Dave Anderson - Keynote Speaker



About Dave

Dave Anderson is the founder of Famous Dave’s of America, the legendary BBQ franchise, with over 170 restaurants and growing. Voted the “Hottest Restaurant Concept in America” by Nation’s Restaurant News, Famous Dave’s has received unprecedented recognition. Anderson has helped found several publicly traded companies on Wall Street and created over 20,000 new jobs. In Dave’s own life, he has experienced adversity, frustration, and bankruptcy as well as tremendous success. Dave’s life story is featured in two New York Times bestsellers. He has served two Presidents and three governors in advisory positions. David has provided key testimony before Congress and the U.S. Senate. Always tackling the impossible, this bottom half of the class high school student has earned his Master’s Degree from Harvard University without an undergraduate degree! He has appeared on all major networks including: Regis and Kathy Lee, Oprah Winfrey, CNBC The Next Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Crook & Chase, the Discovery Channel, the Food Network, National Public Radio and over 200 radio shows.

As a highly sought after keynote speaker, Dave shares his heartfelt optimism using his life’s story to share valuable insight and life lessons in dealing with today’s fast changing and challenging world. Dave is an enthusiastic advocate of the American Dream, he stresses that no matter how tough things may seem today, if you never give up your dream and work hard tomorrow’s rewards will always come. About David W. Anderson: As a Native American, Dave devotes his life to making a difference in his community and in the lives of others less fortunate. Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network recently recognized Dave’s leadership development work with at-risk youth.


Accomplishments & Experiences - Chronological Order

  • 1971 – Anderson starts first selling business at age 18 and promptly fails.

  • 1972 – Anderson start second business wholesaling plants to florists in the Chicagoland area. By time he is 21, he secures all Chicagoland Sears stores and every major retail florist account in Chicago and goes bankrupt in 1979.

  • 1977 – Anderson participated in President Carter’s Task Force to study "The Problems of Minorities in Small Business," and participated in round table discussions sponsored by the Small Business Administration.

  • 1979 – Anderson joined the sales force of a major Fortune 500 company. In one year he took the last place territory of 12 states to Number One by bringing in over $1,250,000 in sales the last 6 months of the year.

  • 1982 – Anderson was hired to put together a team responsible for turning losing businesses into profitable and stable businesses for the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Reservation. Under his leadership, gross revenues were increased from $3,9000,000 to $8,000,000. This effort was recognized by President Reagan’s Commission on Indian Reservation Economies.

  • 1983 – Anderson was named to a National Task Force on Reservation Gaming by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

  • 1983 – Anderson was appointed to The Council on Minority Business Development for the State of Wisconsin by Governor Earl.

  • 1984 – Anderson was appointed to The Wisconsin Council of Tourism by Governor Earl.

  • 1985 – Anderson was named a Bush Leadership Fellow by the Bush Foundation, St. Paul, Minnesota, recognizing him for a lifetime of outstanding achievement.

  • June, 1986 – Anderson earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

        (without having an undergraduate degree!).

  • 1989 – Anderson formed a management and investment company specializing in emerging gaming markets. In the March, 1997 issue of Fortune Magazine, this company was recognized as "The Fastest Growing Company in America."

  • 1994 – Anderson was an original investor in The Rainforest Café and served on their board of directors, a highly successful restaurant company that was recognized as one of the "Hottest Concepts in America."

  • 1994 – Pursuing his life-long passion, Anderson opened his first Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, on Round Lake. The BBQ Shacks are reminiscent of the old- fashioned BBQ joints popular across the country 50 years ago, featuring slow-smoked ribs along with Dave’s own secret BBQ sauces. The restaurant was an instant success, serving up to 8000 people a week in a town of only 1800!

  • October 1995 – Famous Dave’s BBQ was awarded the Blue Ribbon "Best BBQ Sauce in America" in the mild-sauce division at the prestigious American Royal International

  • Barbecue Contest. In December, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine named Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack "Best Barbecue Joint" in the Twin Cities.

  • October 1996 – Famous Dave’s of America, Inc. announced its Initial Public Offering, opening at $6.25 on the NASDAQ market.

  • May 1997 – Nations Restaurant News recognized Famous Dave’s restaurants as one of the "Hottest Concepts in America" for originality, and innovation in menu, décor, service, as well as strong consumer approval.

  • June 1997 – Ernst & Young, sponsored by NASDAQ and USA Today, recognized Dave Anderson as Minnesota and Dakota’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. The Entrepreneur of the Year program honors and recognizes entrepreneurs who have demonstrated excellence and extraordinary success through innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their business and community

  • March 1998 – Anderson named Restaurateur of the Year by Mpls. St. Paul Magazine.

  • April 1998 – Zig Ziglar, world-renowned motivational speaker and author of "See You at the Top," dedicated his "Success for Dummies" book to Dave Anderson. "Success for Dummies" is one of a series of the highly successful "Dummies" books by IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. Dave’s "Against All Odds" life story is featured in this best selling book.

  • January 1999 – The Anderson Family established The LifeSkills Center for Leadership with a $1,400,000 gift. This fund was created to help disadvantaged Native American Children.

  • March 1999 – Famous Dave’s recognized for being in the "Top 10" restaurants out of the "Super 1000" restaurants in Minnesota! Mpls/St. Paul Magazine

  • March 1999 – Anderson’s new cookbook, "Famous Dave’s Backroads & Sidestreets", was released with all proceeds being donated to help disadvantaged Native American children.

  • December 1999 – "Famous Dave’s Backroads & Sidestreets" wins the National Barbecue Associations "Award of Excellence" for being the "Best New Barbecue/Grill Cookbook!"

  • May 2000 – Dave’s success story of overcoming major adversities and failures is featured by New York Times best selling author on leadership, John C. Maxwell in his newest book "Failing Forward"

  • November 2000 – Famous Dave’s awarded "Top Gun" by the Neighborhood Marketing Institute for aggressive in-store marketing at the 2000 Marketing War College. 1999 to 2000 in-store marketing efforts resulted in 47% increase in sales, 8.5% average increase in comparable store sales, and an overall 300% increase in profits.

  • 2001 - Nominee for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award.

  • January 10, 2002 – Honored as an Olympic Torch Carrier for the 2002 Winter Olympics held at Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • February 2, 2002- Receives the Odyssey Award by Big Brothers Big Sisters for significant contributions to his profession and the community either as mentors or in service to youth.

  • April 1, 2002 – Dave receives Oprah’s Angel Network Award for continuing leadership development work with at-risk Native American youth.

  • July 3, 2002 – President Bush appoints Dave to the President’s Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities

  • May 2003 – Dave receives Nightingale-Conant coveted "Acres of Diamonds" Award in recognition of his personal commitment for helping others find their own "Acres of Diamonds!"

  • December 2003 – President Bush appoints Dave ninth Assistant Secretary for the US Department of the Interior for Indian Affairs and confirmed by a full US Senate vote. Dave is responsible for a $2 billion dollar budget and over 10,000 employees.

  • May 2004 – Northland College presents Dave an Honorary Doctorate Degree for his commitment to public service

  • 2004 – Anderson’s book Famous Dave’s LifeSkills for Success is published with all proceeds being donated to the LifeSkills Center for Leadership.

  • January 2005 – Dave is chosen Grand Marshall for the St. Paul Winter Carnival Parade

  • April 30, 2005 – The Boys and Girls Clubs of America appoints Dave to the Board of Governors

  • May 12, 2005 – Northland College appoints Dave to the Board of Trustees

  • 2005 – 2006 - Board member, Minnesota Teen Challenge

  • March 2006 – Keynote Speaker for the Montana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

  • December 2006 – Minnesota Entrepreneurs’ Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • January 2007 – Northwood University Outstanding Business Leader Award

  • April 2007 – Anderson is featured on the cover of the Twin Cities Business

  • March 2008 – Receives the Urban Financial Services Coalition’s Living Legend Award

  • September 2008 – Launched his DVD BBQ Pitmaster Secrets Revealed!

  • January 2009 – Keynote Speaker for The South Dakota’s Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

  • May 2009 - Dave is featured on FOX and Friends Morning Show

  • June 2009 - Dave partners with his sister to release his secret wild rice recipes

  • August 30, 2009 - Dave Day is declared as Famous Dave's celebrates its 15th Anniversary

  • February 2010 - Anderson's latest book Famous Dave Anderson's Recipe for Success is released

Board Memberships

  • Board Member, Minnesota State Community & Technical College - Business & Entrepreneurial Board

  • Board Member, Tradition Capital Bank Advisory

  • Former Board Member, National Boys and Girls Club of America

Other Affiliations

  • Member of the Choctaw/Chippewa Indian tribes, and an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwa of northwest Wisconsin.

  • Honorary Board Member Lac Courte Oreilles Boy and Girls Club, Hayward, Wisconsin

Honors, Awards and Recognitions


Best Restaurant Issue

Mpls./St. Paul Magazine


Ernst & Young, NASDAQ, USA Today


TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, Minneapolis

  • National Recognition

Nation's Restaurant News named Famous Dave's of America "1997" HOT CONCEPT". 

Famous Dave's has been showcased as one of the hottest growth concepts in America for originality and innovation in menu, decor and service as well as strong consumer appeal.


Great American Rib Cookoff, Cleveland, OH

  • People's Choice - "Best Ribs"

Critic's Choice - "Best Ribs"

Twin Cities RibFest, Minneapolis, MN

  • People's Choice - "Best Ribs"

Naperville Ribfest, Naperville, IL

  • Critics' Choice & People's Choice

"Best Ribs"

Fargo Dome Ribfest, Fargo, ND

  • "Best Sauce In America"

Great American Rib Cookoff, Cleveland, OK



            Minnesota Shopping Center Association



            International Academy of the Visual Arts


Annual Reader's Poll

    City Pages

    Mpls./St. Paul Magazine

    Minnesota Monthly Magazine


Annual Reader's Poll

    Mpls./St. Paul magazine


National Barbeque Association


"Famous Dave" Anderson

Mpls./St. Paul Magazine


Annual Reader's Poll

    Mpls./St. Paul magazine

    Minnesota Monthly Magazine


Best of the Twin Cities Issue

    Mpls./St. Paul Magazine


Chain Leader

National Restaurant Chain Publication


Madison Capital Times


Annual Reader's Poll

    Minnesota Monthly Magazine



Annual Reader's Poll

    Minnesota Monthly Magazine


Best of the Twin Cities Issue

Mpls./St. Paul Magazine



mild tomato category

American Royal Barbeque Contest



Best Restaurant Issue

Mpls./St. Paul Magazine



Naperville Sun, Naperville, IL.




National Barbeque Association

World's Largest and Most Prestigious Contest, Kansas City, MO






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Maple Grove, MN