|Born||Paula Ann Hiers
January 19, 1947
Albany, Georgia, U.S.
Jimmy Deen (m. 1965–92)
Paula Ann Hiers Deen (born January 19, 1947) is an American celebrity chef and cooking show television host. Deen resides in Savannah, Georgia, where she owns and operates The Lady & Sons restaurant with her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen. She has published fourteen cookbooks. Though married in 2004 to Michael Groover, she uses the surname Deen, from her first marriage.
Deen was born Paula Ann Hiers in Albany, Georgia, the daughter of Corrie A. (born Paul) and Earl Wayne Hiers, Sr. She grew up Baptist, and is still deeply devoted to her faith. Her parents died before she was 23, and an early marriage ended in divorce. In her 20s, Deen suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia. She then focused on cooking for her family as something she could do without leaving her house. Her grandmother Irene Paul had taught her the hand-me-down art of Southern cooking; one of the only places she felt safe was at her own stove, making thousands of pots of chicken and dumplings. She later moved to Savannah, Georgia, with her sons. In 1989, she divorced her husband, Jimmy Deen, to whom she had been married since 1965. She was left with only $200 and money was tight raising both her kids and her younger brother, Earl (“Bubba”). She tried hanging wallpaper, working as a bank teller, and selling real estate and insurance. She then started a catering service, making sandwiches and meals, which her sons Jamie and Bobby delivered.
Deen's home business, The Bag Lady, soon outgrew her kitchen. She first moved into the Best Western on Savannah's southside on Abercorn Street in 1991 with a restaurant called The Lady. In January 1996, Deen opened her restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in downtown Savannah, on West Congress Street. Within a few years, the restaurant moved to the old White Hardware building on Whitaker. USA Today named The Lady & Sons the "International Meal of the Year" in 1999. The specialty is a buffet of Southern "comfort foods". Every buffet meal includes a salad bar and one dessert. Her sons are also involved in managing the restaurant, which is popular with tourists visiting Savannah.
In 2008, Deen opened another restaurant, the Paula Deen Buffet, at Harrah's Tunica Casino in Tunica County, Mississippi. It has an entrance facade modeled on Deen's home in Savannah and features Southern cooking. As of June 2013, the Paula Deen Buffet does not appear on Harrah's Tunica Casino's website list of restaurants.
In September 2009, Deen announced a new dessert line to be sold at Walmart including signature pies Apple Crunch Top, Dark Rum Pecan, Old Fashioned Fudge and St. Louis style Gooey Butter Cake bars.
In addition to these, Deen co-owned Uncle Bubba's Oyster House in Savannah Georgia. It underwent an "abrupt closure" on April 4, 2014 with a spokesperson saying that there were discussions about development of the waterfront property.
Books and magazines
In 1997, Deen self-published The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking and The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking 2. Both cookbooks featured traditional Southern recipes. She has since published two more, written with Martha Nesbit. Deen has appeared on QVC and on The Oprah Winfrey Show (first in 2002, twice in 2007 and once in 2010). Her life story is featured in Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success (2007, Sourcebooks).
In April 2007, Simon & Schuster published Deen's memoir, It Ain't All About the Cookin'. She launched a lifestyle magazine called Cooking with Paula Deen in November 2005, which claimed a circulation of 7.5 million in March 2009.
Food Network and other television
Deen's relationship with Food Network began in 1999, when her friend Erin Lewis introduced her to Gordon Elliott, who then introduced her to her then agent, Artist's Agency owner Barry Weiner. Elliott took her through the city for a series of Doorknock Dinners episodes. She also appeared on Ready, Set, Cook!. Deen was invited to shoot a pilot named Afternoon Tea in early 2001. The network liked it, and eventually gave Deen her own show, Paula's Home Cooking, which premiered in November 2002. Paula's Home Cooking was originally taped in Millbrook, New York at the home of Gordon Elliott, the show's executive producer. Deen mentioned on the March 13, 2006, edition of The Daily Buzz that the next batch of episodes of her show would be taped at her home in Savannah, Georgia. According to the first of those episodes, actual production at her new Savannah home began in November 2005.
Since then, Deen has been given two more Food Network shows, Paula's Party and Paula's Best Dishes. Paula's Party premiered on the Food Network in 2006 and Paula's Best Dishes debuted on June 8, 2008.
On June 21, 2013, due to a controversy regarding Deen's admission, during a deposition for a lawsuit, that she had used racial slurs, The Food Network announced they will not renew her contract.
In 2004, Deen married Michael Groover (born 1956), a tugboat captain in the Port of Savannah, Georgia. Deen has two children from a previous marriage. The wedding was featured in a Food Network show in 2004. Their wedding took place at Bethesda Academy in Savannah. Paula is a supporter of Bethesda Academy, and asked Old Savannah Tours to donate $1 to the organization for each ticket purchased for the Paula Deen Store ticket sale. In January 2012, she announced she has had type 2 diabetes for the last three years.
Deen made her film debut in Elizabethtown, starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst in 2005. She played the aunt of Bloom's character, and her cooking was featured. A Food Network special, Paula Goes Hollywood, aired in conjunction with the film's premiere.
Awards and honors
In June 2007, Deen won a Daytime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Lifestyle Host) for Paula's Home Cooking. In October 2010, she was selected as the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade, and presided over the 2011 Rose Parade before the Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2011.
Deen has faced extensive criticism for the high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar in her recipes. She faced particularly strong objections with the release of Lunch-Box Set, a cookbook aimed at children, with Barbara Walters saying of the book, "You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast. You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And french fries. Doesn't it bother you that you're adding to this?" Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain commented in 2011 that he "would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us".
On January 17, 2012, Deen announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years before. It was also disclosed that Deen is a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the main export of which is insulin. She was called a hypocrite for continuing to promote her high-fat and sugar diet while disclosing her medical condition only when it benefited her in representing the drug company to market their diabetes management program.
Racial epithet controversy
In June 2013, Deen was the target of a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual discrimination. It alleged that Deen made derogatory remarks regarding African Americans in the presence of a female employee whose nieces are bi-racial with an African-American father. The case was heard in August 2013, with the judge dismissing the suit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-filed. Both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit "without any award of costs or fees to any party".
Deen stated in her deposition that she had used the "N-word" at times.  Specifically, she recalled telling her husband about an incident "when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head. [...] I didn't feel real favorable towards him." Asked if she had used the word since then, she said: "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time [...] maybe in repeating something that was said to me [...] probably a conversation between blacks. I don't – I don't know. But that's just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the 60's in the south."
In the time between the filing of the suit and the suit being dismissed, Deen had cookery programs, publishing deals and endorsement contracts cancelled by Food Network, Smithfield Foods Walmart, Target, QVC, Caesars Entertainment, Home Depot, diabetes drug company Novo Nordisk, J.C. Penney, Sears, KMart and her then-publisher Ballantine Books. However, several companies have expressed their intent to continue their endorsement deals with Deen. During the same time, sales of Deen's cookbooks soared.
Former President Jimmy Carter urged that Deen be forgiven, stating, "I think she has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting it and for the use of the word in the distant past. She's apologized profusely."
|2002–2013||Paula's Home Cooking (television)||Host|
|2006–2008||Paula's Party (television)||Host|
|2008–2013||Paula's Best Dishes (television)||Host|
|2009||Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (television)||Guest star|
|2009||Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (television)||Guest star|
|2011||Top Chef (television)||Guest judge|
|2012||Oprah's Next Chapter||Subject|
|2012||Who Do You Think You Are? (television)||Subject|
|2012-2013||MasterChef (television)||Guest judge|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Paula Deen.|
- Official website
- The Lady & Sons restaurant
- Cooking with Paula Deen magazine
- Paula Deen at the Internet Movie Database
- Paula Deen at TV Guide
- Paula Deen ... Answers Your Questions Archive at People.com