One of Charlotte’s black chefs recently won $10,000 in a televised cooking contest.
Local food truck connoisseurs and avid Food Network watchers may have recognized chef Anthony Denning, owner of Another?!. Food truck on a recent episode of Chopped.
In “Chopped” four chefs have to create a dish from a “mystery box” full of ingredients. Dennings’s has won the latest episode entitled “More Cheese, Please”.
Denning’s award-winning dishes are inspired by the food he serves in his truck.
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While Denning appreciated his Chopped experience and is grateful for the win, he said things are “business as usual” for now as he reinvests in his business and improves the truck. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all work and not play.
“I will go on vacation with my family; we need it,” Denning’s said
Denning is newly married and has an eight-month-old son who wants to follow in his footsteps. As he celebrates all the new changes in his life, Denning spoke to QCity Metro about his thoughts on Charlotte’s food scene and his experiences on the show. He also shares some advice for aspiring chefs.
Responses are edited for clarity and brevity.
How was your experience on television?
It was a surreal feeling and intense. The show is exactly as advertised; the deadlines are strict. All you have to do is walk in and trust that you can cook the things you are comfortable with.
I’m just happy that my grandparents, my family and other people support the truck. And more than anything, I want my son to be able to see it in the future when he’s old enough to understand what’s going on. So it was definitely a great experience.
What did you learn from the experience?
I met the other chefs right before filming and hung out with them afterwards. They’re all cool. One of them was from Boston, one from California and one from Baltimore. So I had the opportunity to hang out with them and talk to them.
I will probably get in touch with some of them in the future. But more than anything like compete and win, Chopped definitely taught me that anything is possible.
I know that sounds kind of cliche, but it just kind of reaffirmed that you can do just about anything, and more than anything, it reaffirmed that you can be successful at something while being yourself.
How will this win affect your business?
I want to go to a food stand, like Optimist Hall or Lintmen’s.
Overall I think it had a positive impact on the truck. I think it will bring more traffic and I also think it has kind of pressured me to maintain a certain standard of food coming out of the truck. When people see me on such a big stage, they expect to have a high level experience; it kinda puts the battery back in my back.
I feel like I’m a little jaded from the hustle and bustle of running and entertaining a business, let alone a food truck. It can exhaust you.
With all of the support from Charlotte and all of North Carolina, I wanted to highlight every step along the way as I see their support. It definitely revitalized me.
How would you describe Charlotte’s food truck scene?
I feel like there was a lot of food trucks together at one point and then it started to unravel. Now I feel like many of us, especially black food truck owners, are developing personal relationships with each other.
A Little Taste of Chicago was a good friend of ours. Not Your Average Food Truck, 22 Street Kitchen, Made From Scratch and B Cooks are just a few. These are big influences on my desire to get into food trucks.
I have to make sure I mention her. But Charlotte’s food scene is definitely on the rise. I’m proud of all the other black chefs. We started working together, building and growing as a whole; it’s great dope to see.
What are you looking forward to after winning the competition?
I just want to keep growing the business and reach more customers. I appreciate Food Network’s platform and show it’s bigger than before. I just want something to pass on to my family.
What is it like to cook in a food truck or in a kitchen?
Owning and operating a food truck has made me sharper as a chef because unlike working in a restaurant, if you forget something you have to turn around. As soon as we step out of our squad kitchen, I’ve got everything I’ve got on this truck, and there’s no getting around that.
Working in a food truck has also taught me to be more organized. When you get a mystery basket, it’s kind of like getting a food truck. I might have thought I brought the ranch with me, but I didn’t. And now I have to turn something into a ranch. I think it definitely helped me with Chopped and it helps me as a chef overall.
What tips do you have for other food truck owners?
I had to learn how to prioritize and what comes first because sometimes as an entrepreneur you put business first. But that’s not always the right decision.
Sometimes you have to put your family first. I think I can say to any entrepreneur that the best advice I can give is to communicate effectively. When you communicate effectively with your family, these are co-workers who have salespeople with everyone around you, it’s much easier to make progress.