The Big Guy" was the perfect name for chef Keun Anderson's culinary side business.
"Because I'm a fairly big guy — 6'3, 280 pounds," Anderson says. "Why not go with 'The Big Guy'?"
Anderson, 31, kitchen manager at Slider Inn Downtown, began his side business making and selling cheesecakes and other cuisine online a year ago. But he kicked everything up a notch after his previous job at Arrive Memphis' Longshot restaurant ended due to the pandemic.
- Chef Keun Anderson and his strawberry cheesecake
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, Anderson enjoyed his mother's soul food. "I love to eat. That's like another job."
His mother made him help in the kitchen. "I really didn't care about it. Peel the candied yams. Shuck peas. Trim the collard greens."
He thought about going into the military, but his mother said there was "too much going on in the world. My mama said, 'It is not a good idea for you to fight now.'"
That's when Anderson's cooking education began.
He got a job working on the grill at McDonald's. "It really wasn't cooking. Press it down and set it on a timer."
Then Waffle House. "It was my first time learning about eggs: sunny side up, over easy, over hard, scrambled light, scrambled hard. I just always scrambled it and it was done. I thought it was amazing you could do eggs so many ways."
He learned how to cook on a broiler at Olive Garden. Buffalo Wild Wings was next. "To me, that wasn't cooking. It was just pushing out food." He learned to make natural-cut French fries and creme brûlée at Ruth's Chris Steak House.
Anderson worked "literally every station" at Little Caesars Pizza. He even worked for a time at Pioneer Casino in Fern Lake, Nevada. "I think I made over a million pancakes working there."
Anderson is thankful for all his restaurant experiences. "Every job I had made me who I am today."
But working at Loflin Yard was a turning point. "That's where I really started the love of cooking 'cause Andy Knight taught me so much. I love him to this day."
Knight, who was executive chef, taught him how to "cook the perfect fish," he says. "Make sure the skillet is piping hot. Put a little oil on it and put that bad boy skin down. You can't go wrong with that."
Anderson, who went on to work at Belle Tavern and Mardi Gras, began his side business after he left Loflin Yard. But Longshot executive chef David Todd helped him perfect his cheesecake. He told Anderson, "Man, you can do better. Think outside the box. Why don't you make a candied bacon maple syrup cheesecake?'"
Anderson knew he'd arrived when Dawn Russell at Arrive's Hustle & Dough told him, "I lived in New York, and this is the second-best cheesecake I ever had."
Anderson began making his cheesecakes and selling them on Facebook.
He had more time for his side business after Longshot closed. He created a "meal prep" with low-sodium, low-carb food. "I did my smoked salmon with asparagus and sweet potato salad. I learned that from Andy Knight."
Other Anderson items include buffalo chicken egg rolls, spinach dip, macaroni and cheese, fried catfish, chef's salad, and a fruit tray. His Sweet Nola Hot Wings made with Louisiana hot sauce and sugar are one of his hot items, especially at his catering jobs. He uses cornmeal instead of flour to keep the sauce on the wings.
His spicy chicken sandwich is another popular item. The chicken, marinated in a wet batter, comes in a brioche bun with Romaine lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, and a sambal aioli.
And, Anderson says, "If you want something outrageous, I can make it for you, too." That would include his three-layered cheesecake: regular cheesecake between two layers of yellow or any other type of cake. "It's a pretty big cake."
And what does Anderson call it? "The Big Cake."
To order from The Big Guy, call 901-480-6897.