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Cheesecake mogul to open new dessert cafe on Longboat Key

Gary Hagen brings his big Hollywood cheesecake shop to Whitney Plaza to provide a hub for good eats and good times.

Gary Hagen
Gary Hagen
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Gary Hagen plans to put the Old Hollywood sparkle into Whitney Plaza with his new cheesecake cafe, Elegant Lady Cheesecake Parlor.

“I just love making food and eating food,” said Hagen. “So one day I decided I wanted to learn to make cheesecakes. I bought a recipe book and analyzed it. Then I broke it down, and I made my own. I started making so many. My poor mother had to go through all the taste tests.”

Hagen grew up in California deep in the Hollywood scene. His father was a producer for Johnny Carson and "The Tonight Show." Throughout the 1980s, Hagen got involved in different jobs in film along with working with different rock bands and concerts. 

Hagen's third passion was making delicious food. He opened up his first cheesecake cafe, Elegant Lady Cheesecake, in the 1980s in Monterey, California. It was so successful that he opened a factory to make more cheesecakes faster.

Hagen had about 10 other restaurants in different parts of the country. He won awards in different cheesecake competitions and made many cheesecakes for different celebrities.

“Back in the 1980s, the pope was traveling around the United States,” said Hagen. “One day, this man comes in, who comes in often. He was the chauffeur for the lady who built the castle in Carmel Valley where they would throw a lot of parties for celebrities. He comes in one day and orders like three or four cheesecakes. I asked him, ‘What are these for?’ He said, ‘I can't tell you until they leave.’ They were for the pope, Princess Diana and Prince Charles. I couldn’t believe it when he told me. They ate my cheesecakes.”

Hagen moved to Bradenton in 1989 to help take care of his mother because of an earthquake. Around this time, he opened the Hollywood Cheesecake Cafe and the Hollywood Cafe. After his mother died, he moved to Boston and closed down his two restaurants in Bradenton.

In 2000, he moved back to Leesburg, Florida, where he opened two more restaurants that were later bought out. Ever since then, Hagen has traveled back and forth from California to Florida. Around a year ago, Hagen thought it was time to open his last cheesecake cafe.

After a year of construction and planning, the Elegant Cheesecake Lady is planned to be open in January at Whitney Plaza. The cafe will be decorated with iconic photos from Hollywood that Hagen collected over the years. 

Elegant Lady Cheesecake will have more than 250 flavors of cheesecake including amaretto, Bailey’s Irish Cream, a white chocolate turtle, mandarin orange and M&M. Hagen said he loves trying new recipes and is open to suggestions. The cafe will also have different pastries, ice cream, milkshakes, malts, smoothies and more.

“I'm a people person,” said Hagen. “I want to be able to share my life with people because there's a lot of negativity out there. I want my new shop to be a place for people to know they have support and can get a good cheesecake while they are there too.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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