spent 20 years as a backup singer for
and other A-list acts -- but it's her second act as the life force behind a pair of popular St. Louis eateries and star of OWN's breakout hit
"Welcome to Sweetie Pie's"
that made her more famous than she could imagine.
Content to fill her customers up on the soul food she learned to cook from her mother, Miss Robbie's fierce devotion to family led her back into show business. "My son
wanted to do something on his own, but when this opportunity became available, he was like, 'Mom, you gotta do it. You gotta do it!' " she tells
, "So to help him along with his dream, I did it. I never thought that I would be back in the business again!"
Nor could she imagine how her faithful TV audience would carry the family through when Tim's first child,
T.J., arrived three months early, in the midst of filming. "It was so amazing that the whole world was praying with us," the grateful grandmother says. "When people see us now, the first thing they ask is, 'How's the baby?' And God has blessed us so tremendously that this baby is all right. In fact, he was at the restaurant yesterday. I took him into the kitchen and I told all the workers, 'If anybody messes up, I'm grooming him to step in your place!' "
With T.J. thriving, Montgomery has turned her attention to her newest baby, The Upper Crust -- the third restaurant in the Sweetie Pie's franchise, for which Montgomery got the go-ahead in the fall finale. "That's part of our show now, seeing the construction," she says of the spring season, which begins Saturday, March 31, "and you're going to see the baby come home, and we're planning for a wedding!" Though Montgomery says she and Tim will add a few health-minded options to The Upper Crust menu, "my thing is if it's not broke, don't fix it."
What will never change is Montgomery's devotion to her customers, who now arrive from around the globe and wait in line for hours to get a taste of the Sweetie Pie's experience. "I am honored to go out there and take pictures, and they tell me how I'm an inspiration to them," she says. "It makes me feel very warmhearted. I love my customers and they seem to love Miss Robbie. I eat it up! I just eat it up!"
What are you currently reading?
"I'm at work seven days a week, so if I read, it's cookbooks because I'm always trying to improve my ideas and my menu."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"I had collard greens, turkey wings, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread -- at Sweetie Pie's!"
What is your next project?
"We're going to have new products coming out -- T-shirts, things like that."
Where and when was the last vacation you took?
"Two years ago I went to Las Vegas. I love Vegas! I always stay at the MGM, and I know that hotel like the back of my hand."