Robin Vogelaar from Amsterdam is touring around the world to cook Dutch pancakes with friends and strangers.
This year he visits 6 MEININGER cities and tells us about his passion for pancake parties!
When and why did you start to make pancakes?
It all started in Hong Kong where someone offered to cook Chinese food for me and my Dutch friend. To cook back we offered to cook Dutch pancakes, but then not only for him, but also for the rest of the class. This was a big success and people liked the pancakes and the atmosphere a lot.
When back in the Netherlands I started hosting people at home on Saturday nights, first for 10-20 people, but when encouraging people to invite more people, it soon grew out towards 100+ people every week. A few months into this my landlord decided he wanted to sell my apartment. At that moment I had to make a decision whether to find a new apt to rent or to invest my salary into flight tickets and to travel to different cities all over the world. I decided on the second one.
Initially I just approached my own friends who lived all over Europe and asked them whether they fancied to host the Dutch pancake night in their apts. This worked, but the pace was low (max 2 editions per month). At one point I decided to approach strangers on Facebook / Couchsurfing / Meetup.com fora with the question whether they would know of suitable locations. At this moment there are people who continuously help me finding locations and encouraging people to attend. I only need to spend minimal time on the organization at this moment and really appreciate all the help I receive. Also: it helps significantly to organize the editions in a hotel. Then I don’t need to search for a location and there is no issue of potentially inviting too many people to the event
To which cities/countries have you been to make pancakes?
I have been to a lot of countries, for example Boston in the US, Tokyo in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta in Indonesia, Istanbul in Turkey, Bucharest in Romania, Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava, Stockholm, Oslo, Madrid, Ibiza, Lisbon, Rome, Milan, Geneva, Vienna, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Marseille, brussels, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and I also plan to visit Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
What was your biggest pancake party and where did it take place?
My largest Dutch pancake night was in Jakarta, Indonesia. Over there was an expat with a large villa and swimming pool and he didn’t mind having many people over. In the end almost 150 people showed up and the place had a very special ambiance. It was nice to see how attendants even incorporated their local culture into the event, by started to sing karaoke at one point in time. Also: it was the first edition so far where people brought a lot of toppings to the event and where they put on all toppings (I think 10 different ones) on one pancake. I did not appreciate that so much, but I felt they did.
What kind of people attend the pancake parties?
The attendants of the Dutch pancake nights are typically people who are eager to meet other people and people who have the time to do so. They are normally found in networks such as Couchsurfing, expat communities, au pairs, students, entrepreneurs, etc. Usually the people are quite outgoing and fun and they don’t mind to interact with strangers the whole night. Also, I found they were quite respectful as usually people start cleaning the apt at the end of the night when I ask them. Occasionally the apt even looks cleaner than before when people started doing the dishes and to mob the floors
Even though the pancake parties are getting bigger and bigger, why do you still organize them – besides your normal job in finance?
For me there is no target number, the Dutch pancake nights could be small and I would still organize them. For me it’s about connecting people in a city, about having unique experiences, about having special weekends, about enjoying the interactions with other people and about having fun experimenting with food (we often cook more than just pancakes). My job in finance is interesting, but I don’t find the same appreciation and I definitely not get the chance to connect with such a diversity of people than I do during my weekends. You can safely say that organizing the Dutch pancake nights has become an addiction that might continue for a very long future time
What are your plans for the future?
As for the Dutch pancake nights, I keep on searching for ways to make the experiences more unique, for example by making them larger (e.g. 1000 people in a park-target), at more unique location (e.g. hopefully one day on a yaght), by creating impact (e.g. community building, charity), or other ways.
As for my professional plans I hope that one day I can create impact through social enterprises, possibly at a microfinance company. I am currently spending my summers helping social enterprises, every summer in a different geography and different industry (so far microfinance in Indonesia, solar energy in Tanzania, NGO consulting in India, healthcare in Brazil). Personally I know that at one day I will settle down, but I don’t know when, where or how.
Do you have a special pancake recipe?
I prefer to make pancakes with fruits inside, so make the dough with apples, bananas, raisins, berries, etc. Next to that I prefer icecream, Nutella, strawberries etc on top. Usually people really like that, although occasionally people request savory or plain pancakes. Other than that, sometimes people request vegan pancakes.
You are on a tour through MEININGER cities. Why are the hotels a great place for the pancake parties?
I think that hotels in general are a great place to organize Dutch pancake nights as they have the capacity to host the event for many attendants and as the kitchens typically have the professional equipment available.
I think that MEININGER specifically is a great place for these editions, given the young character of the hotels and that the target audience of the hotel might well participate in the Dutch pancake night themselves. Especially during the Brussels edition I experienced that about 15-20 people (inclusive a large Korean tourist group) from the hotel attended the Dutch pancake night and that they really enjoyed it.