Desiree Robinson is the first Black woman to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. The 85-year-old is the matriarch of the long-standing family-owned restaurant Cozy Corner in North Memphis.
The restaurant first opened in 1977 as a family business, and Robinson has been credited with ensuring its continuing success. Reflecting on her journey, she told Fox 13 that she co-founded the restaurant with her late husband whom she describes as an awesome cook.
“My husband was an awesome cook, and I’m good, but not nearly as good as he was. “I’m telling you it blew my mind. It started with him. He built it for us,” Robinson said.
She said her husband’s flavorful recipes and his connection with customers helped the restaurant succeed. “He never met a person that didn’t fall in love with him,” said Robinson. “He was the most likeable person I have ever met in my life. And, he had the personality. Oh my goodness, everybody loved him. People just liked him and he liked people.”
Following the demise of her husband in 2001, she took over the running of the business and steered it to greater heights. As pitmaster of Cozy Corner, she made history in 2020 after becoming not only the first Black woman but the first living Black person to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. Although the Barbecue Hall of Fame had in the past inducted three other Blacks, they were all deceased.
Commenting on how she feels following her historic feat, she told Fox 13, “I wish I could describe it to you,” said Robinson. “You just can’t imagine how good it makes me feel. I’m blessed because I know it’s all about how it got started and maintained.”
Cozy Corner, which is now four generations in, is managed with the support of her children. “Our kids don’t stay home for nap time when they’re coming up, little kids,” said Robinson. “They go to the Cozy Corner every day and go to the back and have their nap, come out and socialize with the customers.
“And when they’re old enough, they’ll wipe down tables, wait, whatever is age appropriate.” The 85-year-old pitmaster added that the restaurant continues to practice the tradition of greeting every customer that walks in. Robinson said she wants every customer to know that they are at home.
“I want them to know that they are welcomed and I want them to know that I want them to come back. So they’re going to eat good and they’re going to be treated right,” she noted.