Paula Ann Hiers
January 19, 1947
Albany, Georgia, U.S.
Paula Ann Hiers Deen (born January 19, 1947) is an American TV personality and cooking show host. Deen resides in Savannah, Georgia, where she owns and operates The Lady & Sons restaurant and Paula Deen's Creek House with her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen. She has published fifteen cookbooks. Though married since 2004 to Michael Groover, she uses the last name Deen, from her first marriage.
Deen was born Paula Ann Hiers in Albany, Georgia, the daughter of Corrie A. Hiers (née 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 children 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. Deen owned four casino buffets; they were at Harrah's Casino Tunica in Mississippi, Harrah's Cherokee casino in North Carolina, Horseshoe Southern Indiana, and Harrah's Joliet in Illinois. They were rebranded in 2013 shortly after Deen was removed from the Food Network.
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. The property reopened in June 2017 as Paula Deen's Creek House and will be a joint venture of Deen and her two sons. On April 27, 2015, Deen opened Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, her new restaurant and retail concept, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. On January 25, 2016, the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina received an application for a building permit for a two-story Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, to replace the 20-year-old Carlos 'n Charlie's at Broadway at the Beach. In June 2017, Paula Deen opened her Myrtle Beach location. In November 2017, Deen announced that two new Paula Deen restaurants would open in Texas. One location in Dallas opened in Spring 2018 and closed in August 2019, and the San Antonio location opened in April 2018 and closed in July 2019.
Books and magazines
In 1997, Deen self-published The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook and The Lady & Sons, Too! A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah . 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. In 2015, Paula Deen Ventures signed a distribution agreement with Hachette Client Services for future cookbooks.
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. A televised biography of Deen was aired on an episode of the Food Network's Chefography program, in March 2006.
On June 21, 2013, due to a controversy regarding Deen's admission, during a deposition for a lawsuit, that she had used racial slurs in a social media post, The Food Network announced they would not renew her contract. It was announced that on September 24, 2014, Deen would unveil her very own network. The network is said to be a full digital experience that lets users access Paula's southern cooking on computer, smartphones and tablets. On March 11, 2015, it was announced that Deen had kicked off her "comeback" with the launch of the all-new Paula Deen Channel on Roku. On September 2, 2015, Deen was announced as one of the celebrities to compete on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Louis van Amstel. The couple was eliminated in the sixth week of competition, finishing in 9th place overall. In October 2016, Deen launched a syndicated television show, Positively Paula. The Celebrity Chef also appears regularly on the home shopping network Evine. Deen sells a wide variety of merchandise on Evine including, kitchen appliances, food products, clothing and more.
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, as does Groover. The wedding was featured in a Food Network show in 2004 and took place at Bethesda Academy in Savannah. On July 21, 2018 Michael Groover won the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest on his ninth try.
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.
Deen made her film debut in Elizabethtown (2005), starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. 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. In 2015, Deen joined the cast of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. She was eliminated during the sixth week.
Awards and honors
In June 2007, Deen won a Daytime Emmy Award (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.
Use of sugar in recipes
Deen was criticized for her use of sugar by Christina Pirello, a "natural food" advocate, and television chef. Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set, a cookbook aimed at children, was criticized by 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?" Paula Deen replied "All things in moderation." 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. Deen became a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk which produces drugs for that disease.
Racial slur controversy
In June 2013, Deen was sued by Lisa Jackson for racial and sexual discrimination. Jackson said that Deen made derogatory remarks regarding African Americans. Jackson also said that Deen mused about wedding plans for her brother with a "true Southern plantation-style theme" with black male servers but rejected the plans "because the media would be on me about that". The case was heard in August 2013, with the judge dismissing the suit with prejudice. 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 '60s 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, 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 US 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."
I Love Lucy controversy
In July 2015, Deen faced controversy over a Halloween picture from 2011 in which Paula was dressed as Lucy Ricardo played by Lucille Ball while her son Bobby was dressed as Lucy's Cuban husband Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz, in brownface makeup, along with Gordon Elliott who was not in costume. The photo was taken from a holiday-themed episode of her former Food Network show Paula's Best Dishes with a tweet mimicking Arnaz's accented English on the show. The material was taken down quickly.
|2002–2012||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|
|2015||Dancing with the Stars (television)||Contestant (season 21)|
|2016–present||Positively Paula (television)||Host|
|2017–present||Paula Deen's Sweet Home Savannah (television)||Host|
|2020–present||Quarantine Cooking with Paula Deen (Web-Series)||Host|
- List of American restaurateurs
- List of Food Network Canada personalities
- List of people from Georgia (U.S. state)
- List of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches by cast member
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