9 min 25 sec

Short Order Cook Turns Pancake Art Into Six-Figure Business

When a St. Louis diner cook learns he has a knack for getting customers to smile, he teams up with a friend to make appearances at events. Since then, they’ve traveled the world and built a multiple six-figure business. This is one episode that won’t fall flat!
Arts & Crafts Events Food High Profit Niche Ideas Unique Ideas

Subscribe Now For A Free Five Step Tutorial

What It's About

A line cook uses his fun talent and stacks up a six-figure business.

Business Model
Skills Required
Cooking & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Don't discredit your talents, especially the ones that bring people joy. It could be the next big side hustle idea.

Fun Fact

Pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is known as "Pancake Day" in Canada, the United Kingdom Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, and "Pancake Tuesday" in Ireland and Scotland. (Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, France, and other countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.) Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fat or lard was used up before Lent. No meat products should be eaten during Lent. Re: 

Notes from Chris

Episode 1000
How does a diner cook on the graveyard shift end up bringing in $450,000 a year as the co-owner of a brand that makes pancake art? It’s a pan-tastic story, and a great example of what happens when weird and wonderful talent comes together.

In the beginning, there was just Dan, a man with a pan–but no plan.

Dan is Daniel Drake, a short-order cook in St. Louis, Missouri who discovered one day that a smiley-face pancake could bring in a $15 tip on an otherwise slow day at the diner. From that first funny flapjack came the revelation that would change everything: pancakes don’t have to be round … and they can take on any kind of design and shape you can pour into a griddle. A few layering tricks later, and Dan was “the man” of the diner, using colored batter to draw and create incredibly detailed characters and logos out of pancakes.

It started when a customer asked if he could create his pancake art at a party. At this point, Dan had never taken his edible art on the road, but he agreed to the gig. Then he turned to his buddy Hank and said - “I just promised to do pancake art at a party. Can you help me figure this out?”

Dan and Hank then did a bunch of house and birthday parties in St. Louis, learning along the way. It was literally a messy process. Hank also had a side hustle as a video producer and created music videos for bands. So it was natural for him to use his skills to make videos of the pancake art creations, which they began to post online.

Images of Dan making a pancake in the shape of a Super Mario Bros Mushroom went viral and hit the front page of Reddit. That’s when the Today Show came calling and Dancakes the company was off and running. By the time they de-planed from their appearance on the show, their phones were filled with requests for events.

Birthday parties, weddings, and trade show appearances were all part of making the Dancakes concept sell like, well, hotcakes. They’ve been asked to create pancake portraits of professional team logos.

Over the past four years, Dancakes has made an estimated 1,500 appearances around the world. Hank says he had to learn how to negotiate with companies like Disney to make sure that Dancakes got full credit for images and the right price for what they produced. He says now, “if you have concerns, voice them. The worst they can say is no.”

As the business grew, the two held back on cashing in on the perks of fame, opting instead to invest back into the business for necessities like a studio for professional kitchen shots and better video equipment.

Eventually, Dancakes was ready to hire additional pancake artists and they hired four others. The team has made pancake art a go-to medium for the MLB and NFL Networks, and partnerships with Hulu and Netflix. They have traveled the world taking their pancake art to countries including Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Brazil. And in 2019, Dancakes brought in $450,000.

The company anticipates 2020 will be another banner year as a pancake art home kit hits the market, complete with a special pan and batter bottles. They have a licensing deal with a company that will produce and distribute the kit while they maintain creative control. Dan and Hank have flipped over a new way of life.


  • Dancakes Learn more about Dan, Hank, and their amazing works of edible art at their website
  • Watch how the Dancakes artists make their amazing works of art at their Dancakes Instagram account and Dancakes YouTubepage.

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


Download Episodes By Months:

Season 6 (2022): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |

Season 5 (2021): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |

Season 4 (2020): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |

Season 3 (2019): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |

Season 2 (2018): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |

Season 1 (2017): JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV | DEC |



Create your online store with Shopify using an exclusive discount for Side Hustle School listeners. For a limited time, get a free 21-day trial and a 10% discount for a whole year.

Many Side Hustle School listeners are building sites using Shopify's easy-to-learn platform. Try it free today!

Learn More


Social media is nice, but building an email list is still the single best way to get customers and clients for your hustle. It's not hard to get started—sign up for a 30-day trial and join the list-building challenge! You’ll be up and running in no time.

Learn More

Quote of the Day
"Be in the moment. Everything is temporary and the joy right now is the only joy there is. So soak it up."
—Hank Gustafson & Dan Drake #SideHustleSchool

Sponsors & Gratitude

Don't Do Business Without It

Side Hustle School is brought to you by American Express.

No matter what you do in business, from working nine-to-five to working five-to-nine, it’s easier when you don’t go it alone. Get the powerful backing of American Express—don't do business without it! 💳

Visit American Express

Like the Show? Leave a Rating!

Side Hustle School is for you! If you’re enjoying it, please take a quick moment to leave a rating or write a quick review. It's really easy and it makes a difference! ✅

It also makes a huge difference when you tell your friends about the show. Remember, it's 100% free and listener-supported.

Here's How

Keep in Touch

There’s a new story every single day on Side Hustle School. Episodes are produced to be short and to the point—I know you’re busy. Be sure you subscribe to get instant notification of the day’s broadcast!

To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau