Eli SchulmanOn January 22, 1910 our founder, Eli Schulman, was born.  An entrepreneur and restaurateur, Eli became a Chicago icon over the course of his life and continues to give back to his community through his namesake company today.

Eli’s Cheesecake was the dream of Chicago restaurateur and celebrity in his own right, Eli M. Schulman. Over his almost 50-year career, he developed a reputation for serving up great food, providing outstanding service and making every customer feel important. Representing the spirit of the city he loved, Eli was dedicated to helping the community. His motto “charity will never bust you” was exemplified during the great depression, by a sign hanging in his restaurant’s window “if you are hungry and have no money we will feed you for free.”

In the late 70′s, Eli Schulman decided that cheesecake would be the signature dessert for Eli’s The Place for Steak, one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants. Every day, between lunch and dinner, he headed to the restaurant’s kitchen to experiment with cheesecake recipes. He frequently served up his latest versions to his regular customers to get their opinion. After about a year of testing, Eli finalized original plain, chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin, and Hawaiian cheesecakes. Little did he know that he was about to change the world of cheesecake forever. Eli created a “Chicago Style” cheesecake, which is a richer, creamier version of its New York counterpart, baked on an all-butter shortbread cookie crust instead of graham cracker crumbs. The restaurant’s customers loved the new dessert, but Eli wanted to test it outside of the restaurant. In 1980, he decided to offer the cheesecake at a booth at the first Taste of Chicago, then a one day food festival, held on July 4th on Michigan Avenue. The street was packed with people and the Eli’s booth was just as busy… with Eli feverishly cutting cheesecake as fast as he could, all the while wearing a sport coat and tie.

After the Taste of Chicago, many other restaurateurs wanted to serve Eli’s Cheesecake. Eli could not produce enough cakes at the restaurant to keep up with the demand. He was at a crossroads: either just bake the cheesecakes for his restaurant or begin a separate cheesecake business. Four years later, Eli’s son, Marc Schulman, left his legal career to head up Eli’s Chicago’s Finest Cheesecake. First renting a bakery on Chicago’s Northwest side, the company grew and in 1996 built Eli’s Cheesecake World, a 62,000 sq. ft. bakery, café and retail store located at 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive in Chicago.

Today, Eli’s son, Marc, continues his father’s legacy and The Eli’s Cheesecake Company provides a wide variety of high quality desserts to eager mouths all over the world.  The company, like its founder, remains a Chicago icon, offering scholarships to students and sponsoring various events throughout the city.

Join us this weekend, January 20-22, to help us celebrate what would have been Eli’s 108th birthday!

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