NEW YORK - Just shy of his 98th birthday, Fred Schuster still comes to work at S&S Cheesecake, his bakery in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx.
The signature cheesecake, offered plain or in flavors like cherry and pineapple, has endured since Fred bought the bakery in 1960.
"I never changed the formula. It's always the same, and it is still as good as it was from the beginning," he said.
Fred was born in Germany in 1925.
"Hitler came to power 1933. That was the end of my childhood," he said.
He escaped to Switzerland where he took jobs in bakeries before moving to the United States at age 16. He continued to bake, fine-tuning the cheesecake recipe he says depends on the freshest eggs, cream cheese, and butter.
In 1986, he was joined in business by his son-in-law, Israel native Yair Ben-Zaken.
Ben says he's learned much more from Fred than baking technique—Fred sets an example of character, charity, and charm.
"He's my role model," Ben said.
These days, Ben spearheads the baking, a precise and labor-intensive science. Roaring ovens churn out hundreds of cheesecakes per batch.
For Ben, no amount of exposure can weaken the cheesecake's pull.
"I'm addicted to this thing," he said. "I eat it every day."
He and his father-in-law share a pact never to reveal the cheesecake's secrets.
"It's made with love, and we serve it with pride. What's hidden behind it, it's for you to figure out," Ben said.
222 W 238th St
The Bronx, NY 10463
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