Photo by Rien T. Fertel, 2008.
To kick off SFA's year of barbecue, check out this okracast featuring female pitmaster Desiree Robinson of the Cozy Corner Restaurant in Memphis, TN. SFA first interviewed Mrs. Robinson back in 2002 when the oral history initiative was brand new. Rien Fertel conducted this follow up interview in 2008.
Family and the restaurant Raymond Robinson built are inseparable. Four generations of Robinsons work at Cozy Corner, opened in 1977. The founder’s daughter Val Bradley oversees operations. Grandson Shun Williams not yet a teenager, works the cash register with great aplomb. And in the business’ third decade, Raymond’s widow Desiree Robinson—though never having done so before—assumed the duty of part-time pit-cook following his passing.
A well-established element of the Memphis barbecue tradition, things are nevertheless done a bit differently here. A Chicagoan, aquarium-style barbecue pit in the front of the restaurant greets customers. Sliced instead of chopped pork dresses the sandwiches and plates. Smoked turkey and barbecued Cornish hens are specialties.
The smoke, the eclectic soundtrack, the family are all testaments to Raymond Robinson’s legacy. Forsaking retirement, Mrs. Robinson vows that she will never stop working at the Cozy Corner.
This oral history is a part of the Southern BBQ Trail documentary project. Look for more barbecue oral histories from Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky in the coming months.
Grab some headphones and go!