Super foodie

By Susan Peterson

Kat Robinson is a nationally recognized expert on the food of Arkansas. Today she makes her living researching and writing about what Arkansans love to eat and where we eat it.

Since the publication of her first book in 2012, “Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of The Natural State,” Kat has been documenting our state’s culinary traditions. She now writes full-time and has published nine books, all of which focus on a particular aspect of Arkansas food culture.

Her previous jobs, which used journalism, promotion, research, organization, and marketing, all contributed to her becoming our state’s go-to expert when Food Network, Lonely Planet, or USA Today need input on the Arkansas food scene.

Kat Robinson introduces readers to the past and future.

Kat graduated from Parkview High School in 1991 and then earned a degree in journalism with a specialty in radio broadcasting from Arkansas Tech. After working for radio station KARN and TV station KAIT, she became the producer of Today’s THV Morning Show for eight years. She worked for two years at the Department of Parks and Tourism to gain more opportunities to travel the state.   

While employed full-time, Kat still found the time to write. Her “Tie Dye Travels” blog and numerous publications caught the eye of editors at The History Press, and in 2012 they asked her to submit book possibilities. There was just one catch — everything had to be submitted in just 30 days. Kate had previously written several pieces about pies in the state, so it made sense to build upon that research. And thus, “Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of The Natural State” was published.

Kat found her niche, so she continued to travel and learn as much as she could about Arkansas eateries and what they serve. She published three more books over the next two years with The History Press.

AETN hired Kat to host the show “Make Room for Pie” in 2016 through 2018. It was a nostalgic tour that featured diverse cafes and bakeries from the Ozarks to the Delta and many points in between, including Patty Cakes Bakery in Conway.

The TV program revived interest in her book on pies, however it came as a surprise to Kat to find out that her book was no longer in print. So, she decided it was time to be her own publisher, and in 2018 she started Tonti Press, named after French explorer Henri de Tonti, who was the first Arkansas Traveler. The company’s first title was “Another Slice of Arkansas Pie.”

Kat’s restaurant visits and writing about them came to a sudden halt in March 2020 because of COVID-19. In her typical “can-do” mode, she merely altered her course a bit and spent time writing two cookbooks from home. The first, “43 Tables: An Internet Community Cooks During Quarantine” is a collection of more than 80 recipes from 43 friends who shared their quarantined cooking adventures online. The second is her own cookbook, “A Bite of Arkansas,” which was published in December 2020. “I did it all – even the food photography,” she said. 

Kat is not sure what the restaurant scene will be like post-COVID-19, but she looks forward to the time that she can enjoy a full restaurant experience again. She noted that dairy bars, those locally owned buildings where you typically place your order at a window and eat in your car, are especially suited for this time and are doing well. She has a book about them in the planning stages.

Even Kat’s hobbies involve a culinary interest. She is a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that reenacts pre-17th-century life. She has become their expert on medieval food and cooking. Her historical research also centers on more recent Arkansas favorites, such as cheese dip and catfish.

Describing Kat’s current job description could include food historian, travel writer, TV host, chef, food correspondent, road warrior, photographer, publisher, and storyteller. But mostly, she is an Arkansas treasure, helping us and the world understand and respect our culinary history and the importance it can play in promoting a positive vision of our state. Tourists are now embarking on the “Pie Trail,” thanks to her vision. Using this foresight, she knows the important role agri-tourism can play in our state in the coming decade, and she wants to be a part of it.

Kat’s next publication is “Arkansas Church and Community Cookbook Collection Vol. 1,” which includes favorite recipes gleaned and updated from her collection of more than 400 such cookbooks. She marvels on how certain dishes or ingredients (aspic, for example) fall in and out of popularity.

She lives in Little Rock with her partner, Grav Weldon, and her 12-year-old daughter, Hunter Robinson. Looking ahead, Kat is hoping to publish more books with a mission to tell the stories of Arkansas. Her new podcast, “Kat Robinson’s Arkansas,” is on hold until after COVID-19, as is speaking to groups in person.

Her books are available from the Tonti Press online shop (Tontipress.com), numerous stores throughout the state, and online vendors. To read more about Kat and her culinary ventures, visit her blog at TieDyeTravels.com.

Susan Peterson
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