I’m sitting in a mall in Thailand, staring into my own eyes, and deciding which one to eat first. Nope, this is not a particularly gory anxiety dream: I’ve just had my face pancaked.
Indeed, there’s now a café in the backpacker hub of Chiang Mai where you can go to have your face pancaked. Simply send them a selfie and this place will meticulously recreate your likeness in batter.
I don’t think there are many places you’d expect to get your face pancaked, but a shopping center in northern Thailand probably isn’t one of them. Hidden away on the third floor of this soulless temple to consumerism, next to an underwear store and a guy selling knock-off Crocs, is AS Café.
One of the few places of its kind in the world, AS Café makes the selfies in batter using a combination of 3D printing and what can only be described as two very talented Pancake Artists, who delicately fill in the outline by hand.
The process is as follows. First, choose your toppings. You can opt for the classic, butter and maple syrup. Or if you’d like to smother your face in ice cream or fruit, you can do that too. Next, spend an agonizing 20 minutes finding or taking the perfect selfie. Think strategically: more face/hair/glasses = more pancake to eat. Snapchat filters are discouraged. When you're ready, email your photo to the address provided.
My friends and I awkwardly pose for our own phones, goofily grinning as curious shoppers stare. Then the pancake artist, Waan, loads a bottle with batter and the 3D printer smoothly outlines the edges of my face. Halfway through it jams (my face broke the printer), and Waan looks puzzled. She taps the bottle, reloads it and off it goes.
Waan studies my beaming selfie on her phone, brows furrowed. She then proceeds to expertly fill in my face using different sized batter nozzles, adopting an extremely serious expression throughout the ordeal. Understandable, as it looks like it takes an awful lot of concentration, not to mention math: Waan times the drawing and frying so some parts of my hair and face turn out darker than others. It’s...pancake contouring.
Halfway through, with only the outline of my teeth complete, I start to take on a skeletal Darth Vader look. It isn’t flattering.
“Making pancakes is difficult because we make them one by one and we have to keep the character for everybody,” Waan tells me, as I wait impatiently—my nose is starting to look tasty.
AS Café has been open for a little over a year. The other artist Gik, studied multimedia art at college, and they both trained for three months for this job. I’m surprised it wasn’t longer; the artistry is impressive. The pair say they get asked to make pancakes of people’s pets almost every day. What’s the most unusual request they’ve had?
“The most surprising was goat pancake. The woman said, ‘I was attacked by a goat yesterday, I will eat that goat today!’”
Finally, our pancakes are ready, delivered to us without fanfare on a simple white plate. I smother my eyebrows in syrup, my nose and cheeks in butter. As it turns out, eating your own face is a weird and surprisingly melancholic affair. My pancake-y eyes start to take on a mournful look, and I decide to leave them for last. After some soul-searching, I choose to eat my cheeks first.
Printing your face on a pancake leads to all sorts of existential ponderings. Would I look better with glasses? Is my nose actually that big IRL? Why did my face break the printer?
“I look like my father,” my friend says, staring at her pancake portrait.
“I look better as a pancake,” another muses.
“I’m 90% hair,” says a third.
We all try out various hairstyles via the medium of pancake, slicing through the perfectly cooked batter to see how we’d look with bobs or pixie cuts. It occurs to me that pancake selfies are really the ultimate in throwaway millennial vanity.
Delicious throwaway millennial vanity.