The spunky, silver-haired grandma was not chopping onions as she shed tears of joy in Texas a few months ago. Paula Deen was given a ten minute standing ovation by her fans at The Metro Cooking and Entertainment show in Houston, her first public appearance since her scandal broke and the last in many months. She has remained quiet as of late, but has been busy developing new ideas. Paula Deen has new plans to open headquarters near Buffalo, N.Y. in February.
Deen will be based in Clarence, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, as she opens The Paula Deen Foods Store. The store will feature some of her famous baking mixes, including her Ooey Gooey Butter Cake. She will also have a variety of other products, such as her spice rub blends, chips and fried onions, which are produced by the Nanco Group. The deal had already been sealed long before Deen’s fall from grace and will go on as scheduled.
The talented and down to earth chef is rising above the flames that once burned the bridges of endorsements and TV shows. Her candid honesty is to blame. The words she used three decades ago came back to haunt her in a distasteful way. She was accused of using racial slurs against her employees and was consequently served up like a dead goose. The roast continued with bad jokes and hurtful remarks aimed at Paula.
It was a long, simmering summer for the cooking host and author of fourteen cookbooks, as she patiently waited out the storm. She lost weight, respect and most of her business deals. Her honest admission to talking a certain way brought question to her integrity and true compassion. It was all explained and dealt with as she stuffed herself with humble pie.
Paula is not new to overcoming obstacles. She has lived a full life of trials and triumphs, entrees and upsets, plus a sprinkling of sweet and sour mixtures of life. Divorced from Jimmy Deen, not of singing and sausage fame, she raised her two sons and formed a family. She started with little money and worked her way to the top of the food industry, producing more than enough dough to get by. She happily married Michael Groover, a tugboat captain, in 2004. Despite the scandal and bad publicity, their marriage appears to be fine. She enjoys her family and her extended family of true fans, which include close to four million on her Facebook page. She has endured the public scrutiny and has chosen to create a new destiny.
The case involved an employee’s accusations of Paula using the N-word. It caused such an uproar in the public’s view, the gal from Savannah, Georgia with the sweet southern charm and smoky voice, had no choice but to retreat. Her image had been fried to a crisp, but her true fans kept the burner warm for their friend. While some celebrities get a slap on the wrist or banned from their show for a few weeks, Paula has endured a long time-out. She is reinventing her recipe for success as she embarks on new plans.
The case was dismissed in August of 2013 with the judge citing the accuser as an accidental victim. Lisa Jackson, who is white, had suffered from hearing the nasty words as a bystander, and was not even a target of the unsavory speech. The judge ruled and the case was thrown out. Miss Jackson has since eased on her view of Deen and has wished her well.
Deen is gradually beginning to make a comeback and is busy creating a new recipe for success. A book signing and luncheon is on the calendar for December 11 at her restaurant, The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia. Such stores as Walmart and Target are still selling her cookware and recipe books, on sale, as the stock runs out. Deen’s furniture line continues to be available as she markets her Down Home Collection.
The olive branch of forgiveness was evident in the form of a yellow rose from Texas back in September. The yellow rose is symbolic of friendship and new beginnings. Deen has sustained the backlash and has new plans to move forward. As she mixes the bitter past with a new batch of kindness and acceptance, her winning attitude will surely be the special of the day. Her empire will need to be rebuilt from scratch, but she has the spice and flavor to bring it to the table once again. “A-paula-gy” accepted.
By Roanne H. FitzGibbon