Light, delicate and freshly baked, Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese-style cheesecakes are winning over Torontonians. No matter how long the line is, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you seen the endless lineup at Bay and Dundas Streets? Crowds have been gathering in hopes of getting their hands on some cheesecakes and madeleines from Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake shop. Its grand opening was on March 18, and the lineups haven’t let up since. This is the popular Japanese cheesecake franchise’s first venture into North America, and at its opening event the founder, Tetsushi Mizukami—a.k.a. Uncle Tetsu—was there to serve up his cheesecakes stamped with their trademark caricature of his face.
“We have only three small ovens,” says Tetsu, who is amazed by the overwhelming welcome from Torontonians. At $10 a cheesecake, the price is very reasonable, but there’s no compromise on quality. “We are committed to offering the freshest products. You can’t have the same quality in mass production. Although we can only produce a dozen at a time, it is important for us to serve homemade cheesecakes.” At the Uncle Tetsu shop, his cheesecakes are packed while they are still warm and passed right to the customers. Because of the shop’s commitment to old-fashioned, home-style cakes, customers often spend over an hour lined up out the door. However, if the shop’s popularity is any indication of great taste and quality, it’s clear that these cheesecakes are worth the wait.
So, why Toronto? After starting out in Fukuoka, Japan, Uncle Tetsu has grown to more than a hundred stores in Japan and throughout Asia, including countries like Taiwan, China and Singapore. What’s more, these little cakes have gained a cult -like following—nowadays, they’re even considered the default midnight snack for children in Taiwan. With that amount of success, it was time to take the next step: North America. But Tetsu did not want to begin with the obvious places like New York or Los Angeles. He was looking for a place that would really suit the home-baked charm of Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecakes. “Toronto is an Idainaru Inaka” (偉大なる 田舎), Tetsu says. “I fell in love with Toronto.” In other words, he loves how our city, despite its large size, holds on to a feeling of intimacy and comfort.
“I will be back to Toronto again soon,” says Tetsu, making a funny face for our camera. The Japanese-style cheesecake isn’t as sweet as the typical Western cheesecake, but its creator is a very sweet man, happily posing with his customers as they take selfies. “I am hoping to have more stores in Toronto in the near future, as well as one in Vancouver.” Soon, the cheesecakes carrying Tetsu’s likeness will be a favourite for Canadians across the county.
Born in 1948, Tetsushi Mizokami was obliged to help his parents with their sweets business from the very young age of just five years old. In 1985, Tetsu created his supersoft, rich and flavourful cheesecake in his hometown, Hakata. It has spread throughout Japan faster than he could have ever imagined, and now he wants to bring his cheesecake to the rest of the world.