A lifelong love of ribs has had its rewards for Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave's BBQ, and the latest is induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame.
"It's humbling, especially since the people represented there are some very well-known folks who have made a mark on the history of Native Americans," Anderson said in an interview this week after receiving the honor.
The National Native American Hall of Fame serves as a resource for identifying and honoring contemporary path makers, new heroes and significant contributors to American society. Other honorees represent politics, science, the military and the arts. Pulitzer Prize-winning Minnesota novelist Louise Erdrich was inducted two years ago.
Anderson, 68, who is part Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and Choctaw, was honored for his personal and professional success in business.
He was CEO of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribal enterprises from 1982 to 1985, and created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership, an organization dedicated to supporting at-risk Indian youth.
Anderson opened the first Famous Dave's in Hayward, Wis., in 1994. The publicly-traded chain has grown to more than 100 locations. Anderson left the company in 2002 when President George W. Bush appointed him assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior's Indian Affairs office.
More recently, Anderson launched another barbecue concept named after his father, Jimmie's Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse. He opened the first one in Wisconsin and a second in Minneapolis in 2017.
While his son and daughter-in-law run the daily operations of its four locations, Anderson returned in recent years to actively promoting Famous Dave's.
Anderson credits his love of barbecue to his father, who would routinely take him to his favorite rib joints on Chicago's South Side. Beyond that, he said hard work and turning his life around early paved the way for his success.
"There would be no Famous Dave's if I hadn't gotten sober," Anderson said. "That's part of the work my family does is we're pretty committed to being a positive difference in our neighborhoods as well as Native communities."