Who would ever think that a housewife from Albany, Ga., with no formal training in food, would become one of the country’s most beloved celebrity chefs? Every day, hordes of fans, from across the country, form a line outside The Lady & Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, Ga., with the hope of catching a glimpse of television’s most approachable chef. This lively, southern woman, with piercing blue eyes, and an infectious laugh, is proof that dreams really do come true. With best selling cookbooks, a lifestyle magazine, and not one, but two hit shows on the Food Network, it’s easy to see there is no stopping this woman’s success.
Living with agoraphobia for 20 years, and a crumbling marriage, Paula Deen was left with two growing sons and no source of income. Without a college education, and very little to fall back on, the then 42-year-old housewife reached deep into her Southern roots and drew inspiration from what she knew best – her kitchen stove. Her culinary career began in her own kitchen, June 1989, with The Bag Lady. This home based lunch delivery service started with homemade chicken salad sandwiches and warm, fresh cookies wrapped in saran wrap which her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, delivered to local businesses to sell. Within two years, The Bag Lady grew too large for her home, and she opened her first restaurant on Savannah’s Southside called The Lady. In 1996, after five successful years, Deen was ready for another challenge. She re-located downtown and opened The Lady & Sons, which to this day serves thousands of Savannah visitors, including celebrity and political clientele.
In 1997, Deen self-published her first cookbook, Favorite Recipes of The Lady and her Friends. As luck would have it, a major publishing house picked it up when one of their literary agents walked into the restaurant to escape a rainstorm. She bought a copy of the cookbook and realized its potential. Shortly after, the name was changed to The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook and Deen found herself on QVC selling the cookbook. Deen’s career seemed to have no limits after QVC. In just a few years that followed, she published numerous cookbooks including, The Lady & Sons Too!, The Lady & Sons Just Desserts, Paula Deen & Friends, Living It Up, Southern Style, Paula Deen Kitchen Classics, Paula Deen Celebrates, Christmas with Paula Deen: Stories and Recipes from my favorite Holiday. Deen also released her memoir entitled It Ain’t All About The Cookin’. Come October of 2008, her first children’s cookbook will be released entitled Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook.
Paula’s Home Cooking premiered on television on November 16, 2002. Airing on Food Network, the program features Deen doing what she does best – being herself, teaching people how to bring joy into their kitchens and homes. With Deen, it’s about teaching viewers to bring out the best in their dishes and creating happy memories with their families, no matter what the budget may be. Paula’s Party, Deen’s second show on Food Network, premiered September 2006. This show features the silver-tressed wonder interacting and cooking in front of a live audience. With her infectious laugh and shear genius at making people feel good, Paula’s Party was an instant hit.
Cooking with Paula Deen magazine launched its premiere issue November 2005. Published by Hoffman Media, the magazine boasts a circulation of 1.3 million and is considered a category leader.
Deen appears regularly on morning shows, such as, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, and Live with Regis & Kelly. In addition, Deen has appeared several times on Oprah, has appeared on Larry King Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Deen was cast in a supporting role in Elizabethtown, a film by Cameron Crowe, starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst and Susan Sarandon.
On June 14, 2007 Deen won not one, but two, daytime Emmy awards. The first Emmy award was for Outstanding Lifestyle Host and the second Emmy award was for Outstanding Lifestyle Program. The same day, Forbes Magazine ranked Deen as one of the 100 most powerful celebrities.