Legendary. Iconic. Resilient. Re-invented. There are so many more superlatives to describe Miss Robbie Montgomery, the matriarch of OWN Network’s first hit show – Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s. On the docu-series, Miss Robbie manages a chain of restaurants in her hometown, St. Louis, MO, along with her son Tim and the rest of the family. There are her sisters, her nephew, her adorable little grandson TJ and TJ’s mom. And then there is the food, and the business of satisfying customers who expect crispy fried chicken, smothered pork chops, mac and cheese, stewed okra and sky-high sweet potato pie.
Well, this week at Billie’s Black presents All Star Karaoke with Patrick L. Riley – my weekly karaoke series – Miss Robbie and Tim popped by for soul food and song, making for an enchanting night. The intimate room was bustling with New York City tastemakers, including Ryan Williams, Manager of Multicultural Initiatives for NBC News; Amber Payne, Managing Editor of NBCBLK; Miss Candi Carter, new Executive Producer of The View; Miko Branch, Miss Jessie’s CEO; celebrity make-up artist, Merrell Hollis; and celebrity hairstylist, Carla Bone.
Miss Robbie and Tim took the time to speak with the All Star Karaoke audience and me about her latest project, Sweetie Pie’s Cookbook: Soulful Southern Recipes, from My Family to Yours (Amistad), what she and Tim have been working on of late and her deeply-felt memories of sisterhood with rock and soul legend Tina Turner.
Sweetie Pie’s Cookbook: Soulful Southern Recipes, from My Family to Yours is available wherever books are sold. Purchase.
Q&A with Patrick L. Riley, Miss Robbie & Tim
Patrick: Yes, at the beginning of their reality run on The Oprah Winfrey Network. It is the first hit on OWN. I love to say. Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s! Come on up here and let everybody see you. Now, Miss Robbie is an iconic, legendary singer. Miss Robbie Montgomery, let’s give her a hand ladies and gentleman. And Mr. Tim.
Patrick: He comes to you with this idea to do a reality show capturing your life running this amazing, family owned restaurant in St. Louis …
Miss Robbie: Yes.
Patrick: … and letting everybody into the dynamics that are your sisters and your daughter and your grandson and all the players. Did you ever think that it would be the hit that it is today?
Miss Robbie: I never thought it. When Tim first approached me…
Tim: She cursed me out.
Miss Robbie: …I cursed him out and I’m like, “ain’t nothing funny about them effin’ up my food,” and I meant that. He was like, “come on mama, let’s do it. Let’s do it,” so with his encouragement, we decided to do it. Tim had the dream. I’m just a part of it and here we are, today.
Patrick: Now here you are today.
Miss Robbie: Yes.
Patrick: We’re so happy they’re here today because we’re talking about a couple of things the, your book. And is this season 5 coming up?
Tim: They call it season 5, but this is our 9th premier.
Patrick: It’s your 9th premier. That’s a huge success, absolutely, and so you’re going to be back on Saturday at 9 on OWN. We want you all to tune in. I want to make sure I do all the proper hashtags, so #sweetiepies and you can do #owntv, as well. For any of you here tonight, you can do #billiesblack, #allstarkaraoke, because we want to make sure the vibration for viewership gets out there because we want to keep the excitement. Now, how you going to keep the excitement to us? You got to give us the scoop about what we can expect.
Tim: Well, the first thing you can expect is… Let’s say the Beverly Hillbillies going to California, so you see a bunch of folks from St. Louis moving out to California [where they have] all the juices and the gyms all over the place …
Patrick: Oh, that’s good!
Tim: … and going green and vegan. Everybody wants to be healthy and here we come with some soul food.
Patrick: Yeah, how you going to survive as a soul food restaurant in the land of the vegan and kale and all of that?
Miss Robbie: It can be done, okay?
Tim: We doing it, we doing it.
Patrick: We’re excited about that. Meanwhile, you’re giving away all your trade secrets in your cookbook, Sweetie Pie’s: Soulful Southern Recipes From My Family To Yours. We want to call a good recipe from this if you can’t cook for Thanksgiving. We want to call this a good stocking stuffer for the holidays. What sets this book apart?
Miss Robbie: These are my mom’s recipes and everybody thinks they mom can cook better than anybody else. I know mine can. I put it in print. You know, people come in the restaurant and want to know, “I haven’t had this since my mom,” like we make peach cobbler and all that stuff, “I haven’t had it since my grandmother,” or something like that. I’m like, “Did you get the recipe?” Nobody gets the recipe.
Patrick: That’s why we all go to Wal-Mart looking for Patti Pies because nobody got the sweet potato recipe, sweet potato recipe, am I right? Yes.
Miss Robbie: The recipe is right here. We teach each other how to cook. My family’s grown so big since Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, so I had to put it in a cookbook so the whole world could see it.
Patrick: Yes, absolutely. You can see it. You can share it.
Patrick: Tim, have you come around? [regarding Miss Robbie’s Mohawk hairstyle]
Tim: Leave it alone. If she wants to rock the Mohawk, she can rock the Mohawk.
Patrick: Yeah, Miss Robbie can rock the Mohawk.
Miss Robbie: Yes.
Patrick: Now, what many of you don’t know is, Miss Robbie didn’t just start with Sweetie Pie’s. She is musical history. You know here at Billy’s Black we do all kinds of music that covers all kinds of history and we study it and then we’re excited about it. Well, she is an icon, so I would love it if you could tell us a little bit about the times, the days, when you were singing with Ike and Tina Turner. Just tell us a little. Just give us a little anecdote.
Miss Robbie: You know what, when I left St. Louis with Ike and Tina, I had all these dreams of being this big time singer, someone would come to my dressing room saying (because I used to watch the movies) … Knock, knock, knock on the door, “Miss Robbie, you’ve got 5 minutes.” Well, I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting, but leaving St. Louis with Ike and Tina was really an experience. It was a good learning point for me. I run my business the way Ike ran his, not the fighting part. But he was a smart man.
Patrick: He was disciplined, too.
Miss Robbie: Yeah, he was disciplined and so I took all that and applied it to my business. You got to be on time. You got to rehearse.
Patrick: Are they letting some of that tape out. We’re not seeing some of that tape where you’re beating them.
Miss Robbie: You’re not seeing that part.
Miss Robbie: I learned you have to be disciplined because in your business, your dream, nobody’s dream but yours, so you got to make sure it’s right.
Patrick: Speaking of a dream, it was last season where we saw Miss Anna Mae Bullock on Oprah. Did you see that Oprah’s Next Chapter, where she got choked up talking about how special a friend you were to her during a very challenging time with Ike. Can you talk about how that moment made you feel? I saw you watching it with your sisters, but did you have a clue that she remembered you that way?
Miss Robbie: No, I did not. I mean, I was so touched when I saw that because everybody was saying, “She doesn’t really remember her past. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with her past,” but I was her past. I mean, we were like sisters, so when I saw that … I mean, I often thought about it. When I left Ike and Tina, it was really hard for me to leave her because she was like a sister and I had to leave her because I had to go on and she was content at that time, doing what she was doing. When I saw that, I mean, I just boo-hood because it was so touching to know that she remembered me as a special person. I’m truly blessed to have people like that in my life, and all of you.
Patrick: Absolutely, we love Miss Robbie. Now Tim, you’re the enterprising one. You’ve got all the next great ideas. Can you-
Miss Robbie: Too many ideas!
Patrick: He’s got a lot of ideas, so can you give us a hint of some good ideas that you’re working on?
Tim: Well, one thing you’re definitely going to see this upcoming season is Miss Robbie is picking up the microphone and getting back in the studio.
Patrick: Woo, yes.
Miss Robbie: And he’s producing it. Actually, I’m enjoying working with him because when Tim was a little kid when I was singing, he didn’t really get into the music and stuff and now he’s into the music business. It’s really uplifting for me!