“There are no shortcuts. This ain’t a craft; this is a calling.”
– Anthony Bourdain, on slow barbecue
So it goes at Victory Smokehouse. Founder/owner Chris Callender knows this firsthand. Since November 2014, the weekends-only Smokehouse has been serving up slow Texas-style meats: brisket, pulled pork, sausage, and much more.
Hours of operation begin Friday morning. Callender arrives Thursday evening to fire up the smoker. He tends to the pit throughout the night, feeding more cherry or applewood as needed. Near Friday closing time, he and his staff have nearly sold out every piece of meat. It continues all weekend.
“Sometimes, it’ll be Saturday night and I won’t have slept since I woke up Thursday morning,” he says. It seems he wouldn’t have it any other way. Callender never planned on running a smokehouse as a career. It began as a hobby at age 15, with a pit given to him by his uncle. “It kind of progressed from a hobby into an obsession, then a competition.”
He played football while attending Wayne State University. Four years later, he obtained his civil engineering degree, then found work at BASF in Wyandotte. During that time, he would continually host cookouts at his bungalow in Royal Oak.
After a job promotion, Callender says a co-worker cajoled him, “Once you find that [passion for something], just go with it. I’m tired of sitting here every day listening to you talk about this.” After some hesitation, he realized, “You do what you can [by] looking at all the angles. But like anything, you don’t know what it’s going to be until you immerse yourself in it.” He quit his day job and found investors in the form of Victory Inn’s owners. “I did a show in St Louis with Mike Mills, eight-time grand champion.” The result of that visit is on YouTube.
“I really want to focus on the simplicity. We only offer two lines of sauce and it’s on the side. I’m not big on dressing [everything] up.”
The entire operation is housed in three shipping containers situated east of Victory Inn: one for the customer counter, one for the smoker behind it, and one to store extra supplies and tools. Callender’s engineering background proved useful during setup, which included installing the front door himself during winter. “I got frostbite in two fingers.” He shrugs it off as part of the job.
How many times have you read a food blog about an acclaimed BBQ stand and then came across some variation of this line? The brisket simply melted. Yes, it’s cliché. It’s also an accurate description of anything you get from Victory Smokehouse.
For more information, visit www.victorysmokehouse.com or call (248) 671-MEAT(6328)