Its menu is so big, it’s spiral-bound.
The tome displays 250 choices, with 30 dedicated to the restaurant’s namesake, cheesecake.
A number of bloggers have eaten through the entire cheesecake menu (and lived to write about it).
Other writers detail how even basketball stars can’t bypass the notorious long lines at the national chain restaurant.
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The California-based company operates close to 200 Cheesecake Factory restaurants.
On Tuesday, Tacoma will have its own. The Tacoma Mall location opens at 11:30 a.m. (followed immediately by a parking lot jam-up).
Curious about who sets the culinary tone for a restaurant chain that massive, I asked to speak with the head menu honcho.
The company’s chief culinary officer (which is totally not a made-up title) is Donald Moore, who has been with the Cheesecake Factory for 15 years. He started as a kitchen manager.
He travels the world and rubs elbows with culinary elite — he once made tacos with Martha Stewart — and possibly has better access to cheesecake than anyone in the world.
And he loves Korean food. Here are some excerpts from an interview.
Q: You’ve been with the company 15 years; were you always the chief culinary officer?
A: I’ve grown up through the company. I started as a kitchen manager. Most of the executives in the company have done that. Our president started as a manager at Marina Del Rey (California).
Q: What did the menu look like when you joined — was it as as huge as it is now?
A: The menu probably had 150-175 items. Over time, it’s morphed into 250 items.
Q: Do you ever hear from diners that the menu gives too many choices?
A: One of the biggest complaints I get when I meet somebody is they say, ‘I can never decide what I want to get. I get so frustrated.’ We say we want everybody to come to the restaurant and find something to like. We always say, ‘There’s no veto vote.’ If you want Cobb salad or fettucine or cheesesteak, we can offer something for everyone.
Q: Who are some chefs you admire — or would want to work with?
A: I love Tom Douglas in Seattle. I admire him. He’s self-taught. We admire all different chefs. Thomas Keller is one of my favorite chefs. There are others, like David Chang, he’s a very big fan of ours. He said, and I’m going to botch this quote, but ‘Everyone should be studying Cheesecake Factory. They make more people happy than anyone else in the world.’ His food is of the now and he skews to the millennials and he does fun things. We use him for inspiration.
Q: Would you ever develop a menu item with a celebrity chef?
A: David (Overton, the company’s founder) sets the direction of where we go with food. We’ve never had celebrity chefs on the menu. We do it all ourselves. I respect all of them and their restaurants, (but) we like our own style. We understand our food and our staff and what we’re able to execute. We’ve had a lot of success doing that.
Q: Suspend that thought for a moment and just imagine, hypothetically, you can put anything by David Chang on the menu. What would it be?
A: I love his ramen and Americans are ready for ramen. I live in L.A. and they’re everywhere and they’re all different styles.
Q: You’re the head of a team of development and research chefs. How much food do you have to eat for the job?
A: We sit down with David (Overton) four to five times a week and we might eat 12 items a day and sometimes with a cocktail, which is always nice at lunch. We’ll also look at eight to 10 (dishes) we want to improve.
Q: I admit to eating 27 cheeseburgers one summer for a story, but how on earth do you survive eating that much in a week?
A: You learn to pace yourself. It’s what we get paid to do. You figure out how to put it into your day’s work. Our wives used to say we never want to eat dinner, so we always try to go home hungry enough to eat dinner with our families.
Q: How many slices of cheesecakes have you eaten in one sitting?
A: There’s some seatings where we’ve had 10, but David’s probably broken that record.
Where: 4502 S. Steele St., Tacoma; 253-474-1112 or thecheesecakefactory.com.
Find It: On the south side of the mall, near H&M. Blazing Onion and Mod Pizza also are nearby. Here’s a map.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays.
Cheesecake Factory 101
Dining: The restaurant typically does not take reservations, except for large parties during slower periods. It seats about 220 guests in Tacoma’s 8,900 square feet restaurant.
Gluten-free? Yes, several gluten-free items and a menu devoted to lower-calorie dining.
Cheesecake: There are 30 choices, with many on display in a bakery case that’s like a fish tank for pastry fiends.
Menu: There are burgers, sandwiches, pizza, grilled items, salads, soups. Lunch prices start at $8.95 and dinner at $12.95. Full menu available all day.