Where did paula deen go to culinary school?

Paula Deen’s Education Background

Paula Deen was born on January 19, 1947 in Albany, Georgia. She attended Albany High School, and married not long after. In 1989 she divorced Jimmy Deen, to whom she had been married since 1965. Deen took her cooking experience and began a catering service in Savannah, Georgia. Deen began by making sandwiches and other meals and her sons Jamie and Bobby delivered the food.

The business was called The Bag Lady. It was successful and soon outgrew her kitchen. On January 8, 1996, Deen opened her first restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in Savannah. The southern style menu was very well received. Deen’s restaurant was very popular and she soon opened a second establishment. The “Paula Deen Buffet” at Harrah’s Tunica Casino in Tunica, Mississippi opened in 2008.

Deen has released several cookbooks. In 1997 Deen published The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking and The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking 2. The books were very successful and she has released two more since.

Deen began her relationship with The Food Network in 1999. Deen guest starred and was featured in several shows on the network. She was given her own show in 2002. Paula’s Home Cooking, was successful and lead to the premiere of two more shows. Paula’s Party and Paula’s Best Dishes were debuted in 2006 and 2008. In June 2007, Deen won a Daytime Emmy Awards for Paula’s Home Cooking.

In April 2007 the publishing compnay Simon & Schuster published Deen’s memoir, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’. Deen also launched a lifestyle magazine called Cooking with Paula Deen in 2005. The magazine claimed a circulation of 7.5 million in March, 2009.

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Posted on February 18th, 2012 by Trey
Tags: paula deen
Posted in Careers, Celebrities, Educational Background | 1 Comment ”

About Paula

As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream—married to her high school sweetheart, raising two adorable boys—when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed, and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul, and started The Bag Lady, a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen’s professional cooking career. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering “lunch-and-love-in-a-bag,” beginning in June 1989, Paula turned around her life by sharing what she knew best—traditional Southern cooking.

Overcoming poverty, self-doubt, and health challenges to achieve success and acclaim, Paula has become one of the best-known personalities in the world of cooking. Yet the most remarkable part of Paula Deen’s journey from her kitchen to fame is that Paula has remained every bit as genuine, real, and full of love as she was the day the first meals left her kitchen.

Deen’s first business, The Bag Lady, brought out Paula’s strengths and stabilized her family. She moved her catering company to a small restaurant at a Best Western motel in Savannah and finally opened her first restaurant, The Lady and Sons, with Bobby and Jamie five years later. The restaurant was a hit, and the popularity of Paula and her cooking led to her first cookbook, 1998’s The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. This gave her fans the opportunity to try Paula’s recipes at home and led to her first television appearance on QVC. Paula’s genuine warmth and folksy personality made her a natural for television. In 1999, USA Today food critic Jerry Shriver named The Lady and Sons “International Meal of the Year.”

Since then, Paula’s business interests have grown considerably. In 2011, Paula Deen Foods was launched and in 2013, they introduced food products developed in Paula’s kitchen and based on both her traditional recipes and lighter versions.

In 2014, Paula launched her nationwide live tour, Paula Deen Live!, which consisted of 90-minute shows featuring Paula making her favorite seasonal dishes. She also played fun, interactive games with her fans and shared stories on stage with her husband, Michael. For the first time ever, fans had the chance to interact with Paula personally and sample her delicious Southern creations.

In 2015, Paula launched her free mobile game, Paula Deen’s Recipe Quest; premiered her first show on EVINE; and launched her podcast, What’s Cooking with Paula Deen, and radio show, Get Cooking with Paula Deen. That year, she also launched her own line of dog food called Paula Deen Hugs Healthy Adult Dog Food. In the fall of 2015, Paula released her cookbook, Paula Deen Cuts The Fat: 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up, which reached The New York Times Best Sellers List in under a week. Simultaneously, she competed in the twenty-first season of ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars,” and successfully made it halfway through the competition. Her upcoming book, At the Southern Table with Paula Deen, features 150 classic recipes, perfect for sharing with friends and family. At the Southern Table with Paula Deen will be Paula’s 18th book.

Since 2015, Paula has opened four new restaurants, including Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Paula Deen’s The Bag Lady in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; and Paula Deen’s Creek House in Savannah, Georgia.

In the fall of 2016, Paula launched two new television shows, Positively Paula and Sweet Home Savannah. Positively Paula, a nationally syndicated show, welcomes fans into her personal kitchen while she cooks, shares stories, and visits with family and friends. Sweet Home Savannah on EVINE invites Paula’s fans into her Savannah home each week for a live, two-hour show, filled with her fashion, kitchen products, and home textiles.

Ever grateful for all she has been blessed with, Paula and her family continue to give back to the community. Paula, a board member of the Bethesda Home for Boys, also works tirelessly for America’s Second Harvest. In 2012, Paula launched The Bag Lady Foundation, supporting issues of hunger that affect women and families across the country.

Most of us know Paula Deen as the queen of Southern cooking, but there’s much more to the celebrity chef than, well, butter.

1. Everything she knows about cooking, she learned from her grandmother.

Paula credits her maternal grandma, Irene Paul, for teaching her the ways of Southern comfort food — like the secret to perfectly seasoned fried chicken.

“She taught me that, in order to have good fried chicken, you should wash and season the bird the morning you’re preparing it for dinner,” Paula said. “Don’t wait and do it right before you start cooking. Throw it in the refrigerator, seasoned, that morning, and give it a chance to soak up all the salt and pepper and goodness.”

2. Paula was 42 when she launched her first catering business, The Bag Lady.

Devastated by her parents’ early deaths (her mother and father had both passed away by time she turned 23), Paula struggled for 20 years with depression and agoraphobia. But in June 1989, a short while after her first husband moved their family to Savannah, Georgia, Paula decided to “get out of bed and start living life to the fullest,” and started The Bag Lady.

3. But before she was a caterer, she tried a bunch of other gigs.

According to Success magazine, Paula tried “tried hanging wallpaper, working as a bank teller, selling real estate, even insurance.” We’re glad that cooking is what stuck (but it’s fun to think about what a Paula Deen wallpaper collection might look like).

My how time flies when you’re havin’ fun! Right @BobbyDeen and @jamie_deen #thenandnow #TransformationTuesday pic.twitter.com/imnysnh9wK

— Paula Deen (@Paula_Deen) May 12, 2015

4. The Bag Lady began with just $200, and her sons pitched in to help.

Cooking out of her kitchen (and still struggling with agoraphobia), Paula made The Bag Lady’s popular chicken salad sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches, and other lunches that her sons, Jamie and Bobby, delivered to local office workers. Eventually, Paula would take what she learned as a caterer that served “love and lunch” and open a restaurant.

View this post on Instagram

Mama waiting tables undercover @ Lady & Sons today!

A post shared by Bobby Deen (@bobbydeen) on Jul 2, 2014 at 10:27am PDT

5. Her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, has grown a lot over the years, but Paula’s family still keeps a watchful eye on it today.

What started as a restaurant in a Savannah Best Western now boats 330 seats downtown. Recently, Paula was spotted waiting tables “undercover.” (We’re not sure that brown wig fooled, anyone, though.)

Getty Images

6. If not for her dogs, she might have never met her current husband, tugboat captain, Michael Groover.

Paula’s dogs got loose in Michael’s yard, but he was so charmed by her that he asked her to drinks.

7. She won’t leave the house without fake eyelashes.

But have you tried our top-tested mascaras, Paula? They might save you some time.

8. In her spare time, she loves making shell art.

Inspired by another Savannah local known as The Shell Lady (are we sensing a theme here?), Paula enjoys embellishing stone busts with dozens of shells.

Courtesy of Key Group Worldwide

9. Paula’s Savannah estate has a pool with a “dive-in” movie theater.

She recently put the extra-special French Caribbean home on the market, which also boasts a dock, a chicken coop, and a croquet court.

10. Her favorite meal is steak and potatoes.

Though she’s certainly dreamed up some over-the-top dishes in her day, Paula sticks with the basics when she craves a satisfying dinner.

Paramount Pictures

11. You might have spotted her on the silver screen.

Paula played opposite or Orlando Bloom as his character’s Aunt Dora (a not-so-exaggerated version of herself) in the 2005 romantic drama, Elizabethtown.

12. She’s written 14 cookbooks, which have sold over 11 million copies.

She actually self-published her first book. A book editor spotted it at The Lady and Sons, and approached Paula about republishing it. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Lauren Piro Senior Web Editor Overseeing all things home for GoodHousekeeping.com and HouseBeautiful.com, Lauren swoons over midcentury design and employs tough-love approach to decluttering (just throw it away, ladies).

Paula Deen’s Restaurant Lady and Sons Is a Ghost Town

The media firestorm continues to swirl around the now ex-Food Network personality Paula Deen, and the usually bustling scene at her Savannah, GA restaurant The Lady and Sons is nonexistent. Eater sent a photographer to scope it out, and above and below are photos from mid-day on Saturday. It is a ghost town.

Normally lines to get into the restaurant, even in the middle of the afternoon, are “always several blocks long” according to Stephen Thurston, photographer and Savannah resident. This is in sharp contrast to a report earlier today by the New York Times that people were lining up to get in this morning.

It’s clear that fans, or what’s left of them, are not showing up in support of Paula Deen, the embattled television cook who awkwardly apologized on YouTube following the release of testimony in which she admitted to having used racial slurs. Her fans might rabidly post comments or click on a “like” button — see the “We support Paula Deen” Facebook page with 131,000 likes — but they’re definitely not showing up in support.

“There was no protest in progress and no signs that there was one earlier,” Thurston told Eater. “However, the lineups to get in on a Saturday from mid day on are always several blocks long. Today there was no one. A protest of a different nature perhaps.” Here are more photos of the restaurant:

Here is the outdoor host station which is “normally mobbed”:

The outdoor host station, normally mobbed.

And here is the store at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons:

The store at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons.

· All Paula Deen Coverage on Eater
· All PaulaDeenGate Coverage on Eater

The Lady and Sons

102 W Congress St, Savannah, GA 31401

Paula Deen’s Restaurant – Lady & Sons

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Biography Newsletters

Racial Controversy

In June 2013, Deen found herself the subject of intense media scrutiny. It became public around this time that she had admitted to using the N-word during a legal deposition taken that May. Deen and her brother had been sued by a former employee for racial and sexual harassment. She also stated that it had been long time since she had used the offensive term in her testimony.

Deen faced harsh criticism for her admission. In a video posted on YouTube, she acknowledged that she had made a mistake. “Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” she said. In another video, Deen insisted that she was not racist. “Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preferences does not matter to me.”

In reaction to this controversy, the Food Network decided not to renew Deen’s contract with the cable channel. Some of Deen’s fans expressed their outrage over Deen’s firing, leaving messages on the Food Network’s Facebook page and threatening to boycott the channel. Despite these protests, the Food Network stood by its decision to end its relationship with Deen after 11 years.

Later that month, Deen was dropped by her publisher, Ballantine Books. The publishing company, which is a division of Random House, decided to cancel her upcoming cookbook Paula Deen’s New Testament. The cookbook was set to be released in October and already had strong pre-order sales.

Rebuilding Her Career

After being dropped by her network and publisher, Deen sought to regain her celebrity chef status. She reached out directly to her fans through her tour with Paula Dean Live!, an event featuring cooking demonstrations. In June 2014, Dean also announced plans to start her own network online. The Paula Deen Network launched in September 2014 with such original shows as 20-Minute Meals and Paula Cooking Light.

Continuing her comeback, Deen in 2015 competed on Dancing with the Stars. In late 2016, she began hosting Positively Paula, a family-friendly cooking show taped from her home in Savannah, Georgia.

Paula Deen Biography, Life, Interesting Facts

Paula Ann Hiers Deen is a famous American celebrity chef and owner of The Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. Born on January 19, 1947, she is also a cooking show television host and runs the Paula Deen’s Creek House with her sons Bobby and Jamie Deen. After suffering a panic attack in her20s and being agoraphobia, Paula Deen resorted to cooking for the family to keep her from going out. This new interest will later turn into a big business. In 2002, Paula Deen started her own cooking show, Paula Home Cooking on the Food Network.

Paula Deen also premiered two new shows, Paula Party, 2006 and Paula’s Best Dishes, 2008 on Food Network. In 2013 Deenbecame a subject of controversy and lost endorsementsand deal with Food Network after she was alleged of making derogatory comments against African-Americans. She subsequently admitted using the n-word. Deen has fifteen cookbooks to her credit.

Early Life

Paula Deen was born to Corrie A. Hiers and Earl Wayne Hiers Sr. on January 19, 1947, in Albany, Georgia. She has raised a Baptist and still hold on to that faith. Deen became homebound after she suffered a panic attack and agoraphobia in her 20’s. She then decided to be the cook for the family as it was something she can easily do without leaving home. With the help of her grandmother Irene Paul, she learned the hand-me-down art of southern cooking. She lost her parents beforeshe was 23 years.


At Albany, Paula Deen turned her cooking habit into a career preparing pots of chicken and dumplings for clients. After her divorce in 1989, she left Albany for Savannah with her sons. The only had $200, and that was to caterforthe children, younger brother, and herself. She has to work as a teller, selling real estate and insurance and hanging wallpaper to cater for the family. She also made meals and sandwiches for delivery by her children.

Restaurant Business

Paula Deen started a cooking business, The Bag Lady in her kitchen at home. The orders kept increasing and soon, her kitchen could not sustain the pressure and demands. In 1991, she moved to The Lady restaurant in Best West on Savannah southside on Abercorn. This was soon followedby the opening of The Lady & Sons in downtown Savannah, on West Congress Street in January 1996. The restaurant later moved to the old White Hardware building on Whitaker. Deen manages the restaurants with her two children.

Paula Deen announced her line of desert line to be retailed by Walmart in September 2009. They include the St. Louis Style Gooey Butter Cake, Old Fashioned Fudge, Dark Rum Pecan and the signature pies Apple Crunch Top. She was a co-owner of the Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah Georgia but the business closed on April 4, 2014. It was reopened as the Paula Deen’s Creek House in June 2017.

On April 27, 2015, she opened the Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as her new restaurant and retail concept. She has since opened the Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Myrtle Beach and set to open another one in San Antonio in spring 2018.


Paula Deen published The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking and The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking 2 in 1997. The books contain traditional Southern recipes and others. She also has two other books co-authored by Martha Nesbit. The Cooking with Paula Deen magazine was launched in 2005. She followed it with the memoir titled “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ published by Simon and Schuster in April 2007.

Acting Career

In 2005, Paula Deen made an acting debut in Elizabethtown. The film also starred others like Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom. The premiering of the film coincided with the airing of Food Network special, Paula Goes Hollywood. She contested in Dancing with the Stars in 2015 and was eliminated at the sixth week. Paula Deen has guest starred on several shows including the Kathy Griggin: My Life on the D-List, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Oprah’s Next Chapter. She was the guest judge on MasterChef in 2011 and Top Chef, 2011. Deen hosted Paula’s Party (2006 – 2008) and Paula’s Best Dishes (2008-2013).

Personal Life

Paula Deen has married twice. She went into an early marriage with Jimmy Deen in 1965. She was around 18 years during the marriage. The coupled had two sons Jamie and Bobby. They divorced in 1989. She then married a tugboat captain in the Port of Savannah, Michael Groover in 2004. Their wedding was at the Bethesda Academy in Savannah and featured in the Food Network. She still uses (Deen)the surname of her ex-husband. She is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which she made known to the public on January 17, 2012.

Awards And Honours

In 2007, Paula Home Cooking won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle Host. Paula Deen was chosen as the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in June 2007.

Criticisms Of Recipes

Paula Deen has constantly been criticised for the use of unhealthy recipes. Most of her recipes containa high amount of salt, sugar and fat. The criticism became even more extensive after she released the recipe book Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set, targeted at children.

Paula Deen received criticisms for the typeof recipes prescribed for children in the book. In 2011, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdainsaid he “would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us”.

The Real Problem With Paula Deen

“This is a book about black aesthetics without black people,” Lauren Michele Jackson writes in the introduction to White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue… And Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, out November 12. As Jackson illustrates in nine essays, the phenomenon touches all facets of American popular culture: “The Pop Star” considers how Christina Aguilera adopted black aesthetics to reinvent her image, while “The Cover Girl” examines the link between Kim Kardashian’s proximity to blackness and her rise to mainstream popularity.

“The Chef” interrogates cultural appropriation in food. In this excerpt from the chapter, Jackson takes on the Paula Deen story: her rise peddling recipes from an uncredited black chef, a lawsuit that led to admission that Deen had used the N-word, and why her racism wasn’t the cause of her ultimate downfall. — Monica Burton

America loves Paula Deen.

Her story starts with overcoming. Paula had a “delicious childhood,” per her memoir, growing up in Albany, Georgia. By young adulthood, however, her life felt dire. “The tragedies began,” she writes. “And with them, I began to die.” By twenty-three Deen lost both her parents to repeated health problems, and she was left with “a sour marriage” (to an abusive alcoholic), two young children, her sixteen-year-old younger brother, and a creeping anxiety of the outside world. “I started waking up many mornings and wondering if this was the day I’d die,” said Paula. “And these thoughts just went on and on for twenty years, more or less.”

In the decades spent mostly confined to her home due to severe agoraphobia, she perfected recipes passed down from her grandmomma Paul: turtle soup, fried chicken, and fried peach pies; dishes seasoned with herbs, fatback, peppers, and hog jowls. Too poor for therapy and unsupported by her faith, it wasn’t until her divorce in her forties that Paula returned to the world, selling bagged lunches filled with ham and chicken salad sandwiches and banana pudding to workers in downtown Savannah. She opened a small restaurant, then another, bigger restaurant. She published a cookbook with Random House in 1998; it was featured by QVC and sold seventy thousand copies in one day. Within five years she would make appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and host her own show, Paula’s Home Cooking, on the Food Network. Within another five years she would boast of having two restaurants, a magazine, several television shows, numerous cookbooks, her own line of cookstuffs, and a minor role in the 2005 film Elizabethtown.

Pre-order White Negroes now at Amazon or Powell’s.

Paula became the face of Southern cuisine, though the better qualifier for her dishes is more like “comfort food.” Baked macaroni and cheese, creamy mashed potatoes, cheesy grits, fried chicken, mayo-forward slaws, peach cobbler à la mode, peanut butter balls, a burger sandwiched between two doughnuts — her recipes don’t summon a particularly vivid sense of any region that calls itself Southern. They do evoke a cadre of emotions that non-Southerners like to pin on the South: warmth, simplicity, nostalgia, and, again, comfort. It’s the kind of food ordained to precede a nap, that fitness fanatics avoid like the plague or maybe reserve for the ill-fated “cheat day.” Butter, lots of it, mayonnaise by the tub, fat-soaked vegetables, cheddar oozing everywhere, liberal salt and pepper, but spices on the sparse side. Paula’s critics call her a “convenience cook,” a label shared with the Food Network talent Rachael Ray, denoting cooks who are more personality than chef. If true, convenience, like comfort, is still a virtue to the Southern nonchef. Cutting cheesecake slices to be covered in chocolate, rolled into wonton wrappers, deep-fried, and doused with powdered sugar, Paula permits viewers to start with something from the frozen food section or “You can make your own,” she says offhand with no further instructions on how that might be done. Her “Symphony Brownies” begin with prepackaged brownie mix; the “special” twist is a layer of Hershey’s chocolate bars inside the batter. No harried parent or broke college student or first-time dinner host will encounter a fatiguing list of ingredients when they turn to one of Paula’s recipes. Paula’s recipe for fried chicken only requires three seasonings: salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.

Then there is the woman herself. She’s straight from a Disney picture — and not Song of the South, but something more Renaissance era, when stereotypes were still fun and racism much less obvious, even if the back of your mind knew it was there. She’s the grandmother urbane Yankees try to forget and feel tremendously guilty about, for which they must find an appropriate surrogate. She’s not perfect or polished; she licks her thumb and covers imperfections with fudge and confectioner’s sugar. She’ll gasp upon seeing a gooey trail of melted cheese and treat a burger with a fried egg on top like a Travel Channel–worthy adventure — and she likes that burger medium well. She’s stout like people say they like their cooks (even if female chefs — celebrity or otherwise — rarely escape size-based scrutiny). She’s safe in the way America desexualizes women of her age and size, and yet she gets to be forever girlish. In short, she’s white Mammy, plumping America one fried delicacy at a time.

In March 2012, Lisa Jackson, the white former manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, in Savannah, Georgia, filed a lawsuit against the owners, Deen and her brother (Bubba Deen) on the grounds of racism and sexual harassment. Jackson claimed that black employees were held to a higher standard of performance and required to use bathrooms and entrances separate from white employees. She also alleged that Bubba often made racist remarks and sexual comments and forced her to look at pornography with him in addition to putting his hands on other employees. Paula was accused of enabling her brother’s behavior. Worse, the suit describes Paula’s involvement in Bubba’s 2007 wedding as an out-and-out desire to fully recreate an Old South fantasy, with Negro tap dancers and all. In May 2013, Paula gave a videotaped deposition and in June 2013, National Enquirer claimed it had the footage. Within twenty-four hours the transcript of that deposition showed up online. Paula denied the discrimination allegations against her and her brother, but what she did reveal was almost as bad. She admitted to expressing her hope that her brother would experience a genuine Southern plantation wedding reminiscent of an antebellum or postbellum era when black people waited on white people. She admitted to living in a household where jokes involving the N-word are told to her “constantly.” When asked if she had ever used the N-word herself, Paula responded, “Yes, of course.”

It was the N-word heard around the world — again — and she hadn’t even said it on camera. That latter detail offered just the wiggle room needed to turn Paula into the subject of debate. The suit was dismissed without award in August 2013, but Food Network, Walmart, Target, Sears, Kmart, Home Depot, Walgreens, and several other companies had already cut ties with Paula over a month earlier. Other former employees came forward with allegations against Paula and Bubba — including one who said they were repeatedly called “my little monkey” — but the loss of Paula’s bread and butter was all that was needed to martyr her. While the nation had one dry eye trained on the trial and acquittal of the man who killed a young black teen in cold blood, its other eye teared up for Paula, who released not one but two videos apologizing “to everybody. For the wrong that I’ve done.” CNN solicited fellow Georgia native Jimmy Carter to weigh in, who felt perhaps the hammer was brought down too harshly. Sales of Paula’s most recent cookbook soared, jumping from the 1,500s to the number one spot in Amazon sales.

Paula did not go gently into that good night, and to those ignorant of the scandal it might look like she was having her best years ever. She raised at least $75 million for her company Paula Deen Ventures from a private investment firm. She bought the rights to her Food Network shows and began streaming them on the Paula Deen Network, her own subscription streaming platform. She appeared on Matt Lauer’s Today show with her sons Jamie and Bobby to tout her new enterprise — and also sorta reflect on the fallout from the deposition. She appeared on Steve Harvey, again with Jamie and Bobby in tow, to do the same. She joined ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and made it to week six, when she was eliminated for a dry recreation of Madonna’s mesmerizing “Vogue” performance at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. She opened a cookware store. She went on a twenty-city Paula Deen Live! tour. She reissued her own out-of-print cookbooks. She opened new restaurants under the Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen franchise, promising “a family-style dining experience born from the classic recipes of the Queen of Southern Cuisine herself.” She launched a clothing line with a creative name — Paula Deen’s Closet. Jamie and Bobby got their own Food Network show called Southern Fried Road Trip.

It’s amazing what America finds room to forgive and what it has no room for. N-word-gate was not Paula’s first controversy. In 2012, she had visited the Today show to announce that she had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and had been knowingly living with it for three years. She also announced, in nearly the same breath, her partnership with Nova Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company that sells the diabetes drug Victoza. The bald-faced doubled-up announcement confirmed everything her eagle-eyed critics knew to be true. Months prior to her announcement, the late Anthony Bourdain said, in an interview with TV Guide, “The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen. She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you.”* He added, “Plus, her food sucks.” Hounded for a follow-up quote after rumors of Paula’s impending diabetes news came to light, Bourdain had his own question: “How long has she known?”

People felt hoodwinked. There seemed to be something profoundly wrong with using a platform to push buttery, sugary, mayo-laden meals while treating a condition with causal relation in popular culture, if not quite in medicine, to those ingredients. It didn’t make the most sense — bacon-wrapped fried mac and cheese doesn’t develop a complex nutrient profile if the person cooking it doesn’t have diabetes. But people thought Paula had been irresponsible and was now trying to profit from the antidote to her “bad” behavior. She’d eventually put out a new New York Times bestseller, Paula Deen Cuts the Fat. Bobby Deen got his own spin-off brand, debuting his show the same year called Not My Mama’s Meals, remaking “classic” Paula recipes with less fat and calories. The jig was too transparent.

Americans felt more affronted and returned more cruelty when they decided the woman had gotten ill from her own supply than when they discovered she was probably racist. Making us fat was unforgivable, but the N-word was a gray area. I believe Ms. Deen could have walked right up to the camera and flipped the bird with a hearty “Fuck you, nigger!” and still be forgiven by white America and Steve Harvey. Her easy journey back into our good graces says as much.

The problem with Paula actually has little to do with whether or not she’s racist. It’s not so much a matter of the aftermath, but of how a woman like Paula got to be Paula in the first place. Why was Paula Deen, whose coherent Southern-isms boil down to an accent, a tan, and a countrified kitchen, allowed to be the singular word on Southern cooking for over a decade? There are absolutely country people — which includes the North- and Southwest, Midwest, and East and West Coasts — like Paula who cook with Fritos and Bisquick and make do with packaged staples in trying to stretch a dollar in an unforgiving economy. But that’s not why people loved Paula. Deen amassed an empire because she represented the version of Southern culture American morality wanted to live with. The recipes not attributed to her innate Southern instincts have been vaguely passed down by some ur-Southern relative, neatly side-stepping any reasonable query into when a black person factors into that inheritance — and in the South, it is a matter of when, not if.

In Paula’s case we needn’t search for long. Dora Charles, a Savannah-based black chef descended from Lowcountry sharecroppers, was the unsung backbone of Paula’s enterprises. She opened Paula and Bubba’s Lady & Sons alongside the pair, though not as co-owner, but by developing recipes and training cooks on a wage of less than ten dollars an hour, she told the New York Times in 2013. This did not change when Paula made it to television. “It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me,” she said, adding more support to circulating claims that Paula’s N-word use wasn’t a one-time far-off affair but part of her everyday speech. Before things took off, Paula made Charles a promise: “Stick with me, Dora, and I promise you one day if I get rich you’ll get rich.” But once the riches came, Paula wasn’t sharing. Not until 2015 would Charles have the opportunity to publish her own book with a major publisher after decades of hustling in Paula’s shadow.

Paula, still wealthy, now moves mostly in the background, letting major distributors, syndication, and royalties do the work. Since the height of her visibility, a craft revolution has changed the public’s relationship to the things people put in their mouths, or at least their ideas about their relationship to the things they put in their mouths. People now want small-batch beer and ancient-grain bread, artisanal ice cream and old-school butchers and mayonnaise made from non-GMO oils and eggs laid by free-roaming chickens. Those who can afford to wave away the processed and mass-produced have done so in search of something authentic. This includes a more rigorous interest in genuine Southern cooking in the most varied sense: regional BBQ, Lowcountry boils, backwoods moonshine, freshwater fish fry. But if America has learned anything from its love affair with Paula, that wisdom remains to be seen. The who’s who lists of heritage cooking are largely white. Even the resurgence of barbecue, possibly the blackest cooking technique within US borders, jushed and priced up to befit artisanal obsessions, is being led by mostly white pitmasters. Zagat’s “12 Pitmasters You Need to Know Around the U.S.” mentions only two black pitmasters, Ed Mitchell and Rodney Scott. Mitchell and Scott, each extraordinary, are customarily the lone black folks on such lists. (A 2015 Fox News compilation of “America’s most influential BBQ pitmasters and personalities” managed to avoid black people altogether.)

Instead of reckoning with Southern food’s past (and present), white Americans fuss over the small, monied group of restaurateurs who may brand themselves hands-on archivists; it is another form of fetishism, another way for liberal white Americans to have the South they want (pleasant, rich, storied, flavorful) without the black and brown people who remind them of how the South came to be the South.

Excerpted from White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue…And Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson (Beacon Press, 2019). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
Natalie Nelson is an illustrator and collage artist based in Atlanta.

Rumors are swirling that Paula Deen’s 11-year marriage is on the rocks because of a real estate deal, and now she is speaking out.

Deen recently deeded her $1.3 million Savannah, Georgia, home to her husband Michael Groover, leading some to speculate that it was part of a financial settlement in a looming divorce case. A statement from Deen’s rep explaining that the deed of gift was merely part of Deen’s estate planning process did little to dispel the rumors.

More: Casting Paula Deen on DWTS is both genius and incredibly irresponsible

But now Deen is speaking out — and she is defending her marriage.

“My marriage has always been good,” she told Radar Online. “My husband is so supportive. He has a huge career. He is a harbor pilot. All these ships come in from all over the world and he gets on them and he parks them on the Savannah River. He has been so good about taking time off for me.

“This morning, two of our grandchildren came out to visit,” she revealed. “So he took them to San Diego to the zoo and to SeaWorld. He said, ‘Paula I am gonna do you a big favor, honey! I am gonna take those children and entertain them.’ He has always been so supportive to take his things and put them aside to be with me.”

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Deen even said that Groover appreciates the changes in her body that her tough Dancing with the Stars fitness regimen is causing.

“My husband hugged me the other night and said, ‘Paula, I feel changes.’ That is good too, because I have a tire that I’d like to get rid of,” she said. “Physically it’s tough, because I hadn’t been in a structured exercise program since I was 18 years old. So it is hard, honey! It is hard.

“Let me write cookbooks. Let me do cooking shows. It’s all easy,” she said. “But that dancing is challenging and I am certainly out of my comfort zone there.”

Maybe Deen’s success in her marriage will somehow translate to success on the dance floor.

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The History of The Lady & Sons

The Lady & Sons restaurant had its humble beginnings back in June 1989 when Paula Deen started The Bag Lady out of her home. The Bag Lady began as a lunch delivery service with Paula’s sons, Jamie and Bobby, delivering bag lunches to area business people in their offices around town. As the delivery and catering business grew, The Bag Lady expanded in 1991 into a full service restaurant named The Lady in the Best Western hotel on Savannah’s Southside.

The Lady became quite successful over the next several years as the locals who had become familiar faces with The Bag Lady became familiar faces at The Lady. But Paula wanted a new home for The Lady, one in which the ambience matched the style of food. She found the perfect place in the old Sears & Roebuck building in Downtown Savannah on Congress Street and agreed to a long-term lease that needed renovations on just a handshake and a smile.

With The Lady’s lease running out at the Best Western in 1995, Paula, Jamie and Bobby relied on the income from The Bag Lady catering business to keep them until the new restaurant opened. After nearly eight months of renovations and being overdrawn on both bank accounts, The Lady & Sons opened its doors Downtown on January 8, 1996.

The familiar faces followed The Lady Downtown to The Lady & Sons at their new location, and fans eventually started coming as well after the publication of Paula’s first two cookbooks. Along with the lines that were forming on the sidewalks outside the front door, the restaurant began to gain local, regional and national attention.

In December 1999, The Lady & Sons was named “International Meal of the Year” by USA Today. In December 2002, the restaurant was featured in a multi-page feature article in Southern Living Magazine. In 2003, the restaurant was named Georgia’s Small Business of the Year. And in September of the same year, The Lady & Sons was honored with 1st Runner-Up for National Small Business of the Year at the SBA Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC.

Over the next several years, Paula began acquiring property for the next home of The Lady & Sons just down the street in the old White Hardware Building. In 2001, the year before her show began on the Food Network, the last piece of the puzzle was purchased. After fourteen months of renovations, the much awaited grand opening of the new home for The Lady & Sons came in November 2003, just seven days before Thanksgiving, the restaurants biggest day of the year. The new building is a renovated 200 year-old three-story building plus basement with 15,000 square feet of dining, full service bar and office space.

With the move in 2003, The Lady & Sons went from 85 seats to nearly 330 seats in the new location at 102 W Congress St. As Paula Deen has been blessed, so has The Lady & Sons restaurant. We invite you to come join us and experience our home cooking, our Southern hospitality and good times!