Paula Deen Fires Lawyers
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First her agent, now her legal team
Looks like Paula Deen and her team are doing some major damage control; last week Deen fired her agent of more than 10 years, and this week WSAV.com reports that the Southern celebrity chef has fired her legal team.
According to legal documents, Deen, Earl "Bubba" Hiers, and Paula Deen Enterprises have dropped their Savannah-based team led by Oliver Maner, saying their firm was "out of their depth." Instead, Deen and company have hired a new set of "World Class," "legal heavy hitters" from Morgan Lewis, as well as Harvey Weitz from Weiner, Sheahouse, Weitz, Greenberg & Shawe in Savannah.
The Savannah-based team recently tried to have the racial discrimination portion of the suit dropped from the racial and sexual harassment case, citing that plaintiff Lisa Jackson could not sue over racial discrimination because she herself was a white woman. (Ironically, this was the same rationale that the Supreme Court used to dismiss Prop 8).
Paula Deen fired from Food Network after admitting to using racial slur
Stick a fork in this butterball — she's been deep fried and deep-sixed by the Food Network.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen, 66, was canned by the cable channel on Friday after releasing a groveling video apology on YouTube for using the N-word and cracking racist jokes at her Savannah, Ga., restaurant.
"I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong I have done. I want to learn and grow from this," she said in the 45-second video posted on YouTube. "Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable."
But the ham-handed apology was not enough to save her job with the Food Network.
Friday, officials at the channel, where Deen rose to fame with her brand of butter and deep-fried fueled down-home Southern cooking, said they would not renew her contract, which expires at the end of the month.
Between her TV work, speaking engagements, cookbooks, licensing and endorsements, Forbes estimates her wealth at $17 million. Network sources said she was paid between $10,000 and $20,000 for each episode of her various shows.
Deen's callous language ballooned into a humiliating scandal earlier in the week, when the star admitted in a deposition for a $1.2 million discrimination trial that she had "of course" used the N-word in the past.
In her deposition she also said: "It's just what they are — they're jokes . most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks . gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don't know — I just don't know what to say," Deen reportedly said in her defense. "I can't, myself, determine what offends another person."
The pork-and-butter loving Deen, 66, and her brother Bubba Hiers are being sued by former employee Lisa Jackson, who alleged sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at Deen and Hiers' restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.
Hoping to quell the controversy on Thursday, Deen's reps said her use of the word was the product of her upbringing in the deep South.
Paula Deen Fires Lawyers & Hires "World Class" Team of "Legal Heavy Hitters"Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Paula Deen seems to be living by the motto "out with the old and in with the new" these days.
Less than a week after the famous chef (whose career has been crumbling following her infamous N-word controversy) announced that she's dropped her agent of over 10 years, NBC News reports that Deen has also said sayonara to her lawyers and hired a brand-new legal team today.
The 66-year-old, previously represented by Georgia-based law firm Oliver Maner LLP, has brought on a reported "world class" team of "legal heavy hitters" from Morgan Lewis, an international firm based in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, Deen has brought on powerhouse Hollywood attorney Patricia Glaser to provide general legal oversight on the celeb's case and her future career.
Glaser is known for representing Keith Olbermann during his lawsuit with Current TV after being fired from the the Al Gore-founded cable network less than a year after bringing his signature Countdown show to it, and Conan Oɻrien when the successful Late Night host turned unsuccessful Tonight Show host was fired by NBC. Oɻrien ended up with a $45 million settlement for himself and his staff.
Along with Glaser, the attorneys in Deen's new legal team are said to have years of experience in wrongful termination and other employment matters, which makes a lot of sense considering the celeb's current situation.
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The Southern cook has been dumped by a slew of business partners, including the Food Network, JCPenney, Sears, Walgreens and Smithfield Foods, since the scandal broke. Walmart announced that it will "not place new orders" for her merchandise "beyond those already committed," while Target has decided to "phase out" her products.
Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which runs several Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties, has severed its ties with the chef, and Novo Nordisk, a diabetes drug company that hired Deen as its spokeswoman, has put all of Deen's promotional commitments on hold.
Moreover, Ballantine Books, which was set to release her upcoming cookbook Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up, announced that it has canceled the title's publication, despite the book being No. 1 on Amazon's best-seller list.
Here's to hoping Deen's new team can help the star turn over a new leaf (of lettuce, of course).
Paula Deen fired by Food Network over use of racial epithet
Paula Deen was fired Friday afternoon by the Food Network over her use of a racial epithet -- the N-word -- and other racially charged comments.
The Food Network’s statement was short and to the point: “Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.”
The network statement capped a day in which the controversy unfolded on several fronts. First, the Queen of Southern Cooking canceled a planned appearance on the “Today” show. Host Matt Lauer said Deen skipped the appearance even though she had earlier agreed to a candid, no-holds barred discussion. Her representatives cited exhaustion.
Then, later in the day, Deen took a stab at damage control when she took to YouTube to apologize “for mistakes I have made” and ask fans and family for forgiveness. “Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” she said in the brief video.
But shortly after it was posted, the video disappeared. Minutes after that, the Food Network released its statement. Unclear is whether the two events were in any way related and the network was not commenting beyond the statement.
The Paula Deen brand extends well beyond the Food Network.
The celebrity chef oversees a personal brand that includes spices, cookie mixes, pots and pans, kitchenwear, cruise line appearances and even a new line of flavored butters.
But the Food Network was Deen’s most prestigious platform -- and the platform that made her a household name.
By Deen’s own admission, according to court documents, she has used an epithet for blacks -- the N-word -- and told racially charged jokes, although not recently. She also insisted that she does not tolerate hate, according to the Associated Press.
The documents filed as part of a lawsuit involving Deen also quote her as saying she once envisioned hiring a fleet of black men to serve at a wedding she was planning, and she imagined them decked out in white jackets and black bow ties.
Although for some, such attire brings to mind uncomfortable images of black history in the South, Deen was quoted as saying in the court documents that she found the formal wear impressive. The party idea, however, was nixed for fear that some would misinterpret it.
Earlier in the week, her attorney said Deen was looking forward to telling her side of the story in court.
The Food Network currently airs new episodes of “Paula’s Best Dishes.” Two other shows, “Paula’s Home Cooking” and “Paula’s Party,” air occasionally on the Food Network in reruns.
Settlement reached in Paula Deen discrimination lawsuit
Attorneys have signed an agreement to dismiss a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Paula Deen, who was dropped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past .
A document filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Savannah, Ga., said both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit "without any award of costs or fees to any party." No other details of the agreement were released. The judge in the case had not signed an order to finalize the dismissal.
Former employee Lisa Jackson last year sued the celebrity cook and her brother, Bubba Hiers, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.
The dismissal deal came less than two weeks after Judge William T. Moore dismissed the race discrimination claims , ruling Jackson, who is white, had no standing to sue over what she said was poor treatment of black workers. He let Jackson's claims of sexual harassment stand, but those were dropped in the deal between the lawyers.
"While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved," Deen, 66, said in a statement Friday.
While Deen said in her statement that "those who truly know how I live my life know that I believe in kindness and fairness for everyone," she also promised to take a closer look at how her employees are treated.
"Moving forward my team and I are working to review the workplace environment issues that were raised in this matter and to retool all of my businesses operations," Deen said. "I look forward to getting back to doing what I love."
Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother. Jackson also claimed that Hiers sexually harassed her when she worked at the restaurant from 2005 to 2010.
Regardless of the truth behind Jackson's claims, her lawsuit resulted in serious damage to Deen's public image. It was Jackson's lawyer who questioned Deen under oath in May when she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. A transcript of the legal deposition became public in June, and the backlash against Deen caused the Food Network and other corporate sponsors and business partners to drop her. Her upcoming book was dropped by the publisher and companies including Wal-Mart, Target and Caesars Entertainment Corp. severed ties with her.
The deal to resolve the suit comes little more than a month after Deen and Hiers dumped their attorneys and hired a new legal team.
In her lawsuit, Jackson had claimed Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant's front entrance and customer restrooms. She said she was personally offended because she had biracial nieces.
Attorneys for Deen said in court filings that Jackson's lawsuit was based on "scurrilous and false claims." They said before Jackson filed suit, she threatened to embarrass Deen publicly unless she paid the ex-employee "huge sums of money."
First published on August 23, 2013 / 5:43 PM
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Dora Charles Moves On From Paula Deen, and Makes It All About the Seasoning
GARDEN CITY, Ga. — In the kitchen of her double-wide trailer, Dora Charles sets spare ribs kissed with flour into a deep fryer and sautés yesterday’s collard greens with rice and onions. Her cooking is practiced and deliberate, learned at the hand of her father and her grandmother Hattie Smith, who showed her that seasoning something well and cooking it slowly encouraged flavors to bloom.
Ms. Charles, 61, is descended from sharecroppers and, before them, slaves. She owes her skill to the practiced hands of nimble cooks who could create pies out of whatever the children brought back from the woods, and satisfying meals from animal parts rejected by white plantation owners.
The lunch she is about to set on her table in this suburb of Savannah is a modern expression of the scarcity branch of the African-American culinary family tree. Some people simply call it make-do cooking.
“Country people in the South had to make do with what was at hand, what they could grow or trade or preserve,” she writes in her new cookbook, “A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen.” “I see this food as a tribute to those who came before me, who worked so incredibly hard for so little.”
The book, which will be published next week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is itself a tribute to a woman who never imagined she would have to practice signing her name for fans — an exercise she watched her former employer perform countless times.
As Ms. Charles is the first to point out, the cookbook never would have happened if she had not given 22 years to Paula Deen, the celebrity chef whose empire began to crumble two years ago when she was accused of condoning racism and sexism at one of her restaurants, and admitted to using a racial epithet.
The book is the coda to their complicated relationship, offering an opportunity to reconsider the sometimes fraught transaction between black cooks and white employers that for decades defined the Southern kitchen.
In the heat of the Deen crisis, Ms. Charles, whom Ms. Deen used to call her soul sister, stepped out of the kitchen of the Lady & Sons, Ms. Deen’s flagship restaurant here, to say that she, too, had witnessed racism and had been treated poorly, for many years making $10 an hour.
Ms. Charles had been with Ms. Deen ever since she left her job at a Bennigan’s in 1991 for one at a Savannah Best Western hotel where Ms. Deen ran the restaurant. For more than two decades, Ms. Charles was key to the Deen team, such an integral part of the family that she attended Ms. Deen’s wedding and helped her on her signature cruises. Ms. Charles cooked side by side with Ms. Deen. She had a talent for making food taste good, and trained other cooks to do the same.
“If it’s a Southern dish,” Ms. Deen said in a video, “you better not put it out unless it passes this woman’s tongue.”
When a manager at a Deen restaurant sued Ms. Deen in federal court, charging sexual harassment and racial discrimination, Ms. Charles watched from the sidelines. But then she decided to go public with her own story. She left the restaurant, not knowing whether she would get a settlement or even another job.
“Oh my God, I had sweat popping off of me,” she said in an interview at her home, where Ms. Deen’s cookbooks still sit on the kitchen shelf. “I had tears for weeks, just weeks and weeks.”
A federal judge eventually dismissed the racial claims, and the rest of the suit was settled out of court. Ms. Charles developed a close friendship with Lisa T. Jackson, the general manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, who brought the lawsuit. Ms. Jackson’s lawyer helped Ms. Charles with her own settlement and the book contract, and Ms. Jackson is helping Ms. Charles prepare for its publicity push.
The cookbook will come out on Sept. 8, the same day as Ms. Deen’s latest book, “Paula Deen Cuts the Fat,” written with Melissa Clark, who helped Ms. Deen write cookbooks before joining the New York Times staff. A version of the Deen book was to have been published by Ballantine Books before Random House canceled it in 2013 now, Paula Deen Ventures is releasing it in a deal with Hachette Book Group. Ms. Deen, whose comeback plan includes her own digital channel, podcasts, live shows and a new restaurant near Dollywood in Tennessee, declined to be interviewed.
Stories in Ms. Charles’s book about her former boss and friend, both warm and painful, make up only about six pages out of 266. The rest are rich with images of Ms. Charles’s family and of black life in the Georgia Lowcountry, taken by Robert Cooper, a local photographer. The book’s homey tone winds through a life spent cooking for family, church and friends.
Some recipes lean on ingredients like Accent, margarine and Miracle Whip. Biscuits are built from Sprite, buttermilk and Bisquick. But others, like crab cakes, poundcakes and jambalaya, are the best of scratch cooking.
Ms. Charles is a meticulous and methodical cook. She devotes two pages to teaching a reader how to fry, including advice to use salt or baking soda to put out a grease fire and yellow mustard to soothe burns.
“I find myself giving the same advice to cooks over and over again,” she writes, “so I may as well give it to you, too.”
Ms. Charles is also an astute interpreter of culture. A chapter on the sturdy, easy-to-transport Southern picnic and church supper dishes like Savannah red rice and Gone-to-Glory Potato Salad opens with her memory of trips to the beaches of Hilton Head, S.C. The sandy shores of Tybee Island, in Georgia, were much closer but closed to blacks when she was a girl.
What to Cook Right Now
Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- Do not miss Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible soba noodles with ginger broth and crunchy ginger. for fungi is a treat, and it pairs beautifully with fried snapper with Creole sauce.
- Try Ali Slagle’s salad pizza with white beans, arugula and pickled peppers, inspired by a California Pizza Kitchen classic.
- Alexa Weibel’s modern take on macaroni salad, enlivened by lemon and herbs, pairs really nicely with oven-fried chicken.
- A dollop of burrata does the heavy lifting in Sarah Copeland’s simple recipe for spaghetti with garlic-chile oil.
A Northerner once asked her if blacks and whites cooked differently.
“A lot of people don’t realize that Southern country food is pretty much the same for both black people and white people,” she answered, “except most black cooks are more concerned with seasoning.”
Many black cooks make their own special seasoning blends, she writes. She calls hers Savannah seasoning. It’s built from Lawry’s seasoned salt, granulated or powdered garlic, black pepper and table salt. It is dusted over ribs and pork chops and even mixed into baked spaghetti.
Ms. Charles stresses the importance of selecting good raw ingredients and building flavor at every step, like saving what she called fry-meat grease from bacon, sausage or pork chops to rub on sweet potatoes as they bake or to enliven rice and greens.
The book was born after Rux Martin, a longtime cookbook editor with her own imprint at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, found herself riveted by Ms. Charles’s story. At the time, Ms. Martin did not realize she would have to edit within the confines of Ms. Charles’s legal agreement with Ms. Deen, which is so restrictive that those involved are worried about even mentioning it.
They found a way to work around it.
“The reality was that the book was not put on the earth to speak ill of anyone, particularly someone who was so key in giving Dora the platform for the book,” Ms. Martin said. “When we started to do the book, we were really clear it was Dora’s food and her memories.”
Still, the project challenged Ms. Martin’s own assumptions about race and African-American cooking, and prompted her to re-examine the difficult period in Southern culinary history when the person who owned the cook also owned the recipe. Food historians and Southern cooks continue to debate how relations between white women and black women influenced the collective Southern culinary repertoire.
“I was just always so conscious of, ‘Wait, am I being patronizing?’ ” Ms. Martin said. “Is my white Yankee perspective getting in the way here? With every recipe, you can’t help but think of the larger implications.”
It was the first time Ms. Charles had ever written down recipes, other than the large-scale versions she was asked to record for Ms. Deen. Her formal education had stopped with the seventh grade.
“For me to try to write it and do the recipes and measure everything all at the same time, my brain was going in circles,” Ms. Charles said.
So Ms. Martin hired the cookbook writer Fran McCullough, who has worked with some of the best and toughest cooking teachers around, among them the Mexican food authority Diana Kennedy.
Ms. McCullough, who lives in North Carolina, rented homes in Savannah where she would cook for weeks with Ms. Charles. They traveled to Boston to cook in the home of Doe Coover, the literary agent who was brought in to represent Ms. Charles.
Ms. McCullough introduced Ms. Charles to Kerrygold butter and smoked paprika, which made their way into recipes, some of which they created together. She encouraged Ms. Charles to get better at biscuit making and baking.
Ms. McCullough, Ms. Charles said, “got in my head and said exactly what I wanted to say, exactly what I was feeling.”
She also helped Ms. Charles work with a genealogist to trace her family roots and draw out recipes from her aunt Laura Daniels, at 83 the last surviving sibling of her father’s family. Like many relatives, Ms. Daniels bristles at what she says was Ms. Deen’s hateful treatment of her niece.
“Some people go through a raw deal like that and they just get discouraged and they stop,” she said. “We just had to pray about it and pray and hope we’d get through. And she got through.”
Toni Tipton-Martin is a journalist and cook who this month will publish “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.” A groundbreaking bibliography, it annotates more than 150 African-American cookbooks in an attempt to show the breadth and impact of cooks and authors of African descent. She recently read Ms. Charles’s book.
In many ways, Ms. Tipton-Martin said, Ms. Deen was simply conducting business the way it had historically been done in the South, with Ms. Charles a sort of culinary sharecropper.
“The beauty for me,” she said, is that Ms. Charles “gives us the view into that kitchen where white and black hands came together. She is claiming her role in a way that previous generations had to be passive participants and watch their success from the outside.”
In her book, Ms. Charles praises Ms. Deen’s work ethic and sense of humor. But she can’t get past a promise she said Ms. Deen made to her as she moved out of the hotel kitchen and into her own restaurant. She took Ms. Charles’s hands in hers and looked into her eyes.
“Dora (she always pronounced it Doe-ra in her deep Southern accent), if I get rich you get rich,” Ms. Charles writes.
Ms. Charles says she didn’t get rich financially, but in other ways.
“It took me a while to see that God had opened a door for me, not closed one, and I could stand tall and walk through it,” she writes.
Ms. Deen sent her flowers when she heard about the book contract. In her book’s acknowledgments, Ms. Charles offers gratitude to Ms. Deen for recognizing her talents and setting her on a path to fulfill her dreams: “Without Paula, this book would not exist.”
How to Make Paula’s Famous Southern Fried Chicken Recipe
It’s hard to deny that Paula makes the best fried chicken in the world. It’s what put her on the map all those years ago, and fortunately for us, she’s never been stingy with her world-renowned recipe.
We’re walking you through making it yourself here! Before long, you’ll have fried chicken that will taste just like it came out of Paula’s own kitchen. Are you ready to get cooking?
Start by gathering your tools and ingredients. You’ll need the following:
- 2½-lb chicken, cut into pieces
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup hot red pepper sauce
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- deep pot
- medium bowl
- peanut oil, for frying
First, choose your chicken. Paula always says that young, organic chickens tend to stay more moist and juicy. Once you’ve separated your chicken, fill your pot with the peanut oil, but no more than half full. Preheat it to 350˚F.
Next beat the eggs and add the hot sauce. We know a cup of hot sauce sounds awfully spicy, but the heat cooks out, leaving just that delicious flavor. Season the chicken with the house seasoning. If you aren’t able to buy House Seasoning, you can get the house seasoning recipe here.
Pro-tip: If you have the time and you’re frying the chicken up for dinner, season it in the morning and put it in the refrigerator. It will give it time to soak up the flavors. This is a lesson passed down to Paula from her grandmother, and it makes a big difference!
Next up, dip the seasoned chicken into the egg mixture before coating it completely in the flour. Place the floured chicken in the pre-heated oil, and let it fry until it’s brown and crisp in the middle. Just remember that dark meat takes longer to cook than white meat. It should take about 13 to 14 minutes for the dark meat, while the white meat will cook in about 8 to 10 minutes.
For four tips from Paula for frying the best chicken ever, click here! How many of you have tried Paula’s southern fried chicken recipe before? Let us know in the comments below!
Paula Deen's second marriage
Anyone who has enjoyed Paula Deen's programs is no doubt familiar with her charming, Teddy bear-ish, tugboat captain husband, Michael Groover. The two tied the knot in 2004, and their wedding reception at The Lady and Sons was filmed for Food Network, complete with a spread of Southern food classics like shrimp and grits and pickled okra sandwiches. Groover was featured prominently in Deen's programs, and he even penned his own memoir which testified to the couple's "soul mate" bond.
Divorce rumors sparked in 2013 when the tabloid, the Enquirer, published a story claiming that Groover was having a long-time affair. Shortly after that story ran, Deen filed paperwork to transfer the deed on the couple's $1.3 million home over to Groover as a gift — a move that caused many to speculate that the "gift" was actually a quiet divorce settlement. But in 2015, Deen announced that the deed transfer had been a misunderstanding, and filed to return the house to both their names. In a 2016 blog post on Deen's website, Deen celebrates the couple's 12th anniversary by reminiscing about their wedding day, saying that she and her soul mate are still in the "honeymoon phase" of their marriage.
Plea deal reached in Paula Deen extortion case
A New York man charged with trying to extort $200,000 from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, according to federal court records.
Prosecutors filed a notice in U.S. District Court in Savannah last Wednesday saying 62-year-old Thomas George Paculis "has signed his plea agreement." A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled Friday afternoon before Judge William T. Moore Jr. No details of the agreement were given in the court filings.
Paculis' defense attorney, Richard Darden, declined to comment Monday. James Durham, chief assistant prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Savannah, also would not discuss the deal.
Paculis of Newfield, N.Y., pleaded not guilty July 16 to two counts of using interstate communications to try to extort money from Deen. The FBI says he contacted one of Deen's lawyers by email a few days after Deen's culinary empire began to crumble when documents became public showing that the former Food Network star acknowledged using the N-word in the past. Deen made the statement under oath as she was questioned by attorneys in a 2012 harassment and discrimination lawsuit by former employee Lisa Jackson.
In the June 24 email to attorney Gary Hodges, Paculis said he was about to go public with statements that were "true and damning enough that the case for Jackson will be won on its merits alone" and added "there is a price for such information," according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. Hodges contacted the FBI, which directed the attorney to communicate with Paculis by email and later by phone.
Authorities say Paculis initially asked that Deen pay him $250,000 to keep quiet, but Hodges negotiated the amount down to $200,000. Paculis told Hodges he was house-sitting in New York, didn't have a car and didn't know how he was going to collect the money, the complaint says.
Federal agents arrested Paculis in early July and brought him to Georgia. After entering his initial plea, Paculis was granted a $10,000 bond and allowed to return to New York on the condition that he stay away from Deen and her businesses. Records in the case don't say specifically what information Paculis claimed to know about Deen. The FBI said it showed Deen a photograph of the suspect and she said she didn't recognize him or his name.
The civil suit filed last year by Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, says she was sexually harassed and worked in an environment rife with racial slurs and innuendo. The restaurant is owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers.
Watch the video: YTP - Paula Deen makes a thick pie. And has seizures