Desiree Robinson: This 85-Year-Old Pitmaster Just Became the First Black Woman Inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame

Desiree Robinson


Desiree Robinson is the first African-American woman to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. The 85-year-old is the matriarch of Cozy Corner, a long-running family-owned restaurant in North Memphis.

Robinson has been credited with guaranteeing the restaurant’s continued success since it first debuted in 1977 as a family business. She told Fox 13 that she co-founded the restaurant with her late husband, whom she describes as an amazing 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 attributed the restaurant’s success to her husband’s tasty meals and his rapport with clients. “He never met somebody who didn’t fall in love with him,” Robinson said. “He was the most endearing person I’d ever met. He also had the personality. Oh my gosh, he was adored by everyone. People liked him because he liked people.”

Following her husband’s death in 2001, she took over the firm and guided it to new heights. She made history in 2020 as the pitmaster of Cozy Corner, becoming not only the first Black woman, but also the first living Black person, to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. Although three other Negroes have previously been inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, 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.


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