posted on: 4/25/2012 1:03:06 AM EST
Paula Deen Bio
Paula Deen

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Paula Hiers Deen (born January 19, 1947) is an American cook, cooking show host, restaurateur, author, actress and Emmy Award-winning television personality. Deen resides in Savannah, Georgia, where she owns and operates The Lady & Sons restaurant with her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen. She has published five cookbooks. Though married in 2004 to Michael Groover,[1] she uses the surname Deen from her first marriage.[2]
Early life

Deen was born in Albany, Georgia.[3] 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.[4] In 1986, she took a job as a bank teller, and later moved to Savannah, Georgia, with her sons. In 1989, she divorced her husband, Jimmy Deen, to whom she had been married since 1965.[1] She was left with only $200 and her two teenage sons.[3] She then started a catering service,[5] making sandwiches and meals, which her sons Jamie and Bobby delivered.[6]

Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.
[edit] Restaurants

Deen's home business, The Bag Lady, soon outgrew her kitchen. In January 1996 Deen opened her own restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in downtown Savannah, on West Congress Street. Within a few years, the restaurant moved to a larger building in Savannah's historic district. USA Today named The Lady & Sons the "International Meal of the Year," in 1999. The specialty is a buffet, which typically includes sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, deep-fried Twinkies, fried chicken, cheesy meatloaf, greens, beans, and creamed corn. Every meal is served with a garlic cheese biscuit and a hoecake. Her sons are also involved in managing the restaurant, which is popular with tourists to Savannah.[7]

In 2008, Deen parlayed her fame into another restaurant, the "Paula Deen Buffet" at Harrah's Tunica Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.[8] Its entrance facade is modeled on Deen's home in Savannah and features Southern cooking.[9]

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 Gooey Butter Cake bars.[10]

[edit] 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.[11] 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.[12] which claimed a circulation of 7.5 million in March, 2009.[13]

[edit] Food Network

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 current agent, Artist's Agency owner Barry Weiner.[14] 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.[15][16] Deen mentioned in an interview aired 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.

Deen throwing out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals baseball game in Washington, D.C.
Since then, Deen has been given two more Food Network shows, Paula's Party and Paula's Best Dishes.[17] Paula's Party premiered on the Food Network in 2006 and Paula's Best Dishes debuted on June 8, 2008.[18]

A televised biography of Deen was aired on an episode of the Food Network's Chefography program, in March 2006.[19]

In December 2007, Deen teamed with Cat Cora and faced Chefs Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine in battle Sugar on the holiday special of Iron Chef America. At the end, Deen and Cora won.

Deen also helped Pat and Gina Neely get their first Food Network show, Down Home with the Neelys.[20] During the summer of 2006, her sons, Bobby and Jamie Deen, featured the Neelys' Bar-B-Que Nashville location on their Food Network show Road Tasted. In September 2006, Paula ate at the Neelys' downtown Memphis restaurant and was impressed. In January 2007, the Neelys were invited to appear on Paula's Party,[21] which eventually led to the Down Home show. In July 2008, the Neelys would also take over Road Tasted from the Deen brothers.

In May 2008, Deen announced at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show that she had signed a deal to host a talk show beginning in September 2009.[22]

Deen has appeared in public service announcements for Civitan International.[23]

On February 23, 2011, Deen appeared on the show Top Chef, and sat at the Judges Table.[24]

[edit] Personal life

In 2004, Deen married Michael Groover (born 1956), a tugboat captain in the port of Savannah, Georgia.[25] Groover has two children from a previous marriage. The wedding was featured in a Food Network show in 2004. Their wedding took place at the Bethesda Home for Boys in Savannah.[26]

Deen is a supporter of the Bethesda Home for Boys, and asked Old Savannah Tours to donate $1 to the organization for each ticket purchased for the Paula Deen Store ticket sale.[26] In January 2012, she announced she has had type 2 diabetes for the last three years.[27]

[edit] Other work

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.[28]

[edit] Awards and honors

In June 2007, Deen won a Daytime Emmy Awards (Outstanding Lifestyle Host) for Paula's Home Cooking.[29] 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.[30]

[edit] Criticism

Deen has faced extensive criticism for the high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar in her recipes.[31] 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?"[32] 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."[33]

On January 17, 2012, Deen announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years before, a disease for which a high calorie diet is a major risk factor.[34][35] It was also disclosed that Deen is a paid spokesperson for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.[35] She was called a hypocrite for continuing to promote her high sugar diet while only disclosing her medical condition when it benefits her in representing the drug company to market their diabetes management program.[36] Deen stated on the January 18, 2012 episode of The Chew that a portion of her compensation would be given to charities

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