February 7, 2014 - 10:16 AM
By Andrew Z. Galarneau
Say what you want about Paula Deen, but that woman whips up one heck of an apology.
Did you see Deen begging for forgiveness on television last year? Did you think she was finished? You were wrong as ketchup on fried chicken.
Yes, she admitted using racist language, and was subsequently erased from the Food Network, and its million television screens. But Paula Deen spent a lot of years on those screens making a lot of friends she hasn’t met yet. Which helps explain why the most famous female television chef since Julia Child is coming to Clarence tomorrow.
Fans are paying $63.09 for a 60-minute Paula Deen appearance in the Samuel’s Grand Manor ballroom. Deen will tell stories involving food while she puts together a dish. The aroma might make it to the back row, depending on the ventilation, but some folks will get hungry.
The hardcore Deen groupies will have eaten already, as part of their $259.74 VIP package, including “a Southern style lunch personally selected by Paula Deen, an autographed cookbook, photo op with Paula, a gift package, and show preferred seating.”
That language, from the ticketing page, makes it clear that Deen will not personally touch your food. The audio blurb on the Paula Deen Live page is not as clear: “We even have some special VIP tickets where you can enjoy the food I’m preparing yourself.”
When I got a chance to talk to Deen in 2011, we didn’t talk about racist language, of course. At the time, Deen was hiding her diabetes diagnosis from fans while celebrating dishes that could have contributed to the disease. We didn't talk about that either.
But Deen did explain why she felt no responsibility for dishing out those recipes. Like she told Oprah, “I’m your cook, not your doctor. You can’t hold me responsible. I supply recipes, but it’s up to you to know your numbers, speak to your doctor and find out where you stand.”
We also talked about her idea of good clean fun, which included licking butter off Food Network personality Robert Irvine’s abs in front of a festival crowd:
“He’s a buddy of mine, and he knew when he wiped that butter on his belly, that I wasn’t going to let it go to waste,” Deen said.
Deen licked butter off his abs in front of the hooting crowd, without spilling the contents of her wineglass. Then she rode Irvine across the stage like a horse.
“What made him get down on his hands and knees I’ll never know, but I looked at him and said, ‘I guess he’s going to take me for a ride,’ “ she said.
Photographs and video of their escapades were viewed by millions. “I heard it was, like, in the top 10 of the most viewed video things in the world,” she said. “I said, ‘That just goes to show, people want to have fun.’ It was innocent, good clean fun.”
This suggested to me that Paula Deen is not easy to shame. Deen fans of my acquaintance admire that in her, the woman who asked forgiveness for her mistake, shook off the naysayers and kept going strong.
I’m not in her target demographic but I have to admire her prowess as a businesswoman. After the Food Network declined to renew her contract, sales of her cookbooks actually rose.
If you miss out on the Saturday appearance, and can’t make Paula’s July cruise to Jamaica, don’t fret. Deen’s merchandising arm has opened a store in Clarence, in partnership with Nanco Group, a Savino Nanula family enterprise. As the News reported in November:
Deen’s store – Paula Deen Foods, 10225 Main St., Clarence – represents a partnership between Deen and the Nanco Group. It produces Deen-branded packaged foods such as baking mixes, regular and sugar-free chocolates, finishing butters, soups and tortilla chips.
So if you miss her on television, you can still stop by whenever you get hungry for a little Paula Deen.
(Photo by dbking (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_3822), via Wikimedia Commons)