“Stay with the pig until he makes a hog” was the never-quit philosophy of the late Grace Proffitt, who opened the Ridgewood Restaurant near Bluff City in 1948 with her husband Jim.
East Tennessee State University tells the story of the Proffitt family and their barbecue business in a new documentary film, “Smoke in the Holler: The Saucy Story of Ridgewood Barbecue.”
“Although Grace Proffitt died in 2003, she is very much a presence in this film,” says project director Fred Sauceman. “Among the footage we succeeded in obtaining was her 1983 appearance on ABC television’s ‘Good Morning America.’”
The 26-minute film, produced by ETSU’s Office of University Relations and Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, traces the restaurant’s evolution from beer joint to barbecue house. Grace’s son Larry Proffitt, a pharmacist by trade, describes in detail how the restaurant barbecues fresh ham, in a pit with hickory wood.
“To me, barbecue has the connotation of smoke and fire,” Larry Proffitt says at the beginning of the film. “Our beef’s good, but that hog meat’s special.”
NASCAR legend and North Carolinian Junior Johnson adds a barbecue testimonial and is shown in the film trying Ridgewood’s blue cheese dressing on crackers for the first time. Tri-Cities radio veteran Dave Hogan provides commentary on such topics as beans and sweet tea.
“The Proffitt family and the families of our employees are thankful and humbled by this film on Ridgewood Barbecue and especially for its recognition of the generations of our family that have gone on before us,” Larry Proffitt said.
“Smoke in the Holler: The Saucy Story of Ridgewood Barbecue” is available for purchase through etsustore.com.
For more information, call the ETSU Office of University Relations at (423) 439-4317.