Patrick Peteet, owner of Peteet's Famous Cheesecakes, offers 90 flavors, plus a variety of holiday- themed cheesecakes, including a heart-shaped, strawberry-topped original cheesecake. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
I am not buying the survey that declared Michigan the most romantic state in the union. But I could definitely buy a heart-shaped cheesecake.
I have a bias here, because not only could I cheerfully eat a heart-shaped cheesecake, I could eat one shaped like a kidney, a pancreas or a spleen.
Maybe that’s why I’m more inclined to trust Patrick Peteet than a dating site called PlentyOfFish — though come to think of it, I like fish, too.
Peteet, 43, is the energetic, effervescent proprietor at Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes, which might not be truly famous yet but is working on it. From its storefront in Oak Park, on 9 Mile just east of Coolidge, Peteet’s produces more than 90 flavors, plus a variety of holiday-themed cheesecakes to cover everything short of Groundhog Day.
With Valentine’s Day in the on-deck circle, Peteet offers not only heart-shaped desserts, but some advice that seems useful for romance and business alike.
“Nothing is ever really bad as long as you learn from it,” he says. “If you bump your head, just don’t bump it again.”
Where love is concerned, of course, most of us conk our coconuts repeatedly. “OK,” he says, “just don’t bump it in the same spot.”
Cheesecakes baked twice
His recipes involve things like key limes ordered directly from Florida and hand-peeled sweet potatoes, and every cheesecake gets baked twice.
PlentyOfFish’s recipe involved searching the online profiles of 5 million singles for phrases the company decided were especially romantic.
The higher the percentage of people in a state who claimed to like “holding hands” or “cuddling by the fire,” for example, the better the state did in the ranking.
Never mind that we’re holding hands to keep from slipping on the ice, and we’re cuddling by the fire because the power is out again. Michigan singles were deemed 55 percent more romantic than the national average.
The least romantic state was Louisiana, at 25 percent less than the norm.
Louisiana remains well above average in alligators and crawfish, neither of which sound like a good ingredient for a cheesecake. But if anyone could make them work, it’s Peteet, whose repertoire includes red velvet, apple crumb, PB&J, and the best-selling sweet potato.
For Fat Tuesday, he’ll make cheesecake paczki. He sold 100 dozen of those the year he invented them, then 300 dozen in 2013.
Come March 4, he expects to move at least 600 dozen — another step in his steady trek toward cheesecake dominance.
Peteet did not set out to be a cheesecake mogul.
He was running a second-generation real estate agency until the recession struck and the company cratered. On Labor Day 2010, the cheesecakes he’d been baking for friends became a livelihood — and another family business.
His mother, Marcia, his brother, Chauncey, his nephew, a cousin or two ... everyone has a stake in Peteet’s success. His almost-10-year-old, Tyler, even contributed the name for his pending innovation, a cheesecake in a glass container called Joy in a Jar.
A muscular figure in a red company T-shirt, Peteet speaks quickly, works endlessly and dreams big.
Another Peteet’s is scheduled to open in April in West Bloomfield, upgrading a former bagel shop on Orchard Lake Road south of Maple. He’s picturing an empire, with a string of stores and a presence in supermarkets from coast to coast, and why not?
As he points out, the only people who don’t like cheesecake haven’t tried it yet. But before he can rule the freezers, he has to craft 60 or more of the heart-shaped cakes, topped with cherry, caramel apple or the more popular strawberry. Double-sized, at a whomping 5 pounds, they sell for $49.95; to pre-order, call (248) 545-2253.
In an odd bit of timing, Peteet’s own Valentine’s Day will be low-key: his 18-year marriage officially ends Monday.
He’s an optimist, though, someone who says repeatedly and with feeling, “Life is lovely.”
So there’s a sunnier way to look at the situation:
He’s single. And he bakes.