P is for pancake and party

Pancakes are a breakfast favourite for a lot of people and they're just hands-down pretty dang delicious and awesome (if you're a pancake hater... uh, why?). But aside from that, they've also become a starting point for friendships and bonds to be made thanks to Robin Vogelaar. For the past few years, Vogelaar has travelled around the world and hosted events in different countries with a simple premise: he cooks Dutch pancakes, people meet up and eat, and have a good time. It's a simple thing yet it has gotten the attention of others that Vogelaar was able to take the TEDx stage at Abidjian, Côte d'Ivoire. On November 24, he's bringing the Dutch Pancake Party to the Big Mango. Guru spoke to him on everything pancake party.

What is Pancake surfing?

Pancake Surfing is a concept of travelling the world hosting pop-up events with free pancakes everywhere I go. It's a way to excite and get to know locals in a fun way as these days there are not many events where people can come to venues and cook for free.

How did you start Pancake surfing?

I started nine years ago when I was studying in Hong Kong. My fellow classmates made me Asian food and asked me if I can make any food from my country. I cannot cook, but I can make pancakes as that is very easy to do. After Hong Kong, I did it in Amsterdam and after that slowly but gradually took it worldwide.

What inspired you to do this?

I started to realise how much joy people get when they come together to cook something fun like a pancake. It is a very different vibe than in a regular drinking meetup or a pub quiz. I also noticed that the participants are all very easy-going and that it's easy for anyone to start a conversation with someone else in the event.

What usually goes on during your Dutch pancake parties?

People are either actively involved in cooking, putting toppings, sharing pancakes or are just standing or sitting. Usually people mix well and meet many people. It's a nice start of an evening beginning at 7pm so when people go to a bar or club afterwards, the group knows each other well already.

You could have chosen to cook anything so why Dutch pancakes?

Well, the main reason that I don't make anything else is that I cannot really cook anything else. But otherwise I do think that everyone in the world loves pancakes and it makes people excited to join. People also often like to flip the pancakes. Lastly, pancakes are very affordable to make, so to organise an event for 100-150 people, I typically don't spend much money.

How is something so simple uniting so many people and forming communities?

I also wondered. I never thought that I could reach a TEDx stage or get so much attention from news channels like CNN. I guess the simplicity is what draws people's attention. As for the community aspect, it is always so nice that past participants are still hanging out with each other after the event and that there have been about 10 people so far that decided to organise their own pancake events.

What have you learned these past years hosting these pancake parties?

I learned that people are very eager for new event concepts and are excited to not only participate but also contribute in finding a suitable location, in bringing equipment to the event, cleaning etc. Second, I have come to realise that some people often have been in a city for a while but have not connected well or have made good friendships. Some of them have thanked me saying the pancake event has allowed them to find a group of like-minded people that they started hanging out with.

Is this the first time you're hosting a Dutch pancake party in Bangkok? What are you looking forward to as the event draws near?

It's actually my second time. I came to Bangkok two years ago for a company trip, but this time I will stay longer in Thailand and also organise events in more cities, such as Phuket, Krabi and Hatyai (but also smaller places). I am very curious to see if the Bangkok edition will be different or potentially bigger than last time. Next to that, I am curious to see whether the vibe in some of the smaller Thai cities is different from Bangkok.

What can people look forward to when they attend one of your pancake parties?

They can look forward to eating unlimited free Dutch pancakes. But I hope that is not the main reason that they will join. I much rather they come to enjoy a festive atmosphere in which they can meet like-minded people.

Where can people keep track of your parties?

I usually post my calendar on my Facebook event page called "Dutch Pancake Events", as well as via Couchsurfing events. I look forward to meeting any of you soon in any of the events! g

Visit bit.ly/2T8PSpt, PancakeSurfing.com, and Couchsurfing.com to follow Vogelaar and his upcoming events.