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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Tennessee BBQ

< Back to Oral History project: Memphis Tennessee BBQ Project


Desiree Robinson

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.

We first visited Cozy Corner Restaurant in 2002 as part of our initial foray into documenting Memphis ‘cue, a project that included photographs, original essays and a smattering of oral history interviews. Visit the original Cozy Corner Restaurant page.


Date of interview:
2008-07-02 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Rien T. Fertel

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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