In downtown Bonner Springs, Cowtown Cheesecake is serving up Kansas City-style cheesecake.
Story by Riley Mortensen
When it comes to cheesecake, Chef Terry Mille says it’s all about the star of the show: the cream cheese. But when it comes to Cowtown Cheesecake Co. in downtown Bonner Springs, cheesecake lovers from all over the metro agree the star of the show is Mille himself.
Surprisingly, Mille isn’t a pastry chef or baker. He’s not even a cheesecake man—he prefers pies—but that doesn’t stop people from as far as Grandview from making a trip out to his shop for a slice of the chef’s Kansas City-style cheesecake.
“Everybody always asks is it New York style or Chicago style, but it’s Kansas City style,” Mille says. “What makes it the Kansas City Style is the cake that I put in the cheesecake.”
Cake crusts and layers of cake in the desserts aren’t the only things that make Mille’s style unique—the variety of flavors also stand out. There’s the Kansas Vanilla cream, a best seller, Mille says, or maybe you’d like a slice of the green tea/blackberry swirl with almond cookie crust?
If you want to go back to where it all started, take a stab at the sweet potato with gingerbread crust and prailine topping.
While most of the chef’s experience comes from catering in San Diego, in 2003, he and his wife made the move to Bonner Springs, his wife’s hometown. Mille started working for the Haddad Restaurant Group and catering to the luxury suites and Crown Club at Kauffman Stadium.
The Bonner Springs resident and his wife created a happy life for themselves, so when Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S., Mille knew he had to go and help. Mille, a volunteer kitchen manager for the Red Cross, found himself in Baton Rouge just a few days after the storm with a line of hungry people out the door.
“I was feeding 600 people three meals a day out of Southern University and really I didn’t know what to feed them,” Mille says. “I didn’t have anything, so it was a lot of beg, borrow and steal.”
After helping with recovery efforts as best he could, Mille came home with a new love for the region and its flavors, which inspired him in the kitchen. Mille began to make slices of his sweet potato cheesecake for his wife to take to work and once her friends started ordering, word of mouth started Mille on his journey to Cowtown.
As the Cowtown owner sits at a table in the front of his store, which opened in January with more than 350 people in attendance, you can hear the lunch crowd’s chit-chat. Cowtown only recently started serving lunch, but so far Mille says it’s been a success. Breakfast is served on Friday and Saturday mornings.
And when it comes to the future, Mille says there will be a lot more than breakfast on the menu.
“I’m going to be becoming a full-service restaurant in the next 9-12 months, “Mille says. “Cooking brings me a lot of pleasure still.”
He’s also starting a new tradition he calls “Ten Top” where he sells 10 tickets to a family-style meal each month as a way for people to network and enjoy some great food.
And of course Mille will continue to craft his cheesecakes. Although he refuses to do a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake, or any kind of candy bar, the chef’s got some other tricks up his sleeve.
“I’ve been trying to work on a maple bacon one for a long time,” Mille says. “I’m gonna nail it one of these days.”