Making the Deen's list: Fargo next stop for busy Food Network host
An ease in the kitchen and a knack for comfort food turned Paula Deen from restaurant owner to Food Network host. That coupled with oozing Southern charm may make her a movie star.
An ease in the kitchen and a knack for comfort food turned Paula Deen from restaurant owner to Food Network host.
That coupled with oozing Southern charm may make her a movie star. Deen debuted on the big screen this month, playing Aunt Dora in "Elizabethtown."
"They were looking for that strong Southern woman that's most comfortable in her kitchen and that's what got me the role," says Deen, who co-stars with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst.
The role was no stretch for Deen, whose kitchen turned her life around after years of being housebound by agoraphobia.
Now, the 58-year-old has a new cookbook on the shelves - "Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics" - and a magazine premiering in November.
Deen will appear Saturday at Women's Showcase in the Fargodome. She takes the main stage at 3:30 p.m., whipping up potato salad, a roast and cake.
"My message to women is to have fun in their kitchen," she said in a phone interview last week. She was in New York to film a holiday special with other Food Network chefs.
She demurely denies the Hollywood experience has changed her. But, she hasn't ruled out another silver screen appearance.
"When I got home, I told my children, I said, 'I've got a news bulletin.' I said, 'Mama may want to be an actress when she grows up,' " she says, laughing.
First on her list would be an animated film. "I could be a Southern fish or something," she says.
Raised in south Georgia, Deen learned to cook from her grandmother. She followed her footsteps into the restaurant business.
In 1989, she started The Bag Lady, a lunch delivery service based in her home.
Today, Deen owns The Lady and Sons, a 330-seat restaurant, with her sons, Jamie and Bobby.
Deen started writing cookbooks in 1997. The books led to her Food Network show, "Paula's Home Cooking," which first aired in November 2002.
Deen is one of the more popular cookbook sellers among Fargo's Barnes and Noble customers, says Cindy Snelling, community relations manager.
"I know that they really enjoy her personality," she says.
"She makes herself very open to people," Snelling adds, pointing to Deen's March 2004 wedding photos in the latest cookbook.
Deen says her food reminds people of a time in their past, when they sat at their mother's or grandmother's table.
The robust flavors don't hurt either, she says.
"We're not shy with the ham hock and bacon drippings and salt and pepper and butter, you know. We're not bashful about how we attack that pot with the seasonings," she says with a chortle.
It's not the healthiest, and Deen reminds people they can "lighten up" her recipes with light butter, light sour cream or light mayonnaise.
But don't expect the restaurateur to turn over a reduced-calorie leaf anytime soon.
"They're not coming to see me to get diet food," she says. "They're coming to me to get authentic Southern cooking and that's what I have to give 'em. And some people I have to remind I am their cook, not their nurse."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525
If you go
- What: Women's Showcase
- When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; Paula Deen takes the main stage at 3:30 p.m.
- Where: Fargodome
- Tickets: $9 in advance or $11 at the door. Ages 8 and younger are free
- Information: Call (701) 241-5419 or visit www.fmwomensshowcase.com