Confessions of a Paula Deen® Peon

These are the steamiest, juiciest, most illicit tales about a Food Network celebrity that you’ll find on the internet. Unless you count these… (it’s soooo Giada, right?)* However, I’m going to try to avoid getting too specific so I can’t answer things like “What was your job title?, “When exactly were you employed?”, “Where you ever filmed for the show?”, “How many Deen brothers did you have sex with?”, and “What does Paula really think about the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris?” Okkkay, I’ll answer the last three…

3. Yes, but I didn’t sign the release.

4. None of them. Seriously. There was a really long line and they don’t take reservations.

5. Paula thinks it’s a waste of perfectly good butter and E.V.O.O. is a much better all-purpose lubricant. But if butter is the only option, go with unsalted.

I was a cog in the Paula Deen Empire. It was only a small-to-medium empire when I started, but it had progressed to major-national-full-on-fame-whore level when I left. For clarification purposes, here’s a Paula Primer for the uninitiated: she started a lunch delivery business out of her home in Savannah, Georgia after divorcing her first husband, who was the father of (extremely photogenic) sons Jamie and Bobby. They were “practically homeless” at the time, but according to some locals, this depends on your interpretation of “practically” and “homeless”. Whatever, right? I respect the hustle.

So, yay, people like the food, let’s give them a location other than their offices to eat it. The Lady & Sons restaurant is born. The place earned some major street cred and the locals started telling the tourists. Turns out, tourists like traditional southern fare. Who knew? But the original restaurant only sat 42 people, and there are tons of tourists in Savannah. So when they make you a stop on the trolley tour you’d better be ready step up your game. The Deens stepped it up three stories, and The Lady & Sons started making some serious bucks. Later, hole-in-the-wall joint, and heellllooo Food Network…

So that’s the gist. If you need the propaganda version, will be more than happy to provide you with that. I worked at version 2.0 of The Lady & Sons. Since we’re still being vague on the exact timing, I’ll just say it was right before the show started airing. The brothers, Jamie and Bobby, ran the place while Mama was a filmin’.

Okay, the brothers. They inspired a certain, um…let’s say devotion, amongst certain members of the female staff. Their office couch could draw some comparisons to the Hollywood casting couch. Allegedly. But when you start off as a sandwich delivering boy and suddenly find yourself in the position of Local Restaurant Rock Star, you gotta do you, right? So they got themselves done. Allegedly, of course, as I was not an actual participant. Jamie and Bobby were cool, though. Good ol’ southern boys can be relied on to understand the importance of the pursuit of “having a good time.”

They also perfected the “bake and shake”, which is so much better than just a regular old “meet and greet.” As The Lady & Sons line grew, so did the brothers’ responsibilities, but their Uncle Bubba tried to help maintain good staff relations. Just as you were probably thinking, “This is a tale of southern success, there has to be a Bubba in here somewhere!” Uncle Bubba enjoyed the view from his reserved bar stool. He could always be counted on to make you question whether or not you were wearing actual clothing.

Thankfully, Paula eventually bought him his very own restaurant with her newly minted millions. So Bubba went and parked himself on a stool at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House. But he still turned up on occasion, one of those being “Paula’s Super-Duper Second Marriage Extravaganza!!!” Which was turned into a Food Network special episode. Yay. It’s about time the cameras got their asses down to Savannah.

Seriously, if you want to discover which of your coworkers are covert fame-mongers, just send in a guy with a clipboard full of releases trolling for soundbites. Shit gets real. Everyone on the staff starts working on their carefully crafted contributions, should they be called upon to give them. Let me just say, if it sounds like I was observing while smirking and doing an “I’m soooo above this” eyeroll… eh, not really. I have had plenty of experience acting like an asshole during my lifetime, and I’ve figured out that it just never ends well for me when any type of recording device is involved. And, let’s be honest, they weren’t going to pluck the Next Food Network Star from the ranks because someone really chewed the hell out of the scenery with their masterful biscuit slinging.

But back to the wedding… I actually got to go! Sort of! I was one of the chosen few given the privilege of working Paula’s (filmed for TV) reception. For free! “Just consider it your wedding gift to Paula and Michael.” Umm, I’m a broke college kid, she’s a millionaire with a television show and booming cookbook business. I probably wouldn’t get her a wedding gift. Our relationship just isn’t like that. See, this is how it works….I make very nice tips and $2.13 per hour to tell your legions of fans how awesome and inspiring you are, and how your recipes are so authentic and have been passed down for generations. (Cough) I don’t mention things like your chain smoking, the drinking, the ten year affair with married guy (she let this cat out of the bag in her autobiography, so I’m not totally being a malicious, gossipy jerk.), that alleged incident involving your new hubby making wanted sexual advances with a staff member in the catering office (it’s just like a game of Clue!), and just how unsettling it is to watch you turn into the “Heeeey yaoouuw’ll” caricature version of yourself in front of the camera. And I might put this on my resume one day just to make memories in job interviews. This relationship is mutually beneficial, but I’m not giving you my labor for a wedding present! (I ended up doing just that. But I didn’t sign the release. So there.)

More fun stuff that happened…well, it turns out that Paula was popular with well-known movie director Cameron Crowe. He wanted her to be in his next movie. That’s cool. See, we’ve adjusted so quickly to working for a growing celebrity. And who else will be in it? Kirsten Dunst, right… and wait, Orlando Motherfucking Bloom? Remember how “next big thing” he was? I only admit this because you might need proof that I can, in fact, be a complete asshole, but I did ask Paula if she could lure him to Savannah and if so, could we keep him in the basement and dress him in the Legolas wig and pointy ears?

Since she was only doing a small role in her first Hollywood film, she was worried that assisting in the abduction of her costar might overstepping the bounds a tad. That’s understandable. By the way, the film was Elizabethtown. It was really bad, so I’m glad Orlando was too busy “hanging out with his dog” to come to Savannah. It would have been hard to tell him that the movie was good and no successful captive relationship should ever be built on a lie. A few months later, Hermione Granger showed up, followed by Illeana Douglas and Harry Connick Jr. We finally got to covertly stare at some famous people gorging. Only one of them was smart enough not choose the buffet.

Let’s wrap this thing up with some thoughts on The Diabetes Debacle. But I won’t rehash the whole fattening food/obesity epidemic/fix all your problems with drugs!/free will/responsibility to the public debate. What I find more interesting is lack of awareness that cashing in on the major health issue that you’ve concealed for three years might be criticized. It’s pretty out of character for someone that, from the beginning, showed an instinctive ability to create and then control every aspect of her image. But the endorsement deal timing was just sloppy.

Yeah, her PR team is busy trying to drown out Anthony Bourdain, but it has punched some sizable holes in her credibility. Oh, and Bobby has a new show called “Not My Mama’s Recipes” ready to go on the Cooking Channel. And The Deen Bros® want to offer up their lighter, healthier southern fare? Perfect! Such a natural, non-exploitative way to launch new family projects! Not at all Kardashian-like. So who knows how big of a hit Paula will take on her journey to become “White Oprah”? (Sorry Dina Lohan. I don’t think it’s going to happen. But thanks for coining the phrase!) I’ve been successfully deprogrammed and I don’t really care! But I’ll always cherish the memories.

*In the interest of truth-telling, my employment at The Lady & Sons ended after two years and I was sooo fired. Two incidents of tardiness in two years is (justifiably) frowned upon. A very longtime employee had just been caught creatively appropriating funds and got canned too. Sort of makes me wish my transgression had that kind of panache. Just being twenty minutes late is lame. But hey, I have no excuse… (I was in college and hung-over!) and, at the time, I was pretty much over spending eight hours enthusiastically gushing about the virtues of people I rarely saw anymore. So there’s no lingering bitterness. Really. So this post was not fueled by left-over resentment. For the record.

Photo: Flickr

You might also enjoy: Paula Deen’s Supporters Take to Food Network’s Facebook Page; Hilarity Ensues

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *