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Nothing is un-pancakeable: The Pancake Art of Nathan Shields
Some prefer their pancakes savoury, while others go for maple syrup or lemon and sugar. Then there’s Nathan Shields, for whom the toppings are a mere afterthought as he turns pancake mixture into art for his growing legion of internet fans.
What started as a Shields family breakfast tradition soon became a blog, which then became a Facebook page and is now a YouTube channel with nearly 70,000 subscribers. The pancakes have taken on many amazing shapes and forms – from Halloween-themed zombies to startlingly life-like pancake apes that have been viewed by millions. No really, millions.
In honour of Shrove Tuesday, then, we caught up with the pancake pro himself to learn the secrets of his craft.
How did you first start getting creative with pancakes?
My wife started working and I because a “professional dad” four years ago when we moved to Saipan, a little island in the Pacific. One day we were getting ready to have pancakes and I decided to use a spoon to drop batter into interesting shapes. The kids approved, so I did it again the next week, adding a little time for certain parts to darken more than others. We’ve kept the weekly tradition going ever since.
Were the videos instantly popular? Or what caused the spike in hits?
I had been posting pictures on my blog, saipancakes.com, but started adding videos to YouTube last May – a couple of them gained traction and were widely shared.
Which of your pancakes have you been most proud of?
There’s always a certain amount of randomness involved in the designs, and it’s still a surprise when you flip them. I was pleased with how my Michael Jackson came out (below), and with the skulls I did last October (above).
Your website also notes you accept commissions – what sort of pancakes have people asked for?
Mostly business logos and portraits, but sometimes there’s an unusual request – like a shopping center. Or 32 NFL logos.
What is your favorite pancake topping?
I always vote for maple syrup. My son will sometimes choose butter only, and my daughter prefers Nutella.
How are you celebrating Shrove Tuesday? With one extra-special giant pancake? Or will you take the day off?
It would be good to take a break from all this pancakery for a day – it’s been ramping up lately as you might imagine. It’s still fun, but my wife may have a different take.
In your expert opinion, is anything un-pancakeable?
I operate under the premise that nothing is un-pancakeable, but some of the portraits I’ve tried have remained elusive.
Finally, do you have any internet heroes of your own?