Annie talks to us about her journey to becoming the owner of one of the most popular american food independent businesses in the midlands.
Tell me a little about your first job
Since I was a kid I always loved buying and selling things. When I was about 7 years old, I set up a lemonade stand outside my parents house in Rhode Island – I built a stand with 2 pieces of wood and a couple of nails… (I was SO proud of that stand!) I used a Fisher Price cash register and as well as Lemonade, sold wet tuna sandwiches in plastic wrap, in the summer heat… The sarnies didn’t sell, and I couldn’t understand why, haha.
I also used to make potholders where you would weave pieces of cloth together. I would sell these door-to-door for 50 cents a piece. From the beginning there’s always been a bit of an entrepreneur in me, and I have never been afraid to go out there on my own.
Who is the most memorable chef/other foodie that you have worked with or met?
On Boxing Day 2015 I went on “Sunday Brunch” on TV to show off “The Johnny Vegas” burger, which was the most fun and interesting experience! Johnny himself was on the show, and I got to meet Tim Lovejoy, Simon Rimmer, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Kym Marsh; they all tried the burger and loved it!
Which of your burgers is your favourite to make?
Oooh, well making is very different to tasting… I love making The Fajita Burger ‘cos it has such vibrancy and colour, and is DELICIOUS. Such a beautiful burger – uses red, yellow and green peppers, guacamole, cheddar cheese etc… Everything from a Fajita, on a burger!
And which burger on your menu is your favourite to eat?
I would say The Delta is my favourite “Meaty” burger to eat, and The Lemmy my favourite “Veggie” or “Vegan”. But then again… They’re all so good! I love every single one of them, haha. The only one I struggle with is “The Deathray” as it’s way too hot and spicy for me, but my customers LOVE it.
What made you set up Annie’s Burger Shack?
I had been running a cookie business for a little while, but it didn’t work out… I was at a point where I really had no idea what I was going to do. I took the last of my cookies into The Old Angel Pub in Nottingham and plonked myself down at the bar. A friend asked the landlord what his plans were for the pub kitchen, and he was like “Nothing really”. I just stopped and looked around and thought to myself “This place needs burgers”… So I was like “I’ll do it!”… And the rest is history!
Why did you come to Derby?
In the summer of 1992 I had come over to the UK from America for the first time, to work as a horse groom for a popular showbarn in Kniveton. I was living in Ashbourne and totally fell in love with Derbyshire for the people, Real Ales and pub crawls (anyone remember “The Derby Mile?” haha). It really was the most incredible time of my life.
If it wasn’t for my love of Derbyshire I never would have come back to England, so you guys are the reason I am in the UK! When the opportunity to have a second Shack came up, Derby seemed like the obvious choice for me! And you guys have given me the warmest welcome once more. Thank you so much!
How did you come up with your huge menu?
I actually used to have 65 burgers on the menu but had to tone it down to 45, but then we got so busy we had to reduce it down further to 35. The inspiration can come from anywhere, it’s about combining the flavours and textures in a way that just works (even if, on paper, it sounds like it isn’t going to). The proof is in the tasting… It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, haha.
What inspires your monthly specials?
I love being able to go completely off the cuff and do burger specials that can be inspired by anything! “The Steeplejack” burger came from me looking at an old black Victorian radiator, which inspired me to create a burger based around favourite foods from Northern England.
Why is every burger on your menu available as #Vegan #Veggie or #Meaty?
I am so proud to have ALWAYS done my menu that way, since the first time I started out in 2009. It’s really important to me that everyone can sit and eat together, all having the same amount of choice. For Vegans and Veggies it’s about being able to pick from ANYTHING on the menu… Not just one or two token options at the bottom of the page (as can so often be the case). Having said this, it’s so great to see so many other places offering more Vegan and Veggie options these days.
What is next for The Shack? What does the future hold for Annie’s Burger Shack?
I have always just lifted my feet and seen where I’m gonna end up… Who knows what the future holds! I’m amazed at where I am now, and how many people have come with me along the way; both staff and customers – thank you all so much, your support means the world to me!
CONTACT ANNIE’S BURGER SHACK
Annie’s Burger Shack