Meeting new people in the middle of a global pandemic could be tricky, but with the help of pancakes, this San Francisco resident managed to bring his community together.
Curtis Kimball, chef and owner of the now-closed Creme Brulee Cart, felt that his city’s vibes were “all effed up,” so to somehow make things better, he decided to do what he knew best: cooking.
This time, it’s pancakes on the menu.
Curtis, a 20-year Bay Area San Francisco resident, tweeted out an invitation to the pancake party and hung funny flyers all over the neighborhood, which read, in part: “My wife says I’m getting weird. She says I need to make friends. So I’m making pancakes.”
The January 22 event proved to be a hit. Over 75 people showed up to his party Saturday morning to eat over 125 buttery pancakes together!
Curtis, who was “totally surprised” by the number of people who came, documented the experience in a series of tweets in early February.
“I actually didn’t know what to expect at all and I was terrified setting up for it. Even putting up the flyers made me nervous and self-conscious,” he told TODAY. “Like, this could be a really dumb idea and everyone might hate it. But the first people showed up right away, they lived two doors down and they were very excited.”
Curtis didn’t plan for it to be an event—he just wanted a chance to reconnect with neighbors after the years-long pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives. Many of his friends had also moved away, and he missed interacting with people.
The San Francisco resident thought everybody likes pancakes—or “at the least the idea of pancakes”—as he put it. So, he figured that many people would come if he cooked dozens of them and invited people to eat for free.
Curtis imagined it would be a great opportunity for everyone to hang around, meet new neighbors, and even make new friends.
Turns out, he was right. That morning, people hungry to connect and experience little joys with others showed up on Alabama St.
“It was a really nice mix of generations and backgrounds which you don’t often see in SF,” Curtis said. “Lots of kids and dogs (which was fun for my kids too), and a lot of people who lived near each other but had never met or connected.”
Strangers even arrived bearing all kinds of gifts, including homemade lemon curds and small-batch honey, as a small token of gratitude.
The event was so successful that Curtis hosted another pancake meet-up on February 12. The second time was an even bigger success—300 people showed up, thanks to his previous pancake party making several headlines.
“The joy, the laughter, the gratitude, the kindness was all overwhelming (as was the smell of pancakes),” Curtis wrote in a tweet. “Not to be a softy, but I got a little misty a few times as every person thanked me for what to them felt like the perfect antidote at the perfect time after a rough 2 years.”
Interestingly, the experience turned him away from venturing into the food business again.
“The vibes were so good that going back to the foodie vibes feels bad,” Curtis told San Francisco Eater. “Customers come with the expectation of themselves as critics rather than just as enjoyers.”
He reflected that his real calling in life might be creating good vibes and getting people together. In fact, making people happy was his primary intention when he started his creme brulee business back then. And judging from the turnout of his pancake parties, he’s a natural at it.
Curtis has no idea what comes next for his little project, but he hopes that other people across the country would be inspired to host Saturday morning pancake parties in their own neighborhoods.
“I think it’s important because most of our public spaces are dominated by the big arguments over our differences as people,” he said.
“And those things are important. But what feels lost and might be equally important is celebrating each other and our commonalities. We need more chances, as people, to root for each other and to believe in each other as humans.”
Many attendees asked for a donation jar or a tip jar during the event, but he had none. So, Curtis decided to create a GoFundMe for people who want to contribute.
Here is a video from KRON to learn more about our ‘pancake guy’.
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