Barbecue ribs from Soul Food Kitchen.
Barbecue ribs from Soul Food Kitchen. Photo: Melissa Adams

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When Victor Kimble was growing up, Independence Day in Birmingham, Alabama, meant barbecue smoke right through the neighbourhood.

"You could smell barbecue for miles, everyone had a barbecue going, pork ribs on the grill," he says. "In those days you would use those those big round washtubs and put wire mesh over it, because the deeper the tub the longer you could cook."

Victor Kimble
Victor Kimble

His mum and grandmother would be in the kitchen, preparing salads and side dishes. The men would be out in the backyard, playing cards and checkers and looking after the grill. "And the children would be running around and listening to music and dancing and eating watermelon. There was so much watermelon," he says with a laugh. And at night there would be fireworks. 

Now, Kimble celebrates the day in Canberra, where his restaurant Soul Food Kitchen at Erindale shops, where he serves up southern cooking from his Alabama roots.  "I’m doing a traditional southern barbecue buffet, there’s going to be barbecue ribs, barbecue chicken. A roasted chicken is a barbecue chicken for Australians but ours is very different. It’s different in the fact that we cook it in the grill just like you do with the ribs, with hot charcoal, you smoke em, you slow cook em. And when you smell the salt cooking on those ribs it’s a beautiful aroma."

Kimble's got potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans (slow cooked with bacon and onions and ground beef, nothing like your typical Heinz) and desserts include pound cake, apple pie and sweet potato pie. He says people sometimes don't realise that he does southern-style barbecue, rather than Texas-style. "Texas has their own way of doing things, the deep south is very different," he says."I think that’s where a lot of confusion comes especially with the Australian public."

The other essential thing, he reckons, is the music. His childhood memories include the sound of Motown in summer, the guy down the street who would play the Four Tops all day, all night. In the restaurant Kimble occasionally puts on a live band - there'll be a blues duo this week for the Fourth of July - and has been known to hop on stage with his trombone to join the band. It just adds a southern spin to everything. "Food is meant to be enjoyed with people and music. I just think that people tend to take things too serious when it comes to food," he says. "You’re supposed to come in, enjoy yourself, enjoy the music, take your time and have a dance."