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10 Gourmet Facts About the Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory has never been known as a restaurant to skimp on the size of its menu or the size of its portions. Enjoy this full menu of facts about the Calabasas Hills-based restaurant chain while contemplating which variety of cheesecake will be your next slice.

1. THE ORIGINAL RECIPE FOR THE FIRST CHEESECAKE WAS PRINTED IN THE NEWSPAPER.

Housewife Evelyn Overton of Detroit was searching for a recipe for the dessert when she found one in her local paper. Her cheesecake earned such rave reviews with family and friends that she began making them in her basement and selling them to local restaurants.

2. THE OVERTONS HEADED WEST TO START THEIR BUSINESS.

After her two children were grown, Evelyn and her husband moved to Los Angeles and put all their savings into a bakery called The Cheesecake Factory Bakery. Evelyn’s desserts were soon being sold throughout the city and the selection grew to more than 20 varieties.

3. EVELYN'S SON, DAVID, STILL SERVES AS THE COMPANY'S CEO.

Before becoming a cheesecake mogul, David played drums professionally and used his musical talents to help pay for his tuition at Wayne State University in Detroit. When he saw that his parents needed help selling their cheesecakes, he retired his drumsticks and opened the first full-menu location of the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills in 1978.

4. CUSTOMERS CAME FOR THE CHEESECAKE AND STAYED FOR THE ENTREES.

According to David, the desserts were always meant to be the focal point of the restaurant’s menu (hence the name), and he describes his mom’s dessert as “the Cadillac of cheesecakes.” When the full restaurant opened, customers waited in line, even on the first day, for a slice. "I wanted to prove to other restaurateurs that people would enjoy a restaurant with a large dessert menu," he told the Los Angeles Times.

5. THE OVERTONS ALSO OWN TWO OTHER RESTAURANT CONCEPTS.

Grand Lux Cafe is David Overton's take on the classic European cafe, and RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen is the result of a partnership between Overton and Singapore-raised chef Mohan Ismail. In total, there are 12 Grand Lux Cafes and one RockSugar restaurant, located in L.A.

6. ALL OF THE CHEESECAKES SOLD ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE MADE IN TWO BAKERIES. 

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There are 186 Cheesecake Factory locations across the country, but facilities in Calabasas Hills, California and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, are responsible for baking the 50 types of cheesecake the restaurant serves, which include salted caramel, peanut butter cup fudge ripple, lemon raspberry cream, and the one that started it all.

7. IF YOU CAN'T MAKE IT TO A RESTAURANT, YOU CAN ALWAYS SHIP A CHEESECAKE TO YOURSELF.

In partnership with direct-mail gourmet gift gurus Harry & David, 21 flavors of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake are available to deliver directly to your door. Some varieties start at $49.99, which isn't too bad if you want to really impress some company with your sudden baking prowess. For those who need cheesecake more regularly in their life, there is also the Cheesecake of the Month club.

8. OVERTON DOESN'T CARE HOW LARGE THE MENU IS, AS LONG AS IT'S ALL THINGS THE CUSTOMER LIKES.

"We have always said that whatever America wants to eat can go on the Cheesecake Factory menu," Overton has said. The current tally of the number of food items available at any Cheesecake Factory sits at around 250, and all menu options have gone directly through Overton. "My taste buds represent that of the regular people we have dining at our restaurants," he said in 2012. "If I love the food, it goes in the menu." And while the food isn’t necessarily known for being low in calories or fat, 90 million customers found it delicious enough to earn the company $1.9 billion in 2014.

9. ITS EMPLOYEES ARE NOT JUST FANS OF THE RESTAURANT'S DESSERTS, BUT THE COMPANY ITSELF AS WELL.

A corporate health plan that is available to all employees and their immediate families, as well as three-week paid sabbaticals for every five years of service at the corporate level led the Cheesecake Factory to be included on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in both 2014 and 2015.

10. A WEEKLY $5000 TAB AT THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT LED TO BANKRUPTCY FOR A FORMER NFL PLAYER.

When Vince Young’s lawyer revealed that the former quarterback for the Tennessee Titans was close to broke (after earning $26 million in six years) in 2012, a Nashville radio show found that a large portion of his income had gone to covering outrageous tabs at chain restaurants. Young is said to have treated seven or eight of his teammates to dinner at the Factory multiple times a week—but still, $5000 is a lot of slices of cheesecake.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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