Paula Deen (b. 1947)
Paula Ann Hiers was born in Albany on January 19, 1947, to Corrie and Earl Hiers. She spent her early childhood at River Bend, a small resort in Dougherty County owned by her grandparents. Her father worked at a car dealership, and her mother and grandmother ran the restaurant at River Bend. Although the young Paula often wanted to help in the kitchen, her mother found the child's presence disruptive due to Paula's need to "be in control of [the] pots." Involved in cheerleading and beauty pageants as a teenager, she graduated from Albany High School in 1965. At age eighteen she married Jimmy Deen, whom she met in high school. Deen's first son, Jamie, was born in 1967, and three years later, she had another son, Bobby.
Soon after the birth of her second son, Deen began to suffer from depression and agoraphobia, and she often used cooking as a way to cope with her illness. In 1989 she and her husband divorced, and she moved with her sons to Savannah. With only $200 in the bank, she opened a catering business called The Bag Lady. Deen packed homemade sandwiches and desserts in brown paper bags, and Jamie and Bobby sold the meals to customers in downtown Savannah. After developing a following, she decided to venture into the restaurant business.
In 1999 Deen met Gordon Elliott, a television personality and producer, and he asked her to be a guest on his cooking show. She began appearing on several Food Network shows as a guest star, and in 2001 she shot a pilot episode of a cooking show. In November 2002 her first show, Paula's Home Cooking, premiered on the Food Network. She has since starred in two additional Food Network series, Paula's Party and Paula's Best Dishes. Deen's method of food preparation, promoted
Deen married Michael Groover, a harbor-ship pilot from Savannah, in 2004. That same year she opened Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, a seafood restaurant in Savannah, with her younger brother, Bubba Hiers. In 2005 she began publishing the magazine Cooking with Paula Deen, and in March 2008 she launched a line of housewares and cooking appliances. In 2007 her memoir, Paula Deen: It Ain't All about the Cookin', reached number two on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction, and she received two Emmy Awards for Paula's Home Cooking. By 2010 she had published more than ten cookbooks.
Paula Deen, with Sherry Suib Cohen, It Ain't All about the Cooking (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007).
"From Phobia to Fame: A Southern Cook's Memoir," New York Times, February 28, 2007.
Kristy L. Dixon, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
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