Food Network star to hold cooking demonstration in Jackson

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Paula Deen likes to keep her cooking simple.

“Life can be hard when you walk out your door, and I don’t think it should be when you go home,” the Food Network personality said in a telephone interview.

The spunky cook with the thick Southern drawl gained national attention for her Southern recipes on the TV show “Paula’s Home Cooking.”

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Now, she plans to teach Mississippians to make simple dishes like cheeseburger meatloaf and macaroni and cheese when she participates in two cooking demonstrations at the Mississippi Coliseum on Saturday. Other items on the menu for the demonstrations include Southern fried chicken, chocolate bread pudding and Irish cream cake.

“Not a lot of people have jobs where they get immediate gratification, and when I’m able to get out there among these girls and these guys, it is just instant gratification,” Dean said while driving through her current hometown of Savannah, Ga., during last week’s interview.

She said she has a passion for feeding people.

“I love sitting down and having a meal with people that enjoy eating,” Deen said. “I know it is certainly true for the South. That’s how we show our love.”

Gail Lamb, sales manager at The Everyday Gourmet in Jackson, said customers at the locally owned cooking store have been purchasing Deen’s books.

“We are a gourmet store, so we see all kinds of people coming in looking for different things to do. Universally, people love her,” Lamb said.

Lamb credits Deen’s warm and inviting personality with attracting a large fan base. Deen began dazzling folks with her Southern home cooking in 1989, when she and her two sons began a lunch delivery service out of her Savannah home.

Deen credits cooking with helping her overcome agoraphobia, a debilitating anxiety disorder that makes people afraid of public spaces. Deen, 59, said she struggled with the disease on and off for 20 years in response to the death of her parents.

“It took a few years to really manifest and become full blown,” she said.

After running the lunch service from her home for a year and a half, Deen leased a space at a Best Western hotel and opened a restaurant. Five years later, she opened The Lady and Sons restaurant in downtown Savannah with her sons, Jamie, now 39, and Bobby, now 36. She also worked with her younger brother, Bubba, to open Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah.

Cooking has always been a family affair in the household, with Deen learning at an early age from her grandmother.

Now, Deen said husband, Michael Groover, plans to develop his own brand of coffee called Captain Michael’s Full Steam Ahead.

While restaurants and her Food Network gig have kept her busy, Deen found time to write several cookbooks and appear in the Cameron Crowe film “Elizabethtown.” Deen played the role of Aunt Dora in the 2005 movie.

On the Net:

The Everyday Gourmet:

The Lady and Sons:

Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House: