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 Deen 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'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, The Food Network announced they would not renew her contract.
It was announced that on September 24, 2014 Paula 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.
Racial epithet controversyEdit
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."
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