Singing hasn't taken a backseat to Patti LaBelle's burgeoning food empire.
The 71-year-old R&B legend will bring her tour to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday to the delight of fans from her more than five-decade career. But if you've spent any time on the Internet in the past six months, you know that LaBelle has become synonymous with store-bought desserts, something she couldn't have predicted even as she sung about Lady Marmalade.
In November, LaBelle launched a line of sweet potato pies sold exclusively at Walmart under the brand name Patti's Good Life. Immediately, the pies set off an Internet lovefest from fans raving about #PattiPies in tweets, Instagram posts and one particularly memorable video review. She followed up in January with a vanilla pound cake and caramel cake that also drew praise.
As an avid cook who happens to be diabetic, LaBelle has penned several cookbooks revising soul food standards for people with her disease.
Ahead of her show in Tampa, LaBelle talked to the Times about Good Life's future, her favorite foods and what being diabetic taught her about eating.
You've got a lot going on with touring and running a food empire. What's priority one?
Both. They are head to head, you know. None is more important than the other. I do them both and I hope I'm doing them well.
You're constantly on the road. When do you have time to cook?
I had time to cook today in my suite. There's a Whole Foods store around here and I always carry my electric fry pan and I have two major pots. So I made some kale, you know, that I can make in my room. And I sauteed some fish and had a salad. So I can always find things to cook and time to cook. And when I go home, I cook as soon as I get home because I miss my own food.
What's your go-to recipe when you are hosting?
It would be what (my guests) request and usually it would be the macaroni with the eight cheeses, lobster and shrimp or potato salad or greens or peach cobbler. So many things. Whatever they want. I cook but I don't eat it all because I'm a diabetic. So I cook and they eat and I taste it.
How do you adjust your cooking because of your diabetes?
It's easy because I've been a diabetic for 20 years. I know how to pass on all that good fried chicken and all that stuff that I make. I can taste a bit of it and pass it on. Before I would eat the whole fried chicken but I've learned. I learned to live. That's what it is. I learned to live.
What's the guilty pleasure food you can't pass on?
If it's a great cheesecake, just a great cheesecake, no strawberries, no nothing. Juniors in New York (City) has the best cheesecake. Well, I think it's the best.
Now that you're established in both music and food, which has the most loyal following?
I say again, I think they are both equal. I've been singing for 52 years. I've been in the mix for all that time and I have a bunch of loyal fans who follow the music and now they're following the food. The food comes after the music — waaaaay after the music with people knowing about my cooking. So now they're doing both. They are buying the pies, eating them and buying the music or listening to me or whatever they can do as far as both things that I do. They are interested. I guess that's how I would say it. They are interested in both.
What's next for the Patti's Good Life brand?
There is a pound cake out now, caramel cake and eight other items coming out that I can't talk about. I wish I could tell you these things — what they are — but I can't.
What sort of reviews have you been getting for #PattiPies among your music contemporaries?
I'm so honored. I'm blessed because they love the pies and the cakes. I think people are a little skeptical when you're a singer and you put food out because they'll say it's not going to be good or it's not going to be whatever. I think a lot of people were surprised that the pies and cakes are delicious.
What's your favorite health food?
I would say kale. I don't cook it with a lot of stuff like smoked turkey or ham hocks. I saute the kale with onions and garlic and a little bit of grapeseed oil. And then my second favorite would be heirloom tomatoes with arugula, cilantro and onions and garlic with a light oil dressing. And they are pretty healthy and I wish I had it now. Actually, I'm going to go make some if I have time before I leave this room.
Contact Robbyn Mitchell at email@example.com. Follow @RMitchellTimes.