Todd Graves, the man who created Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, is a natural on TV.
It helps that he has famous friends, like Shaquille O’Neal and Snoop Dogg, who join him on televised adventures. Viewers get to meet many of them on new A&E show Secret Sauce, on which Graves asks restaurateurs, athletes, celebrities and entrepreneurs to share their business success stories.
The next episode should be appealing to North Texans, as it features local gearhead Richard Rawlings at Gas Monkey Garage; a stop at Mia’s Tex-Mex restaurant; and a chat with radio host Jade “Lady Jade” Burrowes at Al Biernat’s steakhouse in Far North Dallas.
Secret Sauce airs at noon March 25.
The tone of this show feels familiar. Graves occasionally gives off light Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy vibes as he tours through a town, and he lends some pizzazz à la Guy Fieri in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It’s Graves’ second TV show recently, after he put $1 million of his own money into a pandemic show called Restaurant Recovery that aired in 2021.
“I think God made me good at chicken fingers to help me help people,” Graves said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. He said he believes letting other people share their trials and triumphs on TV is inspirational. To be clear, he doesn’t plan on becoming the Martha Stewart of chicken fingers.
“I don’t want to be a television personality, but if it affects people’s lives, I want to help.”
Starting with the first episode of the show, Graves introduces himself as “fry cook” and “cashier” first, then as an “entrepreneur owning over 700 restaurants.”
In the show, Graves stands next to the armpit of his towering friend Shaquille O’Neal, who was told he wasn’t good enough to play basketball when he was 13. O’Neal recalls being “terrified,” saying he wanted to quit the game altogether.
Graves knows that feeling. “I got the worst grade in my business planning class,” he said. The chicken-finger concept Graves created in that college course became Raising Cane’s. More than 25 years after the first Cane’s opened, the company expects $3.6 billion in sales this year. The company is on pace to open 100 restaurants every 12 months.
Graves’ message is this: “It takes a lot of hard work, but it can happen.”
Baton Rouge, La., will forever be the home of Raising Cane’s, but its operations office is in Plano. True, Raising Cane’s isn’t one of the chain restaurants founded in Dallas, but the roots are planted in Texas. The company employs about 6,000 people in D-FW.
Graves shared more about Secret Sauce and his relationship to D-FW:
Where do you like to eat in Dallas?
“I’m a big fan of Dallas’ classic restaurants,” he said. “Mia’s is one of those, for me. ... I love that brisket taco; I crave it.”
Who is the most memorable person you met while filming Secret Sauce?
Singer Lauren Alaina stands out. “I wanted to do a Nashville episode on strong women,” Graves said. She talked about developing an eating disorder because of the negative comments she read on social media about her body. With every Secret Sauce story, there’s a message of triumph.
”How she blocks out the negative and learned to love herself: That, to me, was like, ‘wow’,” Graves said.
“I was really touched by that.”
Who else is on the Nashville episode?
Country singer Ashley McBryde and June Carter Cash’s daughter and granddaughter appear on the Nashville episode. Graves also visited “Mother” Maybelle Carter’s house and heard stories about June and Johnny Cash.
He remembers McBryde’s interview well. “She said, ‘You know what the difference between determined and crazy is? Crazy won’t quit.’”
Should we expect to see Todd Graves on TV again soon?
Maybe. Graves wants to gauge the impact of shows like Secret Sauce and Restaurant Recovery before he commits to doing more TV. But he likes the opportunity to let other entrepreneurs tell their stories.
“I love watching the people I have on the show, because they’re awesome. ... Watching yourself? I’m, like, ‘ugh,’” he laughed. “Watching everybody else is fun.”
Secret Sauce airs on Saturdays at noon on A&E. The Dallas episode is No. 7 of 10. Watch it at noon on March 25.