Archive for category Charitable Initiatives

Eli’s Cheesecake Celebrates the Holidays with a Special Dinner at the Sunshine Activity Center

At the holiday, a group of us from The Eli’s Cheesecake Company look forward to bringing to the Sunshine Activity Center, an evening program for adults with special needs. The evening includes dinner provided by Eli’s Chefs Antonio and Danny, Eli’s Turtle Cheesecake for dessert, Holiday Bingo and a special visit by Santa Claus bearing gifts.

Participating from Eli’s were Mary, Diana, Kathy (and husband Jeff), Lindsey, Kaitlin, Angelica, Donna, Elsa (and husband Jose), Marc, Donna, Korey, Antonio and Danny.





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Tribute To Eli M. Schulman and the Soldiers of World War II on the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

It was 70 years this week on December 7th, 1941 that America suffered its “Day of Infamy” with the Pearl Harbor invasion and the entry of the US into World War II. Over the next five years, over 16 million American men and women served our country including our founder, Eli M. Schulman. The menu above is from Eli Schulman’s “Victory Dinner” on May 18th, 1942 when he joined the US Army Air Corp.


Eli Schulman had opened Eli’s Ogden Huddle in 1940 and was called upon to use his foodservice experience to operate a series of PX’s for Army Air Corp in Texas, Colorado and Utah rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Being a member of the Army Air Corp, Eli on the right was a part of the team providing support for the B-17 and B-24 Bombers that has such an important role in bringing World War II to an end.

Eli Schulman (on the right) was the host for Actress Ann Sothern when she visited the Army Air Base in Salt Lake City. Considered one of the most beautiful actresses her time, Sothern was at the top of her appeal in World War II appearing in a series of films and radio shows starring her as “Maisie,” a brassy Brooklyn burlesque dancer.

Eli’s Cheesecake history of creating specialty big cakes dates back to Eli Schulman’s days in the Army Air Corp in World War II. Eli, on the left, approves of the cake baked in his kitchen.



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Tribute to Chicago’s First Lady Maggie Daley

We join all of Chicago in expressing our sympathy and deep loss over the passing of Maggie Daley, our City’s  First Lady and Advocate for our Children, the Arts and our Environment. During the 22 years that Richard M. Daley served as Mayor, Mrs. Daley was at the Mayor’s side for so many important events and was so active individually supporting our City.

We wanted to share two events that demonstrate Mrs Daley’s involvement and concerns.


In 1988 shortly after our founder, Eli M. Schulman, passed away, the Chicago Park District named the playground at Seneca Park, across the street from Eli’s the Place for Steak, in his honor. That started a several year long campaign to raise funds to build the Eli M. Schulman Playground, rebuild Seneca Park and to purchase “Ben,” a equine sculpture by Deborah Butterfield.

The major fundraiser for the Playground was An Evening with the late Bobby Short at the Ritz Carlton Hotel held in 1999. The support and presence of the Mayor and Mrs. Daley was critical to the success of the fundraising effort.

In 2010, Temple Grandin, the renowned advocate for individuals with autism and animal science professor was in Chicago to receive an Award and accepted an invitation from Eli’s Marc Schulman to visit the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Being aware of Elizabeth Daley’s studies in autism research, an invitation was extended to Mrs. Daley and Elizabeth to visit the school to meet Temple Grandin, meet the students and tour the school. Although in treatment for her illness, Mrs. Daley could not have been more gracious spending over two hours at the school enriching so many students lives.



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Eli’s Cheesecake Proud to Participate in Sharing It Day at the Merchandise Mart to Support the Greater Chicago Food Depository

After Eli’s Cheesecake’s successful food drive to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository at Lights Festival Lane as part of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, it is our tradition to join the celebration and food drive for Sharing It Day at the Merchandise Mart on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.



Eli’s President Marc Schulman joined students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and representatives from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Jewel Osco with the hosts from the Merchandise Mart for the Sharing It Day Food Drive.

Eli’s Cheesecake was well represented at Sharing It Day by Danielle and Felicia who gave our contributor a slice of Eli’s Cheesecake.


Students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences accompanied by Assistant Principal, Lucille Shaw, and Ag Department Chair, Sheila Fowler,  greet Karen May of Jewel-Osco, the grocery sponsor of Sharing It Day at the Merchandise Mart.


Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences Senior Mohammed Shalabi is interviewed by Patrick Elwood of Fox 32 News.

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences students thanks Mark Falanga, the President of Merchandise Mart Properties, for hosting Sharing It Day.

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Eli’s Cheesecake Partners with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and the Greater Chicago Food Depository at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival: Free Eli’s Cheesecake Slice Decorating and Raising Funds and Food Donations for the Depository




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Seneca Park & The Eli M. Schulman Playground Turn on the Lights for the Holiday celebration of the upcoming Magnificent Mile Lights Festival this Saturday!

A holiday tradition continues as the businesses and institutions near Seneca Park & the Eli M. Schulman Playground come together to privately fund the lighting of this important public place for children and families.

Participating in the Lighting and Reception following at Engine Company 98 were the Chicago Public Library housed in the historic Water Tower Works, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ritz Carlton, American Girl, the American Dental Association, Lookingglass Theatre, Children’s Museum Hospital which will open next summer on the the site of the former home of Eli’s the Place for Steak, Eli’s Cheesecake, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Broadway in Chicago, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents and the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.

2011 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by BMO Harris Bank which is sponsored by the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.






Chicago Park District Commissioner Rouhy Shalabi, GNMAA CEO John Chikow, Eli’s Cheesecake’s President Marc Schulman, Northwestern Memorial Hospitals’ Ralph Weber and Mike Ruchim.

Eli’s Marc Schulman with Northwestern Memorial’s Ralph Weber, Dennis Murphy and Dr. Mike Ruchim.

A special guest taking in the lighting of Seneca Park.

Tom Segesta, General Manager of the Ritz Carlton, and wife, Robin, enjoy the lighting of Seneca Park. The Ritz Carlton has been a long time supporter of the rebuilding of Seneca Park and the construction of the Eli M. Schulman Playground hosting the major benefit for the fundraising effort–an evening with the late Bobby Short.

Eli’s Maureen and Marc Schulman enjoying the first evening with the lights on at Seneca Park.

Chicago Park District Commissioner Rouhy Shalabi is a co-chair with Eli’s Marc Schulman of the Advisory Board at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and is a great supporter of the Parks and Schools in Chicago.

Dr. Michael Ruchim of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and wife, Janet Ruchim, enjoy a beautiful November evening in Seneca Park.


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Eli’s Cheesecake Delighted to be a Sponsor of the Sharing It Day Food Drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository on November 22nd at the Merchandise Mart in partnership with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences

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Eli’s Cheesecake Activities at the Magnificent Mile Lights and Sharing It Day highlighted in the Jewel-Osco Spotlight Ad

Eli’s Cheesecake is a long time supporter of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and its mission to eliminate hunger in Chicago. In the next week, we will be supporting the Depository at two events: on Saturday November 19th as Eli’s partners with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences offering free cheesecake slice decorating to families attending Lights Festival Lane at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival while accepting non-perishable food products and cash donations for the Depository. As a thank you, donors will receive a Eli’s Cheesecake pre-packaged slice for a product donation and a free Eli’s Cheesecake for a $10 cash donation.

Then on Tuesday, November 22nd, we will be joining Jewel-Osco and students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences at the Merchandise Mart for Sharing It It Day, an annual food drive for the Depository featuring performances by local children’s groups and free samples from Eli’s.

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Eli’s Cheesecake’s Marc Schulman Delivers Commencement Address to the Baccalaureate Degree Recipients at the Culinary Institute of America on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Eli’s Marc, Maureen and Elana Schulman with Peter Rainsford, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Tim Ryan, President of the Culinary Institute of America.

Tim Ryan, Marc Schulman and Peter Rainsford celebrate the Processional for the November 10th Commencement for the Culinary Institute of America.

Marc Schulman addresses the 154 graduates and 0ver 800 family members and guests at the Commencement Ceremony for the November Graduates receiving their Bachelor’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts Management and Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts Management from the Hyde Park, New York Campus of the Culinary Institute of America.


The Culinary Institute of America holds Graduation Ceremonies ever three weeks for recipients of the Associate’s Degree in Baking and Culinary Arts and several graduations each year for recipients of the Bachelor’s Degree. Marc Schulman, the President of Eli’s Cheesecake was honored to deliver the Thursday address and Ben Pollinger, Culinary  Institute of America Graduate ’97 and Executive Chef of Oceana in New York was the speaker for the Friday Associate’s Ceremony.




Marc S. Schulman

President-The Eli’s Cheesecake Company

Commencement Address

Bachelor of Professional Studies

Culinary Institute of America

November 10, 2011

President Ryan, Vice President Rainsford, Members of the Faculty, Honored Guests & Members of the November Graduating Class of the Culinary Institute of America. I am so glad to be here!


Today marks a most important day in your careers and personal lives. Each of you has a compelling story of what it took to get here…of sacrifice, of so many hours worked. It is truly a glorious day for each of you and your families.

For me it is also an important day…my daughter, Elana, is here with my wife, Maureen. Our youngest daughter will graduate from Vassar College, very close to here, in May of 2012, and on that day I will have the privilege of sitting in the audience with all the pride that your parents are experiencing today.

Today, the culinarians, many of them graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, are among America’s top stylesetters for food and lifestyles. To think that All My Children would be cancelled for “The Chew” or that Mario Batali would be invited to sit on a panel of America’s most influential opinion makers to discuss who should be the TIME Magazine 2011 Person of the Year just shows that the influence of chefs’ and restauranteurs  goes far beyond the walls of their restaurants.

All of this heightened attention to the food & restaurant industry goes on in a very turbulent economic time with the impact of the recession affecting all kinds of restaurants as consumers are forced to trade down or forgo dining out. In many ways, this environment mirrors that when my dad, Eli Schulman, started in the restaurant business—1940. There was 14% unemployment and my dad, who was forced to drop out of high school in 1926 when his father died, found a foreclosure notice on his neighborhood coffee shop…… weeks later he was in the restaurant business…getting in business for very little money down….in many ways the conditions of today as the overbuilding of restaurants and other retail businesses creates unique opportunities for aspiring restaurateurs to walk in a fully fixed restaurant..

That accidental entry to the restaurant business by my dad, later joined by my mother, Esther Schulman, when they married in 1948, led to a great legacy with Eli’s Stage Delicatessen and then Eli’s the Place for Steak, an award winning steak house on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, that was open from 1966 until it closed in 2005 for the construction of the new home of Children’s Memorial Hospital.


Growing up my life revolved around our restaurant. Trick or treating on Oak Street, every celebration at the restaurant….even meeting my wife and partner, Maureen, at Table 10 at Eli’s the Place for Steak.


My parents put education first and I was given the choice of two professional careers….a lawyer or a doctor…the closest I came to being a doctor is the white lab coat that I wear daily at the bakery.


At an early age I became interested in becoming Builder –an individual who would bring together all the parts of a transaction…I thought of architecture, a real estate developer and then ultimately became interested in law while attending the University of Denver as Eli’s was a gathering place for politicians, lawyers and the faculty from Northwestern Law School down the block. For the three years that I attended Northwestern, I lived upstairs of the restaurant…on call to meet the celebrities of the day..Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, Sean Connery and Frank Sinatra…who gave my dad the watch I proudly wear today.

After law school, I practiced law for five years representing many family business like ours. You would do a transaction and then look for another client; not the long term relationships that I saw with my parents and their customers.

I figured that I would either pursue a long term career in law…and someone would ask me 30 years later…who was Eli or I would join my parents in the restaurant business and always feel that I missed out on pursuing my dream.

Along the way, my dad had a dream—to create a signature dish that could be sold outside of the restaurant (he talked a lot about Hershey and Wrigley). I am lucky it turned out to be cheesecake as our restaurant was well known for calves liver Eli and chicken in the pot, great dishes that don’t have the universal appeal of cheesecake.

Developed by my dad in his kitchen, Eli’s Cheesecake made its public debut at the first Taste of Chicago in 1980…it was an instant hit at Taste and in 1984, I took a short term leave from law and a big pay cut to see if I could grow the Eli’s Brand.

Sadly my dad passed away in 1988 but he did see our growth and took such great pride when Harold Washington took our cheesecake to the Super Bowl in 1985 and went on network TV to say he had brought Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Ribs, Hot Dogs, and Eli’s Cheesecake…a Chicago Icon that was named by the Chicago Tribune as one of 10 Chicago’s Most Famous Foods in its Commemorative 150th Anniversary Issue.

Along the way we have served our cheesecake at the White House, created Presidential Inaugural Cheesecake’s in 1993, 1997 and 2009 and baked the 50th Birthday Cakes for Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

I share these milestones….because it shows how far the dream of an entrepreneurial restaurateur can go. Here we are 72 years since my dad opened that first restaurant…and I am here sharing my parents’ story. How rewarding!

And it is the heart of the restaurateur…the passion for quality, customer service and the commitment to people that allows us to grow in these most challenging economic times.

My dad had a saying on his menu….”we shall serve good food…at a profit if we can…at a loss if we must…but always good food.” From day one, our ingredients in our cheesecake were superior…Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla from Neilsen-Massey, Cultured Sour Cream and Cream Cheese, a hand baked artisan cookie crust.  We never compromised on quality…and today with educated customers like you….they bake it themselves or they pay the price realizing you can buy our cheesecake at a price less than you could do it in your kitchen.

We are local..all made in Chicago…active in the community from our Weekly Farmers Market during the summer to our long term partnership with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and Wright College and by donating desserts to hundreds of organizations throughout the year…and hosting a Giving Tree event at the holidays where each of our associates has a supply of cheesecakes and desserts to deliver to a worthy organization of their choice.

My dad was at the door of his restaurant every night. With the exception that  he did make his family first…closing on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and taking three weeks off at Christmas, but other than that at the door and greeting every customer. He used to take Sunday nights off but then the first Mayor Daley came in on a Sunday asking for my dad; when he learned he wasn’t there, he didn’t come in. After that it was 7 days a week!

But while he was at the restaurant, Eli’s was surrounded by friends. I am amazed today at how many people reach out to me to share a story of what my dad for them and the special relationships that they developed. Just this past week, when the famed surgeon, Mark Utz, the son of famed surgeon, Dr. David Utz of the Mayo Clinic, contacted me with the sad news that his dad has passed away at the age of 87. Marc wanted me to know how important my dad had been to Dr. Utz—a relationship that started with Dr. Utz, became a doctor-patient relationship and expanded to dear friends. What started as a one time dining decision turned into something quite special…..and I have heard that story so many times.

That one on one marketing that Eli achieved by a handwritten note or a monthly statement or a phone call has now been enhanced by the importance of social media and how and who you can tell your story to…with recipes and ideas brought life to many…..but making the recipient  a friend as well as a customer. Social media has given so much power to the chef, to the farmer and to the specialty food company. We have real news about our craft and we share it directly with our customers and fans without the cost of advertising and without any editorial limits.

I have to say that I was delighted the Dionne Reid accepted my invitation to connect on Linkedin. I did a search for references to the CIA and this graduating class and Dionne’s info came up. Her bio is outstanding and she is a person that I certainly wanted to associate with.


My dad taught me to run our business like it is a restaurant….with intense customer service seeking the highest quality customer satisfaction and marketing our company through the most important asset any business has….”good will” and reaching out to each customer to make them know how much you care.

One great thing about our industry is the people who are attracted to be our co-workers. It is not the highest paying industry and has the worst hours, but it has the most loyal. To my dad, the most valuable associate at Eli’s was his team of busy boys who could reset a table in what seemed seconds. Never would a water glass remain half empty or a customer need unattended to. When we were forced to announce that Eli’s the Place for Steak would be closing in 6 months, we lost one person out of 50—everyone else stayed to the end.

In our bakery business which now employs over 220 associates, we have attracted many individuals with food service back grounds and our turnover is minimal. Eli’s the Place for Steak had a run of 39 years and many of our people at Eli’s Cheesecake now have over 20 years of service.

Our people have demonstrated amazing fortitude getting to work on the biggest snow storm in Chicago in a dozen years, learning new skills as our business evolves and sharing our concern for the customer. We are fortunate to have diverse group of associates including new immigrants and refugees who bring compelling stories from their countries of birth, recent high school graduates who continue their studies at our neighbor and educational partner, Wright College, and individuals with disabilities who job shadow with us while studying at Vaughn High School or are referred by the Anixter Center if they are hearing impaired.


Today I want to thank Peter Rainsford and his wife Fran for introducing me to the CIA.  It is about professionalism….about the ability to know how to give a customer the best experience possible…each of you having that magic of Eli or a Steve Jobs.


Today our business is all about our culinary skills and our knowledge in food….procurement, safety, preparation. My great passion is education…in Chicago with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences…a college prep high school located on the last working farm in the City of Chicago. I see these young people get outstanding training in food science, animal science, crop sciences and horticulture….all fields so closely aligned to the Farm to Fork Movement that is so important today. Equally important is that these student “learn though doing”….obviously something that your education is all about. In an economy that needs critical thinkers and leaders in science, technology, engineering and math….you have been forced to master so many fundamentals to make sure your cakes rise, cheesecake’s don’t crack and have enough sugar.

I also congratulate you on joining an industry that gives so much back to the community. From hosting dinners to supporting food banks and education, there is no group that gives more than restaurateurs.

So I am here today to congratulate you as the “Masters of Universe;” not because you will to Wall Street to buy and sell companies but because you will create and build the successful restaurants and hospitality companies of the future… You make things and you will make a difference.

Congratulations Graduates! Go Steels!

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Eli’s Cheesecake’s Participation in the “Party of the Summer” –the Green City Market Barbecue–featured in Biz Bash Magazine

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