by Nancy Stiles
Dr. Dan the Pancake Man is movin' on up. After achieving Internet fame via Reddit and Riverfront Times fame (which is the best kind of fame, in our totally unbiased opinion), Dan Drake of Courtesy Diner flipped some pancake artistry on KSDK. After that? Oh, just the Today show.
"When it all hit me, all these offers, there was a moment I was sitting there like, what the fuck do I do? What's the protocol?," Drake tells us following his return from New York City. "Take a couple breaths."
Drake did a segment last week on KSDK. The day it aired, he got a call from a strange New York number in the middle of his Courtesy Diner shift. It was a producer from Today, asking about the pancakes. He asked Drake if he could make the show's hosts from pancakes, and send him photos before they bought him a plane ticket to New York.
"To come off of that at 9 a.m. and have to cook for the breakfast and lunch rushes while a million things are going through my head -- it was stresfull. I got off the clock and I sketched their faces, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie and Natalie Morales," Drake says. "Half an hour later they said the picture was circulating NBC offices and they loved it. He wanted me to know if I could fly out Tuesday to be on the show Wednesday."
Drake, along with a friend, flew into LaGuardia airport, where they were picked up by a Russian driver named Vladimir. "He actually had a Daniel Drake sign! I refrained from asking him to keep it as a souvenir," he says. He was to report to 30 Rock the next morning at 6:30 a.m., half an hour later than his usual Courtesy Diner shift.
"That night I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I was super nervous, laying bed thinking to myself, what if they got the wrong grill? what if I act like an idiot? All the worst case scenarios," Drake says. After walking across Rockefeller Plaza from his sixteenth floor hotel room to the NBC studios, Drake was greeted by a page and taken to hair and makeup, where they, yes, put makeup on him.
Then he was set up in the new "orange room," a set at Today usually focuses on some aspect of social media. In fact, a Twitter feed with pancake requests was streaming behind him as he cooked.
"I was wearing my Courtesy Diner shirt, using my Courtesy Diner spatula. I've been practicing this for five years. The pressure melted away," he says. "I started with Matt Lauer, because I practiced him in the back. I thought he looked great, but Matt was offended by the size of his nose."
Drake estimates he did about twelve or thirteen custom pancakes, ranging from Al Roker to Thanksgiving turkeys to Miley Cyrus with her tongue sticking out. Roker even took a picture with Drake and tweeted it. After Drake flew back to St. Louis that afternoon, he found out that Yahoo News had done a story on him as well, using footage from KSDK.
So far, his television appearances have gotten him hundreds of Facebook likes, plus an offer to be a spokesperson for a pancake batter pouring device. Drake himself uses a plastic condiment bottle, but he's excited at the possibility of being a "sponsored pancake artist."
Next up for Drake is an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show and a December 21 performance with his band, the Psychedelic Psychonauts. He'll be playing and flipping pancakes for charity at the show at Jefferson Warehouse. Drake isn't sure when he'll be on Rachael Ray, since they sent him some papers to sign (unlike NBC) and he needs to look over them first. His dream, though, is to end up on Ellen DeGeneres.
"I'm not worried about my band's fame following my own. It's as if I've been painstakingly piecing together a machine for the last half a decade and NBC threw some grease on it," Drake says. Now that he's been on national television, he's finding it easier to reach out to media people.
"I feel like that's a really useful tool in my arsenal, and I'm planning on using that from this moment forward. And it's just a fucking show -- it's not like I made world peace or anything, but it's so surreal," he says.
Check out Dr. Dan on KSDK and NBC below.