STAFF PICK: THE VOUS
By Travis Broughton
I have always loved BBQ. Few things bring people together, like the long, slow, hot, smoky process of cooking BBQ. One of my earliest memories, from about four years old, was my father digging a pit in the backyard, making a big fire, and cooking pit-fired burlap-wrapped brisket for his employees and their families. Since then, I have ventured far and wide to enjoy the offerings of the best smoke shacks around. From family parties as a child at the Quarters in Albuquerque, NM, to the meccas of Central Texas BBQ, I have waited many hours in long lines for brisket, sausage, pulled pork, and ribs.
The first place I waited three-plus hours for BBQ was at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee. We were in town for a night before venturing down to Oxford, Mississippi, for a college trip to Ole Miss. I fell in love with the city. I accompanied my parents while they enjoyed cocktails in the Peabody lobby, we walked Beale Street, and listened to the Blues, but the highlight for me were the ribs at the Rendezvous. It was something about the wait, the anticipation, and the environment that all added to the experience, one which I will never forget. I have been back several times since then, and it is always worth the wait for a table.
Jack Porter Lofton and Jeffrey Dailey’s documentary The ‘Vous examines what has made the Rendezvous a Memphis institution as it celebrates its 70th Anniversary. While they talk about the amazing food, the secret dry-rub, and the delicious sauce, the story focuses on what has made the restaurant such a triumph, the staff. After spending as much as 50 years on the floor and in the kitchen, often being their only job, and having entered or nearing retirement, you meet the proud black men who have been the pillars of success to the three-generation family business. These men exemplified the pride and passion that is earned by a lifetime of hard work. Now the time has come for them to move on, and the Vergo family must find a way to continue to provide its customers with why they come back to the ‘Vous time and time again, feeling like they are part of the family.
It’s funny how much this story speaks to my experience with BBQ and the extreme efforts that go into perfecting it. BBQ is a culture built mainly out of necessity, which fosters community, and fills not just your belly but your soul. Vast portions of a variety of meats, accompanied by an assortment of sides and washed down with ice-cold beer or tea, always play second fiddle to the real star of great BBQ- connection with those you enjoy it with, rather it is in that three-hour line or fighting over the last rib in the basket. The ‘Vous shows the true importance of the smoke, sweat, and hard work that goes into BBQ- family.
(USA, 82 MIN)
Writer/Director: Jack Porter Lofton and Jeffrey Dailey
Make sure you catch one of two showings of The ‘Vous while at AFF: