist after seeing my work on my Instagram page! It’s crazy to think that I now work with this awesome team as an Artist when not even a year ago I was watching their videos in awe.

I still work full-time in Finance in Dallas when I am not doing Dancakes events, while also juggling life at home with a wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs.  But, being a pancake artist on top of it is so much fun, brings my creative side back out, and continues to challenge me to improve and get better each day!

  • Dancakes Mad Art Gallery Showing 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.

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

When I was working at the Premier League Fan Fest in Miami, someone requested a pancake of Arsenal Coach Wenger, but the request was a meme of him wearing one of his long, over-sized, puffy coats where the coat just kept going and going and going, making him look like a 20ft tall centipede!

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

I’m working on getting faster with my pancakes.  It’s such a balance between doing them fast while people are standing there waiting for them and making good quality art.

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

I’m a big fan of Snooze AM Eatery.  Not to be cliche about pancakes, but their pancake flight trio is amazing. So are the benedicts!

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

The coolest place I’ve traveled to is Barcelona. It wasn’t for pancake art, but it was one of those organized trips with people from all over the world where you take a bus to different countries.  This trip started in Amsterdam and went to Paris, Lucerne, Chamonix, Monaco and ended in Barcelona.

Are your pancakes edible?

They sure are!

Pineapple on pizza?

All day.