Pancake Art

The breakfast food gets the design treatment

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as of late, not only from a nutritional standpoint but also from an artistic perspective. From intricate latte art to painterly mush bowls, diners are looking for foods to fulfill both their stomachs and their desire for shareworthy experiences. The latest morning meal turned art forum is the pancake, with restaurants and new technologies around the world expanding the creative niche.


An Italian restaurant in Japan is an unlikely venue for pancake art; nonetheless, La Ricetta in the Kanagawa prefecture has become a pioneer in the burgeoning culinary trend. Alongside its pizzas and pastas, La Ricetta has achieved global fame for its pancakes that feature favorite manga, anime, and video game characters. Made with just pancake batter, soy milk, and an astounding degree of precision, the edible paintings are achieved through varied cooking times. Pancake art patrons must make a reservation at least a day in advance, at which time they must request their chosen flapjack character. Those unfamiliar with cult animation can instead opt to pour syrup over the face of a dog or cat.


Hotel chains are struggling to attract younger generations, whom increasingly favor more personal hospitality alternatives like couchsurfing or home sharing when travelling. In a bid to appeal to youth, Holiday Inn Express recently introduced The Stack Station, a one-touch, “smart” pancake machine; while it doesn’t offer the comforts of home found on Airbnb, it does feature lasers that imprint selfies taken via mobile phone onto pancakes. Earlier this fall, the budget brand sent spokesman Rob Riggle to nine cities on a tour bus, from which he showcased the novelty for passersby and doled out free breakfast swag to those eager to nosh on their own image.


Kinneir Dufort, a UK-based firm working in the intersection between research, innovation, design, and product development, has touched everything from the packaging of cooking oil to ergonomic cookware. Earlier this year, it extended its expertise in the culinary category to create a technology for 3D-printed pancakes detailed with portraits. The system uses a digital camera embedded with facial recognition and tracking software to signal contours for the batter dispenser. Darker areas are directed on a hot plate first, resulting in astoundingly realistic renderings that give new meaning to “you are what you eat.”