The Vaucresson family is the longest-running food vendor at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, starting with the very first event in 1970 in Congo Square. The family later started a commercial sausage business in the 7th Ward. Their factory has been closed since Hurricane Katrina, but the Vaucressons now produce their sausage at a facility in Kenner and continue to work festivals. Vance Vaucresson is carrying the family tradition into the second generation, and he wants to return the brand to grocery stores in the future.
What's it been like having Jazz Fest in your family's tradition?
Vaucresson: For years growing up, the Fair Grounds was my playground. Back at the start, the crowds weren't huge, so my parents just let me run around and I got to know all the other vendors. It was just an exciting time of the year for me every year.
We know about Italian sausage and Polish sausage and such. Is there a specific New Orleans-style sausage?
V: My parents always worked within the traditions of Creoles of color, and I think that is what we have here. We've always had Creole chaurice, which is like a Creole hot sausage. It has layers of flavor to it but it also has a kick. We've always tended to produce a very flavorful sausage that's spicy. People make it different ways. It usually has pork in it, but I make it with beef and pork. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, we're just upholding our tradition.
How has the festival food vendor business changed over the years?
V: At one time, if you had a festival you had to call around and sometimes beg people to come do food. But now, because of Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest and the way they've just blown up, you're seeing restaurants and high-end places out there at these events all the time. It's because they see it as a good chance to build their name. You've got to get out in front of consumers and get your product in their hands. There's nothing else like that for building your business, and it's research, too, because people will tell you right away what they think. Believe me, they're honest about it. — IAN MCNULTY