- This time on "Tennessee Crossroads", you'll meet a remarkable Nashville woman known as Anne of All Trades. Then explore a popular Jackson barbecue attraction, Reggi's. You'll meet a Nashville baker who takes cheesecake to a new level and finally head east to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Hi, everyone, I'm Joe Elmore. It's time again for another "Tennessee Crossroads". These days, you don't have to be a TV or movie a star to reach celebrity status. A Tennessee woman has done that through social media. Tammi Arender introduces us to Anne Briggs who's known by many as Anne of All Trades. - [Tammi] If idle hands are the devil's workshop, then the devil is nowhere near Anne Briggs. This social media sensation is known as Anne of All Trades. - I want to be able to have a place like my grandpa had where I can think of something and go out and make it. It started with woodworking and then it expanded to blacksmithing because I liked hand tools and I could make my own hand tools in my blacksmith shop. - [Tammi] Briggs lives in Nashville but she was raised mostly overseas by missionary parents, living in places like the Ukraine and Austria. Then she moved to Asia. She's fluent in Chinese and has a business and marketing degree. But that degree isn't being used behind a desk somewhere. - I always said when I was growing up that I wanted to someday live on a farm. Because of my parents' career, we weren't able to have pets or animals of any kind and I'd always had a special affinity for animals. So I said, one day if I ever live in America, I'm gonna have a farm. Guys! - [Tammi] So she does have a farm, complete with cows, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys. - [Anne] Hi! Can I have a hug? - [Tammi] Each animal on the farm has a purpose. The dogs, which are named Johnny and June, by the way, and donkeys are guard animals. The goats are dairy goats. She named them after country music stars. There's Brenda Lee and Waylon Jennings. She uses their milk to make cheese, yogurt and soap. - [Anne] Hey, little buddy! - [Tammi] Oh, and let's not forget Lucy. Now, Lucy is the exception to the rule. She doesn't have a purpose. She was inherited from a neighbor who said Lucy had gotten too big to be a pet. - I love animals, I always have. I've always had a special relationship with them. And so being able to incorporate them into my daily life and my daily routine and also have them all do something useful for everyone is so fun. - [Tammi] While farm is very much a part of the Anne of All Trades repertoire, it's the disappearing life skills, as she calls them, that keeps her hands busy. - It really just kind of happened. I was a tomboy my whole childhood. And I don't know if that led me to wanting to do stuff like this, but really I operate so much better when I'm working with my hands. - [Tammi] From splitting her own wood for making cabinets, chairs, spoons, and spatulas to grabbing a chunk of steel to make her own tools of the trade. - I came from working in the tech industry in the computer world. And once I started getting really serious about this, I just wanted to do it all the time because unlike typing and sending an email-- You could work really hard on a project on the computer for months and months on end, whereas every single day at the end of the day, I get to touch and run my hands across the things. I have physical evidence of my blood, sweat and often tears when I'm building things. And I really do enjoy the way that that kind of reflects itself. I know that I worked hard because I can see that thing in front of me. - [Tammi] Like a chef would shave shards of chocolate to decorate a cake and shaves away chunks of wood from a wooden block, leaving behind her vision of a spoon, spatula, or a spindle for a chair. - I can make a whole chair that only weighs eight pounds because I'm following the grain of the tree and doing all this stuff by hand. So the disappearing life skills side of things is that in so many tasks that have been replaced by machines, you lose kind of the artistry and the craftsmanship and the pieces of furniture that do last for three or four or 500 years. And so I'm really passionate about, I mean, A, it's a lot more fun to build things that way. It takes a lot longer, surely. So it's a little harder to make a profit, but doing things by hand in and kind of carrying it through from the tree to the finished piece, especially if it's a tree that I cut down with an ax that I forged in my blacksmithing shop and then used a draw knife that I forged my blacksmithing shop and turned it into a chair. That's a pretty amazing process to kind of just watch happen. - [Tammi] Her grandfather instilled in her the love of woodworking and her fascination with fire and the need for woodworking tools led to blacksmithing. - I'll make bottle openers as gifts, or little hooks to hang your hat on or whatever else. But what I really like making in the blacksmith shop is tools so I've made a whole set of spoon carving knives and the ax that I use to chop out the spoon blanks, a throw and like all kinds, splitting wedges. And then of course the cool thing about blacksmithing is that you make all of tools that you need to make tools. - [Tammi] Briggs doesn't know the word fear. Farming, woodworking or blacksmithing was nowhere in her wheelhouse but it is now. And she's so passionate about her skills that she's learned, she's constructing a workshop where she'll teach these disappearing life skills to others. - Maybe I'll have the opportunity for me to then expose some people to that younger in life. And then bring in some of the world-class teachers that I've been able to now study under, thanks to some other privileges that I've received like working for the magazine and running that woodworking school. So now I can bring some of those amazing teachers in and then provide other people that same opportunity to have someone champion and invest in them and change their lives the way that mine has been changed. - [Tammi] She's now an expert in several areas, creating her own tools or even musical instruments. But what she really wants to create is community and connectivity. - I love inviting other people into the journey because, again, there're just this so much reward to be found in it. Whether it's cooking up a meal that you grew in the garden, or sitting down to your table that you've built in a chair that you built using tools that you made. It's all fun but the most fun for me is when I'm sharing that experience with someone else. That is the sweetest boy. - Thanks, Tammi. Next, we'll exit I-40 in Jackson to sample what many people say as some of the best barbecue in West Tennessee. Reggi's not only serves all varieties of barbecue, they also fry their own version of pork rinds. Now this place is also known for down-home customer service. If you take Exit 85 off I-40 in Jackson, where you'll find a new looking strip mall, that's home to some old-fashioned, award-winning Southern cuisine. - Best barbecue in Jackson. - 67! - Reggi's barbecue and wings has been a local favorite since the 1990s, when it had more humble housing. But Reggi Picketts' association with cue-cooking goes back to his younger days growing up in Mississippi. - I was mainly was self-taught. All the recipes that I have right now is primarily my recipes, the wing sauce that we make now, the dry rub, all of it's my creation. - We have good wings, we have good ribs, we have good chicken. Might sound a little bit biased but I hadn't had a bad meal since I've been here. - [Joe] That's general manager, Earl Beard, who commandeers the kitchen where the heart and soul is a pit that uses a rotisserie above the traditional hickory wood pine. - We load it from the back outside the wood and basically we opened it up in the front, but also, it has a rotisserie in it that actually turns and rotates the meat. So the one meat on, you can put four or five meats on. - [Joe] And that's a good thing because Reggi's offers the gamut of barbecue entrees from ribs to brisket, from shoulder to chicken wings and more. The basic recipe is simple. You start with good cuts of meat then marinate most of them before the slow cooking starts. - [Reggi] It's always good to marinate meats before cooking. We don't use butts, we use pork shoulders and that's the only meat that we do not marinate. - [Joe] Now, every barbecue joint in the nation boasts a secret sauce and this place has one, too. But Earl insists that's just part of the flavor equation. - Think in the sauce, right, but like I said, we have good flavorful meat also. A lot of times we have people come in and they order the ribs but they don't want any sauce on it because like I said, we put a lot of pride into what we do. And we put a lot of flavor into our meats, not only with the sauce, but with the smoke and with the seasonings. - And this, what's gonna happen here? - We gonna make up what's gonna be our fried pork rinds. When you come here and get 'em, you're gonna get 'em fresh 'cause they don't sit around long. We put 'em in like pint-sized bags, put 'em on the shelf and like I said, they run away. We have people come in and buy 20, 30 bags at a time. And actually we just let 'em fry away for about eight minutes. - Earl's right. You're not gonna find anything like this on a store shelf. Amazing. - [Employee] Thanks, you have a good day! - [Joe] While there was a drive-in window for hungry diners on the go and a catering rig for special events, the real way to experience Reggi's is this. Come inside... - Hello! - How're you? - I'm doin' just fine. - [Joe] Place your order from a massive menu, pay up, have a seat and let the staff do the rest. - I love the customer service. I mean, we know Simone and you know, every time we come in she gives us a hug and greets us. It's like comin' home. - I really enjoy the customers. The customers are why we're here, but they become family. You know, when they enter that door, we get excited and we want them to feel at home. - [Joe] This is the kind of customer service you don't learn from an employee handbook. The kind that brings them back again and again. Of course, many new customers are just passing through Jackson and get lucky. We were driving down the road, looking for a good place to eat and saw it in the little strip mall and said, we've got Mexican, Italian and barbecue. And when in West Tennessee, barbecue. - I got the bacon-loaded baked potatoes, the first thing I saw walked in and then the onion rings. So everything was delicious. - [Joe] Those accidental diners have broadened the base according to Reggi, who's humbled by the number of customers who travel beyond the city limits for their 'cue, Reggi-style. - We have customers that come from Memphis to Jackson to eat, turn around and go back to Memphis, Nashville, eat, turn and go back to Nashville. So that says a lot, it means a lot to me. And you know, when they come in I try to make sure that I acknowledge them and show that I appreciate them coming back. - The walls of the restaurant are filled with photos of happy customers, some famous, and even one of this lucky pig that became a pet. That pig was the luckiest one to come in here, wasn't he? - He's still the pet. - Oh, yeah? - Yeah. - [Joe] Who was most popular, you or the pig? - The pig was. Most definitely. - [Joe] Reggi jokes that through the years, he's earned a doctorate degree in Porkology. But he's the first to admit it doesn't matter how great you make it unless you've got committed customers coming again. - A customer is a person that come through the door. We serve them and they leave happy. A guest is a customer who comes through the door and comes back and back and back. And I like to treat everyone of 'em as a guest, not just a customer. But thank you so much for being here. - That's when we gotta go. - Well, next, time for dessert, right? So what'll it be, ice cream? Apple pie? How about cheesecake? Kind of takes it to a new level, doesn't it? Well, Ed Jones recently met a baker from Louisiana who definitely takes pride in her sweet creations. - I don't think anything that's too sweet tastes all that great. - It's not too sweet, but it's not too savory either. It's kind of a nice medium. - It's a great find for somebody who loves their cheesecake. - [Ed] Once in a great while a culinary delight attains an almost spiritual status. Such is the case with cheesecake. Sweet but not too sweet. Succulent cheesecake. And when that spirit moves you, there's only one thing to say. - Sweet Cheeses! - [Ed] And Fawn Larson has been saying that a lot ever since she heeded the call of creation. The creation of divine cheesecakes. - I've been baking cheesecakes for about 10 years and I started when I was living in South Louisiana. That started because cheesecake's always been my favorite dessert and I would bring it to parties and eventually, people started to say, "You could sell these, they're so good!" And I thought that was a really dumb idea, but eventually, for some crazy reason, I started to consider it. So I looked into the farmer's market scene in Lafayette and realized it's not actually that hard to start trying to sell some of these. So I was kind of in between, trying to figure out what my next steps were. I graduated with a public relations degree and think now's a great time to start selling cheesecakes. - [Ed] The inspiration for Fawn's unique company name didn't strike until she moved to Nashville. But it hearkens back to her bayou beginning. - I was raised Southern Baptist in Louisiana, going to church my dad every Sunday. And when I decided I wanted to start my cheesecake business again here in Nashville, I was writing all these ideas and cheeses and sweet and then I put those together, Sweet Cheeses, like sweet Jesus! And obviously, we're in the buckle of the Bible belt here and I felt like Sweet Cheeses would be a really fun theme. - [Ed] That divine theme beget the biblically-based denominations of a diverse line of delicious delicacies. - It was kind of part of my rebrand when I changed to the name Sweet Cheeses, then I started to think, "Okay, what can I do with my mounds cheesecake, "or my Reese's peanut butter cups? Oh, Leviticups or Ten Command-mint, which is fun around Christmas time. It just all kind of came together. One final one is the Trinity. It's a chocolate, strawberry and vanilla cheesecake all kind of swirled into one. Yeah, that's a really beautiful one. And then the Genesis, of course. So that is like where it all started. That's my classic cheesecake. In the beginning, there was the Genesis. - [Ed] And it was good, but what kind of good? We asked Fawn to define the divine by comparing it to a well-known cheesecake. - I feel like a New York Style cheesecake is a little bit denser than mine and mine is a lot, I think, a lot creamier than that. I've had people say it's fluffier. I actually had someone say it's more like a European style cheesecake. - [Ed] While the geographic roots of Sweet Cheeses might be debatable, no one denies the universal appeal. - They're perfect. They're not too sweet, they've got the cream cheese sort of taste, too, so they just getcha. - He's like a cheesecake connoisseur. He's really picky about his cheesecakes. And so he went and we saw these and he was like, "Wow, those are so good!" So that's how we discovered 'em and we've just kind of been coming right back ever since. - [Ed] If you're looking for a little kick from your cake, Sweet Cheeses has you covered. The Good Book says that Jesus turned water into wine and Fawn turns wine into divine. - I do a lot of alcohol-infused cheesecakes, a really popular one around Thanksgiving is always the bourbon pecan pie cheesecake. So it's a cheesecake topped with a layer of bourbon pecan pie on top. So yeah, it's kind of combining different things. I also do a coconut cream pie cheesecake and the tiramisu cheesecake. So it's sorta just like borrowing from other well-loved desserts and incorporating them into the cheesecake. Let me show you what kind of cheesecakes I've got. White chocolate strawberry, chocolate orange, bourbon turtle, and a classic, yeah. The big 10-inch cake, is 10 to 12 servings. And I also do two smaller sizes than that. So one of them, it's like my mini cheesecake and it's about a cupcake size. And then I have my super mini and that is actually like a two-bite cheesecake. And that's great for parties and events where they wanna have a lot of different flavors and, 'cause in an order of those, you could split it up and do multiple flavors. So those are a lot of fun. - [Ed] Regardless of which size you choose, Fawn's desserts can't be found in a brick and mortar store. But look for her tent at the Hip Donelson Farmers Market and online where you can customize your own cheesy creation. - I always just like when someone sees me at a farmer's market and said, "Thank God you're here!" I definitely want it to be the best cheesecake they've ever had, which I get that comment a lot which makes me feel great. I truly do believe that life is too short to eat mediocre dessert. - I think it's great that it's in Music City and it's so creative too, 'cause it marries creativity with great food. - Thank you, enjoy, yeah! - And what Fawn has joined together, let no mere mortal cheesecake put asunder. - Our last story started out to be a run-of-the-mill road improvement project. But as Ken Wilshire discovered, it ended up with the creation of a living tribute to an historic area of the state. It's the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. - [Ken] It stands on a scenic hill overlooking the Little River just outside the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The wings on each side of the building look like outstretched arms, welcoming visitors and inviting them inside. It's the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, Tennessee where guests will experience an entire range of amazing artifacts to peak their interest. And it's elevating education about the history of these hills to new heights. - [Bob] We opened our doors in February of 2006 in the biggest snow storm of the year. This is a cantilever barn. I don't know if you know this. This is a little known fact. - Actually, it all started out as a tiny transportation museum according to the center director, Bob Patterson. But Bob says an historic archeological find right in their own front yard led to the creation of this 17,000 square foot facility. - And when they came into widen the road 321, they ran into all this Native American material and then the Cherokee and the Choctaw and other tribes became involved and they had to bring in the University of Tennessee's archeology department to unearth and do excavations. And when they did, they found over 100,000 objects and they decided they had to showcase these, the Native Americans wanted it showcased and that's where we came into being. - [Ken] So naturally, the center has an impressive display of Native American artifacts. It's a fun way to learn about the diverse tribes who inhabited these mountains thousands of years ago. - [Bob] They believe Native Americans have lived here at least part time because in those days, they were nomads. Part-time nine to 11,000 years ago. So you had people living here many, many, just a tremendous long time ago. And nobody realizes that. They think it's fairly modern, you know, maybe a couple hundred years. But the great stuff is we have artifacts on display that go back 9,000 years that show the people who lived here and that there were forts here which meant there was armed conflict here at some point. And the different types of construction that was used for the buildings, and we have footprints of what that looked like. And then we have all these objects. So the Native American side of things, we have found out so much about the games they played, the culture, themselves. And we've tried to teach that to the children. - [Teacher] Can you imagine going to school all in one room... - [Ken] And when the children come to the center, they can receive guided tours, starting with the outdoor amphitheater where a variety of concerts are held and ending with the one-room school house used by their ancestors. - [Bob] So what we try to do here is teach kids experiences beyond a computer, that there's a lot more to go on, there's a lot more things that are interesting. And so when the kids walk out of here, they're excited because we've peaked their interest by hands-on. We don't just show 'em, we let them play a part of it. - And kids weren't the only ones to get to play a part of it and enjoy a personal tour. So when you're outside, what are you gonna find out here? - Well, it's kind of interesting. We put these buildings together because we got 'em one at a time. In other words, it was like a jigsaw puzzle. We get one donated, "Okay, where are we going to put that one?" "Oh, where are we going to put that one?" So what we did was we decided to break it up into two sections. Down and this area are residential. This is where our houses are. Our smokehouse for the houses. We have an outhouse, which by the way, is the most photographed building on our property. And then we have a church and then you transition more into the commercial side of things. We have a wheelwright shop with a blacksmith shop, a saw mill and a print shop. - [Ken] Almost all of the old buildings are original and were moved here from the Townsend area. These 12 historic structures outside make exceptional venues for learning about early American life. I mean, we saw how to shuck corn inside and outside we're learning how to transform it and into some fine squeezins, as they say in these parts. It's an old still and a family tradition. - So the reason he was in the business, his mother, who was from Ireland, when he was young, his father died. And the mother, being traditional American, did not have any income so she knew how to make moonshine. So she started making moonshine and she taught him as a young boy to make shine. - [Ken] And no, the still's not operational but it's certainly authentic and it produced a lot of shine in its time. But back inside, another entire area is devoted to pioneer history. There are thousands of tools, farm implements, and other items that give folks a look at life when this part of the state was being settled. - [Bob] Then on the other side, we've worked in partnership with the National Park again, where we showcase objects that came from the people of the mountains. And so we have an entire space just devoted to the people who came from Cades Cove, but also from all the other areas. - [Ken] And visitors come here from all other areas of the country to enjoy the experience. The Cherokees have a name for this hallowed hollow. It's called the Tuckaleechee Cove, meaning peaceful valley. And it certainly is. There are lots of commercial portals to the Smoky Mountains but they call this the peaceful side of the Smokies. - [Bob] And that's what makes this place I think what it is. People walk out of here and they say they feel good here. They feel what they like to feel. But the feeling's because of the people that have been here and been a part of it. Everybody gives so much to it and it's such a warm space. - [Ken] And this is just what you'll find at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. It's their mission to preserve the unique history and rich culture of the Native Americans and early settlers to the mountains of East Tennessee. And as you can see, they welcome this opportunity just like their guests, with open arms. - Well, with that, we have to put the wraps on another edition of "Tennessee Crossroads". Thanks a whole lot for joining us. In the meantime, why don't you check out our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook and of course, join us here next week. Be looking for you.
March 25, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 32
Tammi Arender meets ‘Anne of all Trades, a Nashville woman who has decided to make it her life’s mission to work with her hands and teach others disappearing life skills like woodworking and blacksmithing. Joe Elmore visits Reggi's BBQ. Meet a baker who takes cheesecake to a spiritual level. Ken Wilshire visits the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Presented by Nashville Public Television.