Jonas Kanagy of Stuarts Draft, Va., turns out pancakes faster than any half dozen chefs, and he doesn't even use a spatula.
The 70-year-old Kanagy flips his flaps with a 600-pound pancake machine he invented and named "Flippin' Ginnie." The semi-retired dairy farmer says he has a patent pending on the contraption, which pours, cooks and flips 60 pancakes in three minutes.
That's 1,200 an hour, he says -- more than enough to feed an army platoon or a Girl Scout troop. The idea for the invention struck Kanagy at a Mennonite disaster relief sale seven years ago.
"We had thousands of people come in there, and they waited three hours for pancakes," said Kanagy, Mennonite disaster coordinator for Virginia and West Virginia.
Since he premiered the 3-foot-by-10-foot machine a year ago at a pancake fry for the Stuarts Draft Fire Department, Kanagy has been volunteering it for other charitable functions. He said he's been asked to go as far as Canada to make pancakes.
"Flippin' Ginnie" recently made 4,000 to 5,000 pancakes for 550 people, he said. "Pancake fries are becoming more popular around here," he said. "The machine, itself, is a novelty. It draws the public."
This is how "Flippin' Ginnie" works. Kanagy pours buttermilk batter into a rectangular vat. A revamped fire extinguisher releases cooking oil onto a heated steel conveyer belt. Five plungers push measured amounts of batter from the vat onto the greased belt.
The pancakes are cooked on one side by five propane burners as they inch their way toward a flexible steel bar. When the flaps hit the bar, they are flipped over and continue their trip along the belt. At the end of their journey, the pancakes slide onto platters. Two automatic scrapers clean the belt so it's ready for another batch.
It would cost about $5,000 to build the pancake maker, Kanagy said. He believes such a machine would appeal to institutions and schools.
Y. M. Claytor, Kanagy's next-door neighbor, helped the inventor construct the machine by doing most of the welding. He travels to pancake fries with Kanagy and "Flippin' Ginnie," which is on wheels and has its own trailer. "People think it's just fabulous," Claytor said of the pancake machine. "They get a big kick out of seeing it flip the pancakes. If it didn't do that, the machine would be nothing, really."