Despite barbecue’s roots in Black and Native American traditions, the American barbecue boom continues to exclude Black pitmasters—especially Black women pitmasters. That’s why today’s ‘cue news is so promising: On October 27, 83-year-old Desiree Robinson, co-founder and pitmaster at Cozy Corner in Memphis, became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.
Robinson opened Cozy Corner with her late husband, Raymond Robinson, in 1977. Since then, Cozy Corner has become a must-visit pit stop (a little barbecue humor), appearing in glossy publications like Bon Appétit and even meriting a visit from sweet prince Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
While Robinson’s late husband initially engineered the recipes and oversaw the barbecue pits, she was quick to take over cooking after his death in 2001. Robinson’s decades of ingenuity catapulted the restaurant to fame—and now, her recognition hopefully marks a shift in the glaringly white competitive barbecue scene. Food & Wine reports that the Barbecue Hall of Fame has previously inducted only three Black honorees, all men and all inducted posthumously. Food & Wine quotes barbecue scholar Adrian Miller, a member of the Hall of Fame nominating committee who acknowledges the discrepancy:
“She shines a light on the fact that African-American women have been in the barbecue game for a long time. The way that barbecue is presented to most people is so masculinized. It seems like an old boys’ club, but that has not been the African-American experience. Black women have been tending the pit from the earliest days.”
Hopefully Robinson’s recognition is the first of many more for Black women in the restaurant biz, in and out of the barbecue pit. Do you have a favorite Black-owned barbecue restaurant in the U.S.? Sound off in the comments.