Paula Deen’s television career started in 1999, but it wasn’t until her career abruptly ended in 2013 that she became a household name. A celebrity chef with a series of books and three different shows on the Food Network, Deen had a reputation as a traditional Southern chef and represented a cooking style the Food Network didn’t really have (until Guy Fieri.)
But in 2013, during a lawsuit accusing Deen of sexual and racial discrimination, she admitted to having used a specific racial slur, though many years before the incident the lawsuit covered. The admission still led to criticism from the media, and Paula Deen released apology videos on social media. Food Network (and many other partners) canceled their contracts with her.
Since then, Paula Deen has slowly been working her way back into the spotlight. So what’s she doing these days?
Paula Deen’s Early Life
Paula Ann Hiers was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1947. She married Jimmy Deen when she was 18, and together they had two sons, Jamie and Bobby. When her children were young, Deen’s own parents passed away, and the combined stress led to Paula Deen developing agoraphobia and anxiety.
This led to her spending a lot of time in the kitchen since she could cook for her family without leaving the house. In the mid-80s the family relocated to Savannah, Georgia. A couple years later she left Jimmy Deen, taking their children with her. Paula worked past her anxieties, taking numerous small jobs to provide for her family.
In 1990 she decided to apply what she’d learned in her kitchen, and started a catering service, which she called The Bag Lady. She prepared meals and lunches, which her sons delivered.
Paula Deen’s cooking was popular enough that within a year, she opened her first restaurant, which she called The Lady. By 1996, she opened a second restaurant in downtown Savannah, The Lady & Sons. That restaurant moved to a bigger building within a couple years and began to gain national notoriety. Paula Deen released two cookbooks to take advantage of the attention her restaurant was receiving: The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking.
USA Today picked The Lady & Sons buffet as the “International Meal of the Year” in 1999, and later that year, Paula Deen made her first appearance on Food Network.
Paul Deen on Television
Paula Deen’s first appearance on Food Network was in Doorknock Dinners, where she was taken into the home of a busy family and tried to make the best meal she could out of what they had. Later that year she competed in Ready… Set… Cook!, an early cooking game show where chefs were paired with members of the audience.
In 2001, Paula Deen shot a pilot for the network, which they enjoyed. She began filming for Paula’s Home Cooking later that year. Fun bit of trivia, the first few seasons of the show were actually filmed in the executive producer’s home in upstate New York.
Paula’s Home Cooking was immensely popular, and one of the last formulaic meal prep shows Food Network produced. It led to Paula’s Party, in 2006, a show focused on preparing meals for large gatherings, and Paula’s Best Dishes, a reworking of Paula’s personal favorites from her restaurants and personal recipes. In 2008 and 2009, Paula Deen had three different shows airing on Food Network.
While working with Food Network, Paula Deen continued to release more cookbooks and even released a memoir in 2007. She also released her own lifestyle magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen, which continues to release new issues.
Paula Deen’s Controversy
In 2013, Paula Deen was accused of making inappropriate racial remarks while discussing plans for her brother’s wedding. A lawsuit was filed, but the judge dismissed it in August.
The deposition for the case led to Paula Deen admitting that she had used a specific racial slur in the past. One incident she remembered was when she was a bank teller in 1989 and her bank was robbed, and she said that at other points in the past she had also likely said the word.
The admission led to multiple partners canceling their contracts with Paula Deen. Walmart, Target, QVC, Sears, K-Mart, and her publisher all canceled their deals.
The controversy was lampooned in late-night television, and referenced in many pieces of pop culture. Earlier this year, Orange Is The New Black had a character who was a celebrity Southern chef and the cause of her own racist controversy.
Discussion of Paula Deen even led to former President Jimmy Carter urging the nation to forgive Deen, saying she had been punished “perhaps overly severely” for simply being honest about her past.
Regardless, the controversy has severely limited Paula Deen’s career. But not completely ended it.
What’s Paula Deen Doing Now In 2023 – Recent Updates
Paula Deen hosts several ongoing television series including Positively Paula, Paula Deen’s Sweet Home Savannah, and Love & Best Dishes with Paula Deen. In 2019, she also hosted the talk show Paula Deen Jewelry, which was available exclusively on JTV. And prior to that, she was featured on the syndicated talk show The Doctors, where it was revealed that she had dropped 40 pounds; she also shared with audience members her recipe for weight loss.
Fast forward to 2021 and it was announced that she would be joining the cast of MasterChef Legends as one of the guest judges. Alas, not everyone was happy with the decision. While the contestants and judges were thrilled to have her in the kitchen, fans weren’t too impressed given her racist history. In fact, many viewers slammed the showrunners for bringing her in as a judge.
Outside of television, she also has several other endeavors including a clothing line and a pet food line. In 2019, she also released a new cookbook titled “Paula Deen’s Southern Baking: 125 Favorite Recipes from MY Savannah Kitchen.”.
That’s not all, she has also opened several restaurants over the past few years. In 2015, she opened Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, a family-style restaurant, in Pigeon Forge, Tenessee. Since then, it has expanded to locations in Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, a nd Alabma.
Two years later in 2017, she opened another restaurant called Paula Deen’s Creek House, which offers traditional Southern fare.
At one point, she even released a mobile video game, where players take on the role of chefs in a home kitchen and work their way up to owning their own restaurant. Not only are there puzzles to complete, but Deen’s popular dishes can also be downloaded as recipe cards. And despite being a mobile game, there is a chance for players to win real-life prizes such as a subscription to the Paula Deen Network.
She also has an active YouTube channel, which is updated every day with new recipes (it’s been active since 2007 but it wasn’t until the covid-19 lockdown that she really got into it) As of this writing, she has over 499,000 subscribers with more than 84 million combined views across her videos.
For more Paula Deen updates, you can follow her on Instagram. That way, you’ll know what she’s up to right away. You can find her at @pauladeen_official.