A Piece of (Cheese)cake

Updated: Jan 21

As many people pass through high school, the pressing question hangs overhead. What comes next? Career, higher education, military? Lucky for Central Dewitt junior Drew Dunlavey, he already knows.

Dunlavey discovered his love of baking and cooking at a young age and with the help of his family, he was able to start his own business. “I started cooking when I was 12 and it quickly grew from there,” he says.

This passion started all because of something that many people deal with. A food allergy. Cassie Dunvaley, Drew’s mom, talks about her son’s allergy to eggs growing up. “As soon as he could have eggs, he wanted to try every single kind that there was,” she describes. Starting at omelets and French toast, Dunlavey’s cooking adventures started to grow.

After evolving into recipes like Hollandaise sauce and souffles, Drew skill started to truly flourish. It also started to become clear to his family that this was more than just a phase.

As his skills grew, he began to take over the meals for his whole family and before they knew it, he was in the kitchen every night. His control of the kitchen started to expand into full meals and holiday gatherings.

When it was time for his mother’s birthday, Drew wanted to do something special. After asking her about favorite dessert, she replied, “white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from the Olive Garden,” and off he went. “He printed out this 5 page recipe,” she recalls, “and researched how to make it gluten-free. Then when we had it on my birthday, it was amazing.”

From that day, Dunlavey became known for his cheesecake. Word of his dessert passed through family and friends, and dozens of orders came in soon after. People all over through the town were wanting one of these treats and his orders grew. In just the first few months, Dunvaley had more than one cake to make a week, all without advertising.

The talent and hard work in these confections wasn’t fully utilized until he made it to high school.

“When he came to high school, Mrs. Grantz and Mrs. Betz knew about it and pushed him into more of a business,” says his mother. This became the start of a new chapter.

Dunlavey’s cheesecakes became the focus of his Supervised Agricultural Experience. As a member of the Central DeWitt FFA chapter, he was able to support them through his baking. His treats became a staple of the farmer’s market and from that, his reputation grew to what it is now.

“It feels good to have my own business, especially so young. I’m one of the only ones I know around my age,” Dunlavey says. Drew’s Gourmet Cheesecakes have become common focuses at birthday and holiday parties in the area.

Despite the financial benefits, the real things that Dunlavey has gained are a sense of pride and joy. “When I’m cooking, I feel pretty proud of what I can make,” he says.

Through hard work and familial support, Dunlavey was able to create this business. At a young age, he has achieved what most people only dream of: enjoying your line of work. He hopes to continue and expand his business into the future.

If interested in placing an order, please contact Dunlavey at drew.dunlavey@cd-csd.org.

Emma Miller, Central Publications Editor

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