On the day of its launch in 1978, The Cheesecake Factory didn't welcome guests until 2pm. David Overton — the founding CEO and, at that point, a newbie restaurateur — didn't want to deal with a busy lunch rush. The joke was on him, though: Before that original Beverly Hills, CA, outpost opened its doors, there was a line around the block. And according to David, the pandemonium hasn't stopped since.
The Cheesecake Factory's inaugural menu wasn't anything like the 250-plus item behemoth that guests face today. David opened the restaurant to showcase his mom Evelyn's cheesecakes with no intention of turning the place into a chain. In fact, that one California outpost was merely a ploy to get other restaurants to sell the family's desserts. The rest of the food was filler.
If you showed up for a meal in 1978, you'd have found 20 cheesecakes available to order. It's nothing to sneeze at, but fast forward to 2018, and there are almost 40 cheesecakes on the menu, including original hits like Classic and Fresh Strawberry. When a new flavor launches — like last year's Celebration Cheesecake — fans lose their minds.
It's 1pm on a Thursday, and I'm sitting at The Cheesecake Factory in a New Jersey mall, staring at half a dozen of the famous cheesecakes, including a couple of the recipes that started the empire. I'm about to eat all of them — and I've already crushed more than 30 other dishes from the restaurant.
How did I get here?
That question's not rhetorical; I know the answer, and I'm still processing my feelings about it. My coworkers signed me up for the task—eating 40 dishes from The Cheesecake Factory in honor of the restaurant's 40th birthday—and I've got a background in competitive eating, so ... here I am, attempting to eat them all. (By background, I mean I won a few small competitions during my time at Syracuse University.)
I wanted to conquer the entire menu, but, like I mentioned, it's packed with more than 250 insane dishes. No number of food eating competitions could have prepared me for that — although, I presume 50 eating competitions could have put me in a better place. So, here's how I fared with just 40 plates.
Next time you go, you're going to want to order the Fried Macaroni and Cheese, the Chicken Madeira, and Linda's Fudge Cake — but here's a deeper look at literally everything I ate.
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