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Cheesecake Factory- a few facts


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Have you ever had a meal in a fine-dining establishment with a two-year-old?  It's not pretty.  They have a time limit of about 45-60 mnutes in a restaurant.  If I'm with the kids and have to eat a meal out I would much rather have an ordinary meal in a place with high chairs, crayons, etc. (no kids menu though) than have a fabulous meal that I'm not able to enjoy and have to get most of it packed to take home.

not to mention the added hassle of having to shop for and prepare dinner when you're dealing with a kid or two. and cleaning up.

but hey, we'll never convince the nay-sayers.

That being said, we are still much more likely to frequent the local "ethnic" places near us. Our kids love Thai, Chinese and Indian food, and I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference, but the staff at these places seem much more tolerant of children.

We have also found that if our daughter is treated in a grown-up manner, that she is more likely to behave herself, so maybe the chain's pandering to kids is for naught.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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We have also found that if our daughter is treated in a grown-up manner, that she is more likely to behave herself, so maybe the chain's pandering to kids is for naught.

Pandering is always embarrassing at best, or should be, no matter what end of it you are on.

A friend of ours used to tell children that there's an indoors tone of voice and an outdoors one, when they children in her vicinity needed to shout. It's not really a question of being a permissive parent or a disciplinarian. It's a matter of appropriate behavior. Children should be expected to behave like children and adults as adults, but the appropriate behavior inside a restaurant is not that different for both species. One caters to their children by seeing that they get to spend as much time as possible in places that are supportive to their needs and one helps them grow up by teaching them how to behave in other environments. One panders to them by allowing them to behave the same all over.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I agree Eat. You said the same thing I did on page 2. Its all about the mentality that the food "being served is corporate" and "it's a chain" and "they have research kitchens", etc.

French Laundry is headed in that direction already. Kellers empire is growing like truffles in Perigord.

As noted, the truffles in Perigord grow slowly and are quite rare. They also continue to be first rate and inimitable. Keller would be doing well if he can keep getting compared to truffles in the Perigord.

One of the chefs most respected here on eGullet, spent much of his time in the research kitchens of Howard Johnson. His name is Jacques Pepin. You'd be correct to point out that most of his French chef collegues didn't get it, but you should also know that after Johnson, Sr. passed on, his son moved the company in a more "corporate" direction run by accountants, rather than the quality research kitchen. Since then, chain research kitchens have not done much research into quality as far as others tell me. Don't be misled into thinking someone puts down the result because the don't like the mentality that created it. They don't respect the mentality because of what it's created. So far in this thread, I've read that people don't eat in places that serve mediocre food because they don't like that the food "being served is corporate" and that "it's a chain." Nonesense, the cause and effect is clearly stated by those who have disdain for the chains.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I don't think I am as snobbi...uh, serious about food as some people here. But I love Cheesecake Factory. CF is definitely in the upper echelon of chain restaurant. The food is above average. I expect consistency when I go out to eat and CF manages that well. I always avoid dining out in the busiest hours so I never have to wait long. I can imagine the service at any restaurant can be bad when it is as busy as CF. I like pasta and I think CF has good ones.

Imagine if you take away the CF name, make the restaurant a lot smaller, make the portions smaller, replace its clientele to an older opera crowd, how would you feel about this new restaurant with the same quality of food? How would you feel if French Laundry opens a few branches with the same name? I think the French Laundry name would be dumbed down and frankly, some people may not want to go there anymore because it has lost its prestige and mystique.

I think you're going to find that in any field, the people who are most serious are the ones whose arguments will carry the day. I would think that's almost a natural law. "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," is perfectly valid for the individual, but don't expect that "knowledge" to affect the thinking and opinions of those who have made the study of art a career or even a serious hobby.

"Above average" is not usually good enough for connoisseurs of baseball, opera, computer programs, etc. For better or worse, this site attracts many people who are obsessed with food. Many of them are here because in real life, they have no friends or neighbors who share their degree of interest in food.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson is often misquoted or miscontrued. He didn't equate all consitency with small minds, lest anyone assume the search for consistency is the product of a little mind. It is however the product of an uncurious mind. I don't even eat out regularly at my favorite restaurant even though their consistency is mostly about quality and they constantly change the menu. Even though their style most closely matches my tastes, I need variety and I need risk. I'm not talking about the risk of getting sick as you'd see by by reading (in the UK forum) lxt's Fat Duck review or (in the France forum) Stephen Jackson's Marc Veyrat post. There's an excitement about food that drives some of us to eat out.

What I do find almost offensive about your post, is that you seem to imply that the difference between the food at the French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory is nothing but the name, the clientele, and the fact that it's a chain. If in fact, you really don't see the difference in the food, it's understandable that you'll find those who do, to be snobs. And if you really believe that each time Keller opens another place, the food must be dumbed down at the French Laundry, I suspect it is you who are prejudiced against chains. Prestige and mystique play a large role in our society and I've defended my interest in new and creative food, but we have to be able to separate the food from the experience here and we should also be able to understand the part that service plays in enjoying fine food.

If chain restaurants can be defended, and I think they can although they are my choice of last resort, it's not going to be by knocking the quality of fine food.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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As noted, the truffles in Perigord grow slowly and are quite rare. They also continue to be first rate and inimitable. Keller would be doing well if he can keep getting compared to truffles in the Perigord.
Oh please, lighten up!
So far in this thread, I've read that people don't eat in places that serve mediocre food  because they don't like that the food "being served is corporate" and that "it's a chain." Nonesense, the cause and effect is clearly stated by those who have disdain for the chains.
I happen to think that the food is mediocre as well, but you missed my point. I think many people here would view CF differently if it was a single restaurant rather than a chain. I'm not saying it would be comparable to top dining establishments, but their product is respectable, compared to many restaurants of similar size and price. If a small neighborhood joint was serving the same food, would people be so quick to judge?
"Above average" is not usually good enough for connoisseurs of baseball, opera, computer programs, etc. For better or worse, this site attracts many people who are obsessed with food. Many of them are here because in real life, they have no friends or neighbors who share their degree of interest in food.
I understand this to read that if someone finds CF's food "above average", then they don't belong on eGullet. I see just as much on eGullet about chains, Hooters, and cheeseburgers as I do fine dining. Try and be a little tolerant when others on this site don't live up to your elitist standards.
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Try and be a little tolerant when others on this site don't live up to your elitist standards.

comments like that, i think, are just completely inappropriate.

i agree with bux's assessment.

I agree with most of the words that Bux used too; his sentiments are very close to my own.

I also agree with rdailey that the folks on eGullet can come off as elitist. It would be hard to participate in a forum such as this and not come off as elitist from time to time.

There's nothing wrong with being elitist. In certain areas, I'm certainly elitist. I relish my elitism. And mustard it too.

Pointing out the elitism, however, isn't a good debate tactic. It takes the discussion to a personal level and serves only to put people on the defensive. That's not good for any of us.

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So basically, if you are not the "most serious" "connoisseur" about food, then you should shut up? I don't expect people to change their minds because of what I post. Most people have already made up their minds.

What I do find almost offensive about your post, is that you seem to imply that the difference between the food at the French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory is nothing but the name, the clientele, and the fact that it's a chain.

You got it wrong. Of course there is a difference between the food at those two places. But I believe some "connoisseurs" with curious minds might be more receptive to Cheesecake Factory if it had a fancy schmancy name with smaller everything and were not a chain. Imagine it as a nice little trattoria.

It is possible for a destination restaurant to be dumbed down if the chef spreads his interests to too many places. His/her personal touch may fade a little. Quality control can deteriorate as well.

I am very excited to eat above average food and try new places. I am aware above average is subjective and is not good enough for everyone.

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There's nothing wrong with being elitist. In certain areas, I'm certainly elitist. I relish my elitism. And mustard it too.

Yes, exactly! People who proclaim a preference for higher levels of quality and a disdain for lower levels of quality are constantly being labeled "elitist" -- as if that were a bad thing in this context!

So... some people feel that the food at Cheesecake Factory or Bennigan's or Olive Garden is below the level of quality which they prefer. So what? This means that they have a strong preference for higher quality, more inventive, more interesting, better executed cooking. How can this be bad?

Where I think the problem comes in is when people who enjoy Cheesecake Factory or Bennigan's or Olive Garden feel as though they are judged by the people who do not and somehow deemed "lower." That gets the defenses up and the next thing you know the foodie is being accused of "elitism" or "only liking that stuff because they think it impresses people" or "looking down at the people who like Bennigan's." And, really, it's not about that.

While on the subject, I would like to add that I don't think people here have an automatic dislike of chain restaurants or "middle brow" and "low brow" cooking. I think it is more a matter of execution. Fundamentaly, if Olive Garden made a really well-executed dish of pasta -- perfectly al dente; not oversauced; fresh, vibrant and distinct ingredients -- I think most people would not turn away from it. But, the fact of the matter is that places like Cheesecake Factory and Bennigan's and Olive Garden and TGI Friday's and Chili's and Applebee's and Romano's Macaroni Grill and Outback Steakhouse, et al. make their money selling to people who do not have very refined or adventurous palates and aren't really interested in a pasta dish such as I have described. Hence, their pasta tends to be mushy and oversauced with cheap ingredients and muddled flavors. This approach is further reinforced by the economics of chain restaurants. Now, I have never been to a Cheesecake Factory, and they may very well be a cut above Applebee's and their ilk. But I have a hard time believing that they can deliver the same quality of food at the same price as a good one-off family-owned little restaurant. At the same time, I understand that plenty of people in this country don't have easy access to a good one-off family-owned little restaurant, and that the TGI Bennigan's Outback Olive Grill may be the best game in town. So, why shouldn't they like it? But, if someone like me who lives in NYC and never needs to set foot in a chain restaurant decides he doesn't care for that food, does that make him a culinary snob? I don't see why. And the fact of the matter is that some people are going to dislike things that other people like. It's the way of the world.

Now, as for you McDowell, I hope you are not so gauche as to take your elitism with store-bought yellow mustard. Homemade only, please. :wink:

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You got it wrong. Of course there is a difference between the food at [French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory]. But I believe some "connoisseurs" with curious minds might be more receptive to Cheesecake Factory if it had a fancy schmancy name with smaller everything and were not a chain.

Well... there are two things at play here.

First is the experience of people who have been to many such restaurants in the past. Having been to many chain restaurants myself over the years, my experience has helped me to form an impression of what to expect. And that impression informs my preference, which is to not eat at chain restaurants unless necessary, because my experience in eating at these places is that I don't think the cooking is very good and it does not conform to the preferences I have formed through eating food at other (to me, better) establishments. So, in that sense you are correct that a prejudice against chain restaurants -- albeit one based on experience -- might reasonably keep people from trying Cheesecake Factory whereas they might try the same restaurant if it were an independently owned single restaurant.

Ths second thing would be someone who might try the food at Cheesecake Factory and declare it not to his liking -- whereas he would actually like it perfectly well if the exact same dish at the exact same price were served at an independently owned single restaurant. This is snobbery. Personally, my impression of most people on eGullet is that there is nothing that would delight an eGulleter more than reporting back something to the effect of: "The XYZ at Cheesecake Factory actually really kicks ass! Believe it or not, it is every bit as good as the XYZ at [independently owned single restaurant known for its excellent XYZ]!"

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I have no problem with discrimination towards food. I continue to state that CF is very mediocre. Everyone can make up there own mind about what they like. What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

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What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

Please be so kind as to point one out.

Before you go digging, I would say that it does not seem entirely appropriate for someone without a strong interest in quality food and cooking to comment on a board which is dedicated to those same subjects.

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So, for instance, because I don't feel it necessary to whip up exotic things for dinner every night (see the Dinner! thread), I don't deserve to input on topics I have an opinion on?

I have a "strong interest" in quality food, but quality food is such a grey area to me.

Perhaps this site is too over my head.

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Perhaps this site is too over my head.

the site is what it is. some feel comfortable, some don't. some take things personally, others don't. certainly the site is very dynamic, and even though one may not feel comfortable talking about how much they love Kendall Jackson chardonnay on the wine board, they might certainly feel comfortable posting on something like the Dinner thread, regardless of what they prepared for dinner.

dynamic indeed.

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I'm not sure whether it is required that one dine at, or even approve of, places like Cheesecake Factory to take a lively interest in them. They do seem to be very successful and spreading fast and may well impinge upon one's life either directly or by spawning a host of clones. To the extent that restaurants more to the taste and liking of many on eGullet may be driven out of business by creeping corporatization, it seems prudent, at least, to maintain discussions like this as a Distant Early Warning System.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board? I have seen someone on this board summarily dismiss someone else's recipe for pigs-in-blankets because the recipe called for covering the pigs-in-blankets in nuts and sugar! What justifies the sense of superiority some people exhibit about their taste in food as compared to others'?

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Maybe I should start considering myself superior because I can enjoy chain restaurants as well as high end restaurants :wink: I'm a very versatile date...too bad I'm not dating around at this point.

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What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

Please be so kind as to point one out.

Before you go digging, I would say that it does not seem entirely appropriate for someone without a strong interest in quality food and cooking to comment on a board which is dedicated to those same subjects.

It seems like it's suggested here, unless I'm misinterpreting it.

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The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board?

i'm still looking for examples of where someone suggested anything like this.

Why do you need to see examples?

Isn't it obvious?

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It seems like it's suggested here, unless I'm misinterpreting it.

rdaily and eat eat eat made this claim long before that post. and, it would seem that slkinsey is suggesting that it wouldn't be unheard of. but i don't think he was suggesting that people should or shouldn't post.

i wouldn't go to board on Opera and post about how much i like Pearl Jam. seems like a reasonable analogy.

matthew, it's not obvious to me and at least one other poster, or else i wouldn't have asked. i have better things to do believe it or not. is it too much to have people support their claims with facts or examples?

Edited by tommy (log)
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i wouldn't go to board on Opera and post about how much i like Pearl Jam.  seems like a reasonable analogy.

Ok...but nowhere do I see anything about this being a fine food and dining site; we have posts about white trash food, soda, chips, fast food, as well as posts about the French Laundry, Tru, wine, fine liquors, etc.

This is a food site so I see it appropriate for people who are lovers of food to post. I love food, and I don't think that should be compared to the next guy who only likes fine food, or the other guy who will only eat at chain restaurants.

I try not to post where I don't know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't dream of posting anything in the wine and liquors section, unless I had a question. But sometimes I go off on a rant about something I might not be an expert on, and you should take those posts with a grain of salt. If I only spoke on things I am an expert in, I wouldn't speak at all.

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The opera-and-Pearl-Jam analogy is very telling about the persepctive of the person who drew the analogy. The analogy is inapt. I wouldn't post about Pearl Jam on a board about opera, but I certainly would do so on a board about music. This is a board about food, all kinds of food.

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