One of the many perks of being a food writer is getting in on the ground floor when there’s local buzz about a new restaurant or foodie operation. I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse of the foodie scene, which usually leads me to some truly fantastic discoveries. The latest of these discoveries? Cheesecake Chino’s.
I’ve never been a super fan of cheesecake before. I’ve never disliked it, but I certainly wouldn’t pick it over cake or pie. I kept hearing about this up-and-coming cheesecake operation though, with products that were apparently so good, they’d make a believer out of any cheesecake hater around. Upon further inspection, I understand why.
DeBary-based Brian Obeso, aka Cheesecake Chino, wasn’t originally a cheesecake fanatic himself, either. Growing up in New Jersey, he sampled all the famous cheesecakes nearby, and they never excited him much. But after a lifetime in the industry and some experimentation with recipes, he landed on a formula for a cheesecake he felt would change the game.
“This is a cheesecake revolution going on,” Obeso said.
And Obeso aims to be at the forefront of that revolution with his newly opened storefront at 168 S. Charles Richard Beall Blvd., Suite B, in DeBary. He’s also selling his baked concoctions online at his website to attract as many potential customers as possible.
Obeso has been working in restaurants since he was 17, and he has spent most of his life as a chef. He started baking and concocting his upscaled cheesecakes during a rough part of his life after he lost his job. Obeso realized that people underestimate cheesecake all the time; it’s almost no one’s first choice of a treat. And, like the humble cheesecake, people underestimated him too.
He set out to prove people wrong.
His mission? To create a line of cheesecakes so outrageously delicious that it would convert the haters and the apathetic. And boy did he succeed.
The 64 flavors at Cheesecake Chino’s, including seasonal specials, are so elevated and innovative that you’d be hard-pressed to find anything like them elsewhere. Like the El Guapo, a guava cheesecake reminiscent of the guava and cheese pastries from Cuban bakeries I had as a child, or the Ima Retto Rebel, an Amaretto cherry glaze deliciously drizzled atop an Amaretto cheesecake and topped with chocolate.
Their top seller — and my personal favorite — is the Strawberry Shortcake. It’s made with fresh strawberries and a housemade crumble on top to add an impeccable texture to the mix.
Not only are all these concoctions perfectly balanced in flavor — each note of sweetness juxtaposed with a bit of saltiness or sourness — it’s the texture of the cheesecake that puts it above the rest. The creamy, velvety consistency feels luxe on the palate in a way that was once foreign to me, but is truly oh so addicting.
These products feel elevated in every way, as if you sneaked a slice of the special-occasion cake a day early. And that, Obeso says, is entirely the point.
“My cheesecakes aren’t gonna be in every 7-Eleven next to the hot dog roller; they’re gonna be available for fine dining restaurants that serve things like Tomahawk steaks,” Obeso said.
His big dreams come from humble beginnings. He runs his recently opened storefront entirely on his own, working long hours to renovate the space and keep up with orders. When I visited, the AC was down and two huge fans were working a-mile-a-minute to beat the Florida heat.
But Obeso is so confident in the quality of his product that he’ll even give you your money back if you don’t like it. In my view, it is that level of pride in his work that defines the brand.
Obeso actually got the name for his business from his childhood bullies, who used to make fun of him by saying that he looked Chinese, despite the fact that he was Hispanic.
“The same name that I couldn’t stand is actually my business name now,” Obeso said.
And he’s got big plans for his brand’s future.
“My vision is to see us nationwide,” Obeso said.
If it were anyone else, I’d say that might be a lofty pursuit. But after you try his product and meet him face to face, you’ll understand why it’s not. Once you experience the magic of Cheesecake Chino’s for yourself, you’ll know better than to underestimate this chef and his revolutionary cheesecakes.