Dessert First

Talking With the Sisters Behind Phoenix's Queens of Cobbler

The Queens of Cobbler are. from left to right, Vicki, Verdie, and Valeria Hill.
The Queens of Cobbler are. from left to right, Vicki, Verdie, and Valeria Hill. Bahar Anooshahr
Twin sisters Vicki and Verdie Hill, plus their younger sister Valeria, are the queens behind the cobblers — a.k.a. Queens of Cobbler.

It all started with peaches.

“Our mother used to make a mean peach cobbler, as did her mother,” Verdie says, who used to co-own J.D. Hoggs BBQ Co. with her now ex-husband. He took care of the meat and sauces; she did sides and desserts. (Phoenix New Times awarded the barbecue joint "Best Ribs" in 2003.)

Verdie’s house was then open every Sunday to family and friends.

“People would bring meats to grill. I’d make a peach cobbler or other desserts. We’d be by the pool or playing cards or dominos. And it just developed,” she says. Enjoying the food so much, friends and family encouraged her and her then-husband to open a restaurant. “When we finally did,” Verdie says, “the cobbler took on a life of its own. It would sell out every day. Customers would call on their way to work to reserve pieces of cobbler for pickup in the evening.”

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Verdie Hill, former co-owner of J.D. Hoggs BBQ Co. and current co-owner of Queens of Cobbler.
Queens of Cobbler
The restaurant stayed in business for seven years, even opening a location at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It once received a large catering order from a group that traveled for reunions, and had picked Phoenix “because you have the best peach cobbler in the world.” Verdie took it as a big compliment.

Younger sister Valeria also supplied peach cobbler to a couple of small barbecue restaurants. She got her start when she decided to make personal-sized cobblers for a gathering. She impressed the guests so much she received an order for a graduation party. “They didn’t want to serve cake, and they had 200 guests,” Valeria says. “I said, 'Can I do a big sheet pan?' They said, No. We want individual ones.' After that, I approached restaurants.”

But the Hill sisters got their exposure to food and business long before Verdie’s Sunday parties. Their Southern parents (mother from Texas, father from Oklahoma) loved feeding people. They remember their dad taking orders for their mom’s cooking and selling her baked goods to family and friends. He also encouraged the girls to experience new foods from a young age.

“Our dad would give us a dollar to try a new food," Valeria says. "On Sundays, we would have to bake a cake or take turns cooking family dinners." Those who had experienced the Hill family’s baked goods would ask for them in times of need. “If somebody was in the hospital and you asked, 'What could I do for you?' They’d say, 'Well, I could use some of them cobblers,'” Verdie says.

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Cobbler creator Valeria Hill.
Queens of Cobbler
Verdie stayed out of the food business after closing her restaurants, despite her sons urging her to get back into it. “I just didn’t have the time or energy for it,” she says. “Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August [2019] and had to stay home. So, I started thinking about possibilities. My sons suggested a food truck. But I thought: What about the cobblers? Let’s just do the cobblers and take them to the next level.”

Most of the ideas came from Verdie during her chemotherapy. “I had insomnia,” she says. “So, I would be home watching Shark Tank and coming up with all these ideas. Except I had to hold on until people woke up. The second I thought one of the family members might be up, I’d send a whole long text message with my ideas to everyone.”

Not all the recipients appreciated the early morning texts. “I’d think, this is early. I'm gonna need the sun to come up first,” Valeria says.

Verdie laughs it off. “We are dysfunctionally close.” Then she turns serious, “You miss every shot you don’t take. So, I told the family, 'We’re gonna take our shot, y’all.'”

When asked how she had the energy to think about cobblers while going through chemotherapy, Verdie says, with a jolt of energy, "That’s what we do.” The other sisters join in, “We give people food,” they say.

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Vicki Hill, the creative director.
Queens of Cobbler
Inspired by Patti LaBelle, the Queens wish eventually to sell their cobblers at grocery stores. They did a soft launch with an announcement on social media in December 2019. Not long after, their first review came from Curbside Pickup, a team of two Atlanta food reviewers. “When my son sent me the video, I was so worried about it, I pressed play and covered my face in my hands,” Verdie says. But she heard, “Patti ain’t got nothing on this. Queens of Cobbler, y’all need to come to Georgia. We are giving you five stars.”

The good reviews and feedback came in from the family as well.

The cobblers currently are baked in an FDA-approved commercial kitchen in Phoenix. The Hill sisters plan to use another kitchen in San Jacinto, California, where Vicki and Verdie live. Since all three sisters have full-time jobs, they supply the recipes to a baker Verdie knew from her restaurant days.

Currently, their family-sized (six large pieces) homemade mixed berry and peach cobblers sell for $14. They also offer catering for large parties. Vicki, the creative director, is responsible for coming up with new flavors. A few in the making include caramel apple, white chocolate raspberry, and chocolate caramel pecan.

The website is under construction, but orders can be placed by calling 480-648-8118 or by e-mailing [email protected], or through the Queens of Cobbler Instagram. Cobblers are delivered in the metro Phoenix area and shipped elsewhere.

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The mixed-berry cobbler from Queens of Cobbler.
Bahar Anooshahr
Do try both current cobblers — but if you must choose, go for the peach. Valeria recommends it warm with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. When heated, the smell of butter, peach, and hints of cinnamon rise to greet you. Taking a bite of the warm cobbler with the cool ice cream, the crunch of the pastry and ooey-gooey filling, you realize this cobbler is not meant for tasting — it's meant for eating.

Now you have to fight the urge to not go for a second slice. Or don't fight it, just go for it. The Hill sisters thank you.
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