The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 58 of 92

Awards Russell Greene and The Cheesecake Factory L ook at the stunning success of David Overton's The Cheesecake Factory (TCF). There are not only 146 busy, busy Cheesecake Factory restaurants in 35 states, but also further concepts: the globally inspired Grand Luxe Cafe (13 locations and counting) and the ex- otic and colorful RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen, a one-off (for now) in Los Angeles's Century City. Taken together, these establishments represent the culmination of service, high-quality food and darn great people—a team of leaders who have branded this amazing chain, redefin- ing casual dining and fresh cocktails and bringing The Cheesecake Factory a reputation that certainly warrants the industry's attention. How successful is their beverage program? To take just one example, it was The Cheesecake Factory that put the Mojito on the tip of America's tongue, bringing a once unheard-of drink into the foreground. Taken as a percentage, TCF's bar business exceeds that of any other chain. The numbers are spectacular, and so are the people behind this unparalleled success story. Russell Greene Behind the scenes is Russell Greene, Senior VP for TCF. The first thing you'll find out about this gracious, warm man is that before anything else, he is a musician. Although Greene's first on-premise job in the early '80s was at the L.A.-based Great American Food & Bever- age Company, where "everyone was a musician" (actress Katey Sagal worked as a singing waitress at the Santa Monica location), he eventually worked his way up from busboy to General Manager. When that chain closed, Greene took a job at The Cheesecake Factory's original location in Beverly Hills, where he applied as a cook. "This restaurant was the talk of the town," he recalled. "I thought that would be an easy job and allow me time to focus on writing songs and recordings. The GM who interviewed me [now a close friend and colleague] didn't believe my resume; at 23, I had already done a lot. Running the other restaurants at my age was a surprise, but she did hire me as a server. It was a perfect fit." Greene explains further that the perfect fit also referred to The Cheesecake Factory's dedication to excellence. "It Russell Greene, Senior VP, leads the beverage team at The Cheesecake Factory. He accepts THE TASTING PANEL'S LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD on November 12. THE TASTING PANEL's Ninth Annual Lifetime Achievement Award recipients survive an iffy economy with a long-lived, spiffy concept 58 / the tasting panel / november 2009 photos by Cathy Twigg-Blumel

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