Dear Cheesecake Factory: Do you hate vegetarians?

Update: They responded. Importantly for veal-haters, the waiter was mistaken; it was chicken stock, not veal stock. About the same thing to me, but don’t want to misrepresent.

Dear regular readers, I’m sorry about the diversion from my regular blog, but I want this public and I want the Cheesecake Factory to give me a response that everyone is happy about. I’ll get back to writing about creativity and productivity soon.

Dear Cheesecake Factory corporate offices:

Cheesecake Factory adds veal stock to their vegetarian dishes?
Cheesecake Factory adds chicken stock to some vegetarian dishes?

I want to open by saying my wife and I have enjoyed our Cheesecake Factory restaurant experience for nearly 20 years. The food is good, the atmosphere is nice, and the staff is always friendly and attentive.

As vegetarians (ovo-lacto; we eat cheese and eggs), we have generally been happy with the choices for us, and the willingness of the waitstaff and kitchen to work together with us. Your company is even celebrated by this vegetarian’s article from 2007:

Imagine my disappointment about six years ago when I ordered my then regular favorite dish, the Sweet Corn Tamales, and the waitress (also a vegetarian) informed me they are made with chicken stock. There is no mention of boiled animal remains on the menu; the dish is otherwise APPARENTLY for vegetarians. As a cook myself, I know it is ENTIRELY unnecessary to put chicken stock into a vegetarian dish. As I said, it was disappointing since it was a beloved dish. There is no option to have the chicken stock omitted and I haven’t ordered that dish since, somewhat upset by the apparent oversight on your part. I’ve since found other things on the menu, but I’ve really missed those tamales.

Last night, history repeated itself. I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms Fontina and Parmesan Cheese, Garlic and Herbs in a Wine Sauce. I thought it was entirely unnecessary to even ask if mushrooms stuffed with cheese were slathered in the drippings from an animal corpse. I ordered them and after eating a few, I put one on my wife’s plate. She, the more sensible of the two of us, asked the waiter if there was any meat in them. The waiter didn’t know offhand, but dutifully checked. Granted, he should have known, but even more so: WHY IS THERE VEAL (correction: Chicken) STOCK IN A MUSHROOM DISH?! I feel like someone who sets your menu is either a) ignorant of vegetarian needs; b) doesn’t care about vegetarian needs; c) hopes nobody will notice; or d) wants to mess with us in some sociopathic way.

I would like to mention when I spoke to the manager, [A.F.], he did everything within his power to make things right. He did a stellar job in mitigating an uncomfortable situation. My problem is not with the restaurant at all. It’s higher up. I don’t know who approves ingredients on your menu, but …

Seriously, VEAL (chicken)? That is one of the most abhorrent foods for anyone who cares about animals. I feel the lie by omission comes across like a personal attack: a second betrayal. I should have learned from the tamales that I can’t trust an apparent vegetarian dish at your restaurants to be made for vegetarians.

Whoever sets your menu, and its ingredients needs to understand these things better. This whole situation reminds me of the McDonald’s fiasco in India:

I do intend to let my nearly 2000 friends on Facebook and Twitter know about this, many of whom are vegetarians. I will also let them know how your company responds to my letter.

Needless to say, I am more than a little outraged! I like your restaurant. Please either label animal ingredients, label your menu items which are “not vegetarian friendly” (including the cheesecake, which surprisingly has pork gelatin in it) or just simply change your policy of adding carrion squeezings into otherwise good food.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.
Rich Potter

2 thoughts on “Dear Cheesecake Factory: Do you hate vegetarians?

  1. Wonderfully put. I hope they are willing to change their menus to reflect what is vegetarian. It will be worth it to them in the long run.

  2. I hope you get a response soon!

    I contacted Founding Farmers (a local restaurant in DC & Rockville) because their menu didn’t specify which non-meat dishes were made with meat stocks. They replied back almost immediately saying that it was one of the things they were addressing in the new menu redesign.

    Sure enough, about a month later, there are clear “v” for vegetarian and “vg” for vegan markings on all appropriate dishes and there’s even a Vegetarian section of the menu (which is delicious). 🙂

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