Just two weeks ago, Los Angeles based singer James Wright Chanel picked up a handful of Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies from his local Walmart—and changed the course of Thanksgiving dessert history for thousands of Americans-- and Walmart.
Wright Chanel’s viral video review now has over 13 million combined YouTube and Facebook views. One click and it’s not hard to see why.
He bursts into song while opening the pie, belting LaBelle’s “On My Own” and “Isn’t It A Shame” as he chows down on the sweet orange-colored dessert.
“B---, I turned into Patti. You gonna turn into Patti after eating this,” Wright Chanel declares.
Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie hit store shelves in September and Walmart execs acknowledge that Wright Chanel’s review helped catapult them to the top.
“They have been a home run with customers this fall and are now a grand slam thanks to James’ entertaining review,” Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales told Chew on This via email. “These pies were selling at a rate of one pie a second for 72 straight hours last weekend.”
Some stores are selling out but Walmart is working to fulfill orders as fast as they can. The pies are in such high demand, that a black market has emerged on auction sites like eBay where one pie—which normally retail for $3.99—is going for as high has $40.
So will you be singing like Patti after tucking into one of her pies?
Probably, says Melba Wilson, owner of Melba’s Restaurant in New York City and an expert in American Southern comfort food.
“I feel like I wanna sing like Miss Patti, too,” said Wilson after trying a bite of LaBelle's pie. “This is really good.”
Many of our Chew on This Tasters had never tried a sweet potato pie before but they were pretty impressed with the dessert.
“It’s sweet, grainier than a pumpkin pie but you get a nice hit of cinnamon, nutmeg. Definitely tastes like a Thanksgiving dessert!” said one taster.
LaBelle’s pie is sweet—very, very sweet. And like many foods designed to have a long shelf life, contains plenty of preservatives. Some of our tasters also found the texture a little too gummy.
Since LaBelle’s is selling out, Wilson shared her own sweet potato pie recipe from her forthcoming cookbook out in spring and brought us a few pies. Many preferred the “homemade” taste.
“You can actually taste that this is made out sweet potatoes. It’s much spicier and the texture is fluffy and light.”
"This is almost like a pie-souffle hybrid. It just melts in my mouth."
Wilson says her trick comes down to steaming the sweet potatoes first which preserves their natural flavor and gives her pie a lighter texture than Walmart's. But the restaurant owner, who even beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay on an episode of "Throwdown" gives props to people's different talents.
"Patti sings, I cook. This is what I love to do."
And if you're worried that Walmart will run out of pies, the store secured an addition two million pounds of sweet potatoes to make sure supplies don't run out ahead of the holiday season.