Eli's Cheesecake Company: A Chicago institution celebrates a "sweet" 35th in grand style

Eli Schulman's first venture into the restaurant business began in 1940 with the popular coffee shop Eli's Ogden Huddle, later followed by Eli's Stage Delicatessen-- a celebrity hangout for soon-to-be-famous performers like Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand. The who's who of Chicago and the world followed Eli to Eli's the Place for Steak, a popular restaurant he opened in 1966, where he decided to make cheesecake his signature dessert.  Working in his restaurant's kitchen, he created a cheesecake so rich and creamy that his customers proclaimed it Chicago's finest!  And so the seed for Eli's Cheesecake Company was planted!

In 1980, Eli's Cheesecake debuted at the first Taste of Chicago immediately becoming a hit with the crowd.  And for the past 35 years, Eli's has been the #1 dessert at the famous food festival (and in our house), serving over 2 million slices.

The legend continued at Taste on July 11 when Eli's Cheesecake Company celebrated its 35th birthday right back in the place where Eli first introduced his delicious cheesecake to the world!

A Chicago institution, Eli's Cheesecakes have been present at almost every major Chicago celebration including at the White Sox World Series and for four presidential inaugurations to name a very few.  Its first BIG cake in 1987 celebrated Chicago's 150th birthday.

On this festive Saturday, the BIG cake was recreated in all its 1500 lb. glory consisting of original plain and chocolate chip and birthday cake cheesecake, a new variety made especially for this milestone.  Local notables invited to "cut the cake" included Alderman Brian Hopkins, Christopher Kennedy and his wife Sheila (Top Box Foods), Merri Dee, Charlie Robinson (Robinson's Ribs--Eli's and Robinson's have been next to each other for most of the 35 years of Taste!), Mary Slowik (Taste Manager), Suzanne Bizer (VP Broadway in Chicago), Everett Rand (Midway Wholesalers), Don Fitzgerald (Sr. VP Mariano's), Sam Toia (President of the Illinois Restaurant Association) and me (Candid Candace :-) among others.

A HUGE crowd gathered for the ceremony, watching the ginormous cheesecake make its journey via forklift to the Big Cake Tent near Buckingham Fountain.  Eli's pastry chefs, including its executive pastry chef Laurel Boger, prepared the cake for the Grand Cake Cutting Ceremony after emcee Bill Zwecker and Eli's Maureen and Marc Schulman welcomed the crowd.  They introduced the notables onstage followed by the cast members from the Tony Award-winning musical "Kinky Boots" singing Happy Birthday!

And the party continued at the "World's Earlier After-Party" with a BBQ and dessert extravaganza in the South Hospitality tent!

Happy birthday to Eli's, Maureen and Marc Schulman, their family and amazing team!  Chicago is SOOOO lucky to have YOU!  You make the world a much sweeter place for sure!  (All the good photos are by Jennifer Girard)!

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