Paula Deen says she's 'back in the saddle'

Famous foodie is launching new company
FIT Staff
Feb 24, 2014

Paula Deen continued maneuvering for a comeback Sunday, turning a beachside cooking demonstration into a public apology for the racist comments that decimated her career last year.

The former Food Network star took the stage to prepare chicken and dumplings at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but before beginning asked the crowd if they minded if she talked about something serious for a moment.

Without ever explicitly discussing the allegations or comments she has admitted making, she said she was glad to be back and that, "I am not a quitter."

"We have come off of a very hard summer my family and I, my team, my partners," she said to a cheering crowd of several hundred fans. "But you know, I have heard on more than one occasion ... that I've never apologized. So if anybody did not hear me apologize, I would like to apologize to those who did not hear me."

Deen's career has been in shambles following a one-two punch of public relations disasters. In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she'd until then hidden.

Then last summer, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. Most of her endorsement, book and TV deals fell apart within days.

Deen has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since then, even avoiding the Food Network's 20th anniversary party last October. But lately, she has made it clear she wants back. Earlier this month, she announced that private investment firm Najafi Companies is investing $75 million to $100 million to help her make a comeback.

As part of the deal, she's launching an umbrella company, Paula Deen Ventures, that will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks and product endorsements. And Sunday's crowd seemed primed for it all, shouting out to her "You don't need to apologize!" and "We want you back, Paula!"

"Ya'll's cards and letters that I got, helped me get out of bed every day," she replied.

Midway through the demo, Food Network star Robert Irvine joined Deen onstage. Irvine survived his own scandal in in 2008 when the Food Network let him go over discrepancies in claims he'd made over his work experience. He eventually returned to the Network, seemingly unblemished.

"This is a warning to you," Irvine told Deen. "You've apologized. You've eaten crow. You're done. Don't do it anymore. I've been there."

Before a roaring crowd, Irvine then got down on his hands and knees while Deen straddled his back and rode him across the stage, a reenactment of a gimmick they'd done during a previous festival.

"I'm back in the saddle!" she yelled to the crowd.

Comments

Unassumer

I didn't like her before. I don't like her now. Will not purchase her products or watch her on t.v. I don't like Rachael Ray either. Some people just don't belong on t.v. and are not worthy to make millions of dollars but they do. Such a shame.

FlowerMom

Paula Dean did not make racial remarks. The gave a deposition for a law suit that was against her by a disgruntaled employee, who is white. In that deposition she was asked if she had EVER used the N word in her life. DUH The woman is over 50 and from the south. She said she had, but explained she was being robbed by a black man at the time and that she is not a racist. The disgruntaled employee or someone else, released the private deposition where she said she had used the N word once. These stories have a life of their own once acused. Goodness. Let the white woman alone.

coasterfan

It's been my experience that the only people who get labeled "racist" are people who say racist things and/or discriminate against others. I am not a bigot, and don't say bigoted things, and not coincidentally, have never been called a racist.

This is 2014. It's not news that bigotry is not acceptable. To say "duh, she's over 50 and from the south" is the weakest of all possible excuses.

OMG.LOL.WT_

Ask anyone who speaks Spanish if they ever used the "n" word.
Horrors, negro means black.

DGMutley

Racism is a learned trait. People evolve.