Chanhassen Woman Is Making Cheesecake with Soul

In the 21st century, online reviews can make or break a business. Also in the 21st century, some reviews matter more than others. For example, a review from the late international icon, Prince.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Chanhassen resident Vanessa Drews has been making cheesecake for her family and friends for years. When a friend opened a restaurant, McMahon’s Irish Pub, in Minneapolis, he asked her to contribute to the menu. “My cheesecake was the only [dessert] on the menu for a few years,” Drews says, until a devastating fire swept through the building in April 2010 and killed six people. The experience left her shaken, and Drews stepped back from baking for the public.

A few years later, she took up a side job (on top of her day job at a law firm) selling merchandise at Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate and recording studio, in Chanhassen. “People kept saying I should get a cheesecake to him,” Drews says, “but I thought he was vegan!” She made friends with the band members, though, and would leave a cheesecake in the fridge for them as a treat after a long night of rehearsals.

Then came the tweet. It was a meme (humorous image with text) of some monkeys comforting a monkey who (seemingly) has fainted. The words on the image read: “The moment you find out that somebody ate the last piece of Vanessa’s cheesecake.” It was from Prince.

It was then, Drews says, that she realized Prince had discovered the late-night, sweet treats in the fridge.

Her suspicion was confirmed one evening when Prince, a famously quiet man, drifted by Drews at a show at Paisley Park, and said, “What’s for dessert, Vanessa?” and slipped away before she could even react. Then, he unwittingly named her company by putting it on a flyer for an After Dark event at Paisley: “Help yoself 2 some Cheesecake Funk.”

“Before then, I was like, ‘What am I going to call [my business]?’ Where is this going to go?’” But after Prince coined the moniker, “People from literally all over the world have asked for it,” Drews says. “‘Can you ship them to London? Can you ship them to Switzerland?’ It’s so bittersweet – the gift that keeps giving. He was so generous to the people he supported,” she says. “And with all the strides I’ve been taking over the past several months, I believe he supports this.”

Those strides include eventual plans for a bricks and mortar shop, once enough investors jump on board. Until then, online ordering can bring you a taste of Cheesecake Funk. There are many flavors to choose from, but first thing’s first: Prince’s favorite was the turtle cheesecake (and this writer can attest that it’s a chocolate-caramel-pecan dream). Other fan favorites include white chocolate raspberry (and any of the white chocolate combinations) and chocolate swirl, and Drews' favorite is the banana cream, made with fresh whipped cream.

When Drews thinks about what she wants to accomplish and how far she’s come, she thinks back to the restaurant fire that took six lives back in 2010. Three of those lives were young children, and Drews witnessed the mother’s agony as she was told the devastating news. She wants to honor that family that lost so much.

Drews isn’t sure if Prince knew of her background at the restaurant. But it’s part of what drives her to succeed with Cheesecake Funk. “I’m an African-American mother, a woman trying to start this all on my own,” she says. “And I’m just so damn determined to make this a reality.”