SAVANNAH'S other very important Paula—Mrs. Deen—is commencing a return to the big-time after a rough patch.
A series of controversies—some self-inflicted and others frankly whipped up by a sensationalist media—resulted in the Food Network dropping her longtime show, a specialized investment firm picking up the slack, and a new focus on Deen-themed locations in Tennessee.
The biggest news in the reinvention of Paula Deen, however, is her plunge into the world of subscription-based online content, specifically the Paula Deen Network at www.pauladeennetwork.com.
For about ten bucks a month, fans can access her recipes and cooking shows—think Spotify Premium, for comfort food.
To hekp kick off the Paula Deen Network, the lady herself is embarking on a 20-city tour. After a debut show in San Antonio, Paula comes straight home to Savannah for two shows at the Lucas Theatre, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15.
We spoke to the very busy Paula Deen last week.
You must be busy preparing and rehearsing for these shows. How is the live production experience different for you compared to TV production? Does the food get cold quicker?
Paula Deen: These shows are just so much fun—I'm having a ball! They are 90 minutes of nonstop fun and excitement, where I get to whip up some of my tastiest dishes using Springer Mountain Farms chicken, play games and share stories with my sweet husband Michael. He's on tour with me and is just lovin' it!
The best part is, I get to connect with my incredible fans. I even pull some lucky audience members up on stage with me to help me cook and play some fun games. I get such an adrenaline rush right before I go up on stage, which you don’t always get with TV because you can do a lot of takes. Even though, we’re live, the food tastes just as good—I make sure it stays warm!
Your shows on the Paula Deen Live tour are all down South with the exception of one show up north, in Boston in October. In your experience do our dear Yankee friends have a different way of relating to your personality?
Paula Deen: I love everywhere! I've met wonderful people and had amazing dishes all over—New York, Chicago, LA, even Alaska. That's what I love about food. Even though I'm Southern, and I was raised on Southern recipes, food is a universal language, and honey, if it's good, it's good. It doesn't matter where it came from. I'm looking forward to hopefully expanding the tour to new cities and dates in 2015—so y'all stay tuned!
One of your old producers once told us that after 9/11, America was ready for comfort food and a comforting personality like yours. In what ways have you seen the American foodie audience change since your debut on the national scene?
Paula Deen: In recent years, I've loved seeing more and more people interested in food that's straight from the farm to the table. My son Jamie, especially, loves going to local farmer's markets whenever he gets the chance, so that his family has the freshest ingredients from local, hardworking farmers.
They say Americans are always willing to give people a second chance, and you're certainly still just as popular as ever in Savannah. What practical, real advice do you have for those facing hardships in life, career or otherwise?
Paula Deen: Faith. Faith has been such an ongoing constant in my life, especially during the last 25 years of my career. If it weren't for my Aunt Peggy telling me to have faith in myself so many years ago, there's no telling what I'd be doing today.
People are interested in your fight against diabetes. What have you learned so far in your struggle that you can share with those facing the same challenge?
Paula Deen: Number one is that you've got to listen to your doctor. I've been able to learn so much about taking care of myself from asking questions and listening directly to my doctors. It's important to me to stay healthy now more than ever, because my family has grown so beautifully over the years. Now Michael and I are grandparents! And it's so important to us to live a lifestyle that focuses on moderation, so that we can be around to watch these beautiful babies grow.