Ross and Sharonda Baudy met in Katy, Texas. “I didn’t like him at first,” says Sharonda. Ross, who moved from Gentilly to Texas after Katrina, had purchased the nightclub at which she was the general manager. “He came in and fired everyone!”
The two laugh before he says, “I thought about firing you, too, but I didn’t.” Eye rolls and disdain eventually transformed to love and marriage. Ross always knew he wanted to return home to New Orleans, and after seven years in Houston working in the depths of the service-industry world, the two set out on a new venture together, with a goal of owning restaurants and bars. Inspired by what they saw on a trip to Austin, the Baudys decided to take a gamble, and be a part of the food-truck evolution. This would bring Ross back to his hometown, to open a food spot like nothing else available in New Orleans (or Louisiana, for that matter). The first food-truck park in the city was born. With the success of these parks in cities like Austin, San Francisco, Portland, Nashville, Boulder, and Atlanta, Ross and Sharonda Baudy thought: Why not here?
The Baudys opened Deja Vieux Food Park in March 2018. This was no easy feat. “No one knew how to regulate it, ’cause it was the first one,” says Ross. After purchasing the lot on Religious Street, it took two years to get all the proper clearances to open. If you’ve ever tried to get a city permit to build on your own property, or had to call the Sewerage and Water Board to dispute your astronomical bill, imagine multiplying that stress by a thousand. Headaches ensued. “We’ve put everything we have into this place. It’s been challenging. We’ve had to keep our heads above water, but God is good,” says Sharonda.
You may have passed Deja Vieux before. Quite often, they get mistaken for a movie lot.
It’s tough to open a business in this city, let alone a restaurant, let alone a business with several mini restaurants on the same property. The process to get the doors open seemed to have no end, and once open the competition is fierce. Places open and close as quickly as every relationship I had in my twenties. Starting small and learning through trial and error with a lot of patience and teamwork is what’s kept the Baudys’ food truck park dream alive. As Ross puts it, “It’s a blessing. If I’m not here, she’s here. We get to create together, and we share the same vision.”
This labor of love is truly a family affair. Upon arriving to interview the Baudys, the first thing I saw was the two of them, working together outside of a food truck, Soulsation Kitchen. Ross’ son Justin and Sharonda’s son DeMarcus both help mom and pops with the operation. The mural painted across the bar and bathrooms (made from an old shipping container) was painted by Ross’ nephew.
Not only is it all in their family, but Sharonda and Ross agreed it’s the perfect place for the families of others. “If a family goes out to eat, there’s no pleasing everyone. This kid wants this, the other wants that. We bring variety. Kids can’t run around a restaurant and play games. They can here.” There’s dominoes, darts, corn hole, giant playing cards, and most importantly for the youth of today, Wi-Fi. Dog families are welcome too: the Baudys are stocked for your pooches with doggie bowls, doggie beer, and even poop bags.
The lot can hold up to seven food trucks at a time. It varies who and how many on a daily basis, but you will never go hungry. There are always two mainstays: Johnny’s Jamaican Grill, specializing in jerk chicken, curry and oxtail, and Sharonda’s truck, Soulsation Kitchen. “It’s named that because I’m country, I’m from Texas, and I’ve got soul,” says Sharonda. Her wings are named after soulful folks as well; you can order the Patti Labelle, Fats Domino, and The Temptations. Themed nights at the park rotate weekly, monthly, and seasonally. Ross updates the Instagram account (@dejavieuxfoodpark) on a daily basis to keep customers informed. Deja Vieux’s popular Caribbean Night is every Friday, with live DJs.
The space is open and airy, with a fully stocked bar. Whiffs of Jamaican jerk chicken pass by with every gust of wind that randomly sweeps through, as semis roll by, one after another. There is seating for days, plus umbrellas, a sign that reads “Bon Appetit,” and giant Jenga games line the bar tables. TVs hang from above, there are tiki torches throughout, and island music plays in the background. Between the breeze, the fans, and the shade, the 80-percent humidity is bearable. The Deja Vieux Food Park is just like the Soulsation truck reads: “We’re not fancy. We’re just soulful.”
For full details check out www.dejavieuxfoodpark.com.