Today is Famous Dave Anderson BBQ Party Day!
"May you always be surrounded by good friends and great barbecue," says Dave Anderson over the phone in lieu of a goodbye. But he's earned the right to those coined phrases: Dave Anderson, a.k.a. Famous Dave of Famous Dave's BBQ, has an abundance of two very important things: ribs and enthusiasm.
Today happens to be a celebration of Anderson's enthusiasm for ribs. Mayor R.T. Rybak has proclaimed today, June 13, Famous Dave Anderson BBQ Party Day, as a sort of congratulations for Anderson's latest book. Famous Dave's BBQ Party Handbook is the tell-all that grillmasters everywhere have been waiting for: the one where Famous Dave himself sheds light not only on the special flavors that season his renowned BBQ, but throws out over 170 recipes on how to throw, as Anderson calls it, the "ultimate BBQ party." Luckily enough, it seems like the weather might finally allow for an actual day of BBQ!
Today, Anderson be signing copies of his new cookbook at the Barnes & Noble in downtown Minneapolis starting at 11:30 a.m. (Click here to preview the book on Amazon.) Hot Dish caught up with the man himself to talk about the inspiration behind the BBQ.
Hot Dish: It's been nearly twenty years since you first opened the original Famous Dave's in Hayward, Wisconsin. Do you have a favorite BBQ memory or story to share with us?
Famous Dave Anderson: I think the favorite memory is the first time we ever saw somebody take a bite of a rib [when we first opened]. All of us, from my cook to our general manager to myself, we looked like a totem pole looking around from the kitchen door, like, "I think he likes it! I think he likes the rib!" "Well, what's he doing?" "He's smiling!"
I think the whole memory of opening... For weeks before, people would drive by and they would say, "Dave, what are you building?" and I would say, "I'm building the world's best BBQ restaurant!" And they would laugh and say "Here? In Hayward? There's not even 1,800 people." But I had a dream, and my dream was to have the best BBQ ribs, the best Texas-style melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, and sweet cornbread. By the end of that summer, we were serving over 500 people--and we never advertised, it was all word of mouth.
You've decided to share your top secret recipes in your cookbook. What made you want to give away the secrets?
The idea was to encourage people that their backyard grill was more than just a place to throw on some burgers and hot dogs. [The book is] over 170 recipes, from bacon wrapped cream cheese jalapenos to cherry bombs--maraschino cherries that have been soaked in moonshine and wrapped up in bacon and grilled over charcoal... I mean these things are tasty. This is fun stuff. It's for anybody--whether you're a beginning or someone who has been grilling for years.
Is there a particular recipe that you're most proud of?
I don't know... Do you have kids? That's kind of like asking a parent with three or four kids which one's their favorite. I've put a hundred percent of my effort into each one of these recipes, whether it's the smoked turkey panini or the cherry bombs. Every recipe is great. The idea is that from the appetizers to the side dishes to the desserts, you can pick a few things and just have a really knock-your-socks-off BBQ party.
You're America's BBQ king--the role model for grillmasters. Was there anyone who inspired you to cook and grill as you were growing up? How did you cultivate this passion?
It really comes from my dad. Both of my parents are Native American--my dad is Chocktaw Indian from Oklahoma and my mom is from the Ojibwe tribe near Hayward. Unfortunately--or fortunately, I suppose--both of my parents were taken from their families back in the 40's and stuck in Indian boarding schools, and my parents fell in love. They met at the Haskell Institute for Indians in Kansas and then moved to Chicago--it was the only place in those years that really had jobs after the war. And my dad, being from the South, really missed his cooking... he used to haul my mom down South every other weekend until she learned how to cook Southern. That's how important it was. He used to drive South several times a year just to buy the right ingredients, whether it was a hot sauce or something, things you couldn't find in the North, but they were so important for him. When all the other kids were going out to eat with their parents, it was burgers and pizza--when we went out to eat, my dad was taking us to the West Side of Chicago for BBQ.
A lot of people ask me, "Dave, where did you get your restaurant experience? Where did you learn how to cook?" And I think they expect to hear from a restaurant or something, but really, I learned how to cook in my mom's Indian fry bread stand. To make end's meet, we had this little lean-to covered with tarp, and we would cook Indian fry bread and wild rice soup which was served to the tourists and the Indians on the reservation. It's really the American story of a dream come true--a rags to riches type of thing, that I could have learned my cooking skills in this lean-to covered in tarp and then from that to selling over ten million pounds of ribs alone. In this great country, amazing things can happen when you're passionate and you don't give up.