Paula Deen – Famous in Her Women’s Chef Coat

Paula Deen – Famous in Her Women’s Chef Coat

Paula Deen was born and raised in Albany GA, and she was a housewife and bank teller before she exchanged women’s work clothing for a chef’s hat. Both of her parents died when she was nineteen, and her husband decided to move to Savannah, GA in 1989. Shortly after the move she divorced her husband, and she found herself broke with two teenage sons to sustain. Since she had always been an excellent Southern cook, she began a catering company with the name “The Bag Lady”. She confected sandwiches and other quick meals, and her sons delivered the food. She herself tried to avoid going out because she had agoraphobia – fear of public places. She thinks that this phobia began after she had been held at gunpoint by bank robbers. The Bag Lady became so successful that it quickly outgrew her home kitchen.

She took a job in the kitchen at Savannah’s Best Western Hotel, and she worked there for five years before she opened her own restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in Savannah’s downtown in 1996. The continued contact with the restaurant’s clients helped her conquer agoraphobia; and the restaurant became such a success that she moved it to a larger building located in the historic district of Savannah, where in 1999 it was named the International Meal of the Year by USA Today. The Lady & Sons’ specialty is a buffet which includes such dishes as macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, thorough-fried Twinkies, and cheesy meatloaf. Every meal is served with garlic cheese biscuits and Paula’s identifying characteristics hoecakes.

Paula’s first cookbook, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking, was self-published in 1997 and then a literary agent for a major publishing company who happened to be eating in her restaurant picked it up and published it. Paula promoted her book on QVC where it soon became one of the top-selling cookbooks and brought her national recognition. Since then she has written three other cookbooks: The Lady & Sons Too – A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah, The Lady and Sons Just Desserts, and Paula Deen and Friends: Living it Up Southern Style. In 1999 Paula appeared on the Food Network’s Doorknock Dinners, which filmed several episodes in Savannah. She also appeared in a women’s chef coat on Food Network’s Ready, Set, Cook! show. Her own show, Paula’s Home Cooking, debuted in 2003.

After Paula appeared on Oprah Winfrey in 2002, she received hundreds of letters from housewives who told her that she had inspired them to take control of their lives after hearing her tell her story. In 2005 she had her movie debut in Elizabethtown, wherein she costarred with Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom. In the film she played the aunt of Bloom’s character in maid shirts, and her cooking was heavily featured in the film. In 2008 Paula opened the Paula Deen Buffet restaurant at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, whose facade is modeled after Paula’s Savannah home. In 2009 Paula announced plans to set afloat her own line of desserts at Walmart, featuring her identifying characteristics pies such as Apple Crunch Top, Old-fashioned Fudge, Dark Rum Pecan, and Gooey Butter Cake bars. In 2004 Paula married a tugboat captain, Michael Groover, and she is living happily ever after.

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