Cheesecake Factory succeeds with indulgence for the common man

The Cheesecake Factory is at once an ostentatious den of dining and decorative excess as well as a homespun throwback to family tradition.

Witness the florid murals and French-inspired checked floors, the dozens of cheesecakes in sumptuous flavors such as white chocolate caramel macadamia and the calorie-laden dishes that regularly land the chain on extreme eating lists.

But behind the extravagant menu and interior design, there’s a classically American story involving an entrepreneurial housewife and a cheesecake tweaked from a newspaper recipe.

The business has its roots in Detroit after World War II, when Evelyn Overton sold baked goods from her home kitchen so that she could keep an eye on her young children. A quarter-century later, she and her husband, Oscar, relocated to Southern California with $10,000 to their names.

Inspired by their work, their son David Overton eventually opened the first Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Beverly Hills in 1978, using money that his accountant helped raise.

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