Famous Dave Anderson isn't Famous Dave anymore. And he's launching a new restaurant — Jimmie's Old Southern Smokehouse BBQ — to prove it.
Anderson, creator of the barbecue restaurant chain that bears his name, hasn't been involved in Famous Dave's management for 12 years. But he continued to do some consulting and played a role in the company's marketing, appearing in advertisements.
Anderson said he ended his relationship with Minnetonka-based Famous Dave's in March 2014, signing a one-year noncompete agreement. The year is up, and on April 14 the smoked meat entrepreneur plans to unveil Jimmie's — named after his barbecue-loving father — in Hayward, the northwest Wisconsin town where he opened the original Famous Dave's in 1994.
"I have no connection with Famous Dave's at all," he said. "They don't call, and that's OK. I wish them well."
Famous Dave's did not respond to inquiries for comment.
Anderson said his eye is on the kitchen these days. "I'm really excited about getting back to my roots, which is making great tasting barbecue and making it from scratch," Anderson told the Star Tribune Wednesday.
Asked if he plans to expand the concept, Anderson was noncommittal but left the door open. "If you grow, it will be because the people love it, and I'm sure they're going to love it."
Publicly traded Famous Dave's operates about 185 restaurants in more than 30 states, and is well known in Minnesota. Its menu is still anchored by ribs, brisket and other meats from Anderson's playbook. He said he'll have new recipes at Jimmie's Old Southern Smokehouse.
Anderson, 61, signaled his plans Wednesday in a Facebook post. "It's been a whole year since 2014 March 31, my last day as Famous Dave," it read. "All I can say is this past year has been a very emotionally hard year for me as I could not share that I had nothing to do with the company I founded."
April begins a new chapter, Anderson wrote on Facebook, "only NOT as Famous Dave … but as 'Dave Anderson, America's Rib King!' … The Good Lord gave me a passion for barbecue, and I intend on making the world a happier, better place by making the world's most incredible smokey barbecue."
He didn't mention Jimmie's, but confirmed it in an interview with the Star Tribune.
Anderson grew up in Chicago, but spent a lot of time in Hayward. His mother was from an Ojibwe tribe near the town. Just two years after opening his first Famous Dave's in Hayward, the company went public in 1996. (The Hayward outlet burned down in November; the new one will be at a different site.)
He called the IPO "the worst decision of his life" on Facebook Wednesday.
"We went public with four restaurants," Anderson said in the interview. "That wouldn't happen today. But everybody was going public those days."
Anderson was Dave's CEO only until 1997, but remained chairman of the company's board until 2003. Famous Dave's, which currently does about $150 million in annual sales, has never really lived up to its business potential, stock analysts say.
The company is currently in another rebuilding mode.
After several activist hedge funds snapped up a big piece of Famous Dave's, the company's board last year brought in former high-ranking McDonald's executive Ed Rensi to be CEO. Rensi has been working to add menu items and to significantly redesign Dave's outlets.
While Anderson noted on his Facebook site that Dave's is now being run by Wall Street investors, he told the Star Tribune he has no "sour grapes" toward Dave's current management and owners.
He said he's just happy to be back in the smoke pit.
"I've always been active in the barbecue community," he said. "To me, barbecue is more than a business, it's a lifestyle."