US celebrity chef captures hearts, may also stop them
If you’re sick of swallowing all the political chatter from Jules and Tony take a break and chew on something meaningful out of America. And it’s not President Obama’s eloquent speech at the White House Ramadan dinner, where he defended plans for a mosque at Ground Zero. Rather, meet Paula Deen, the self-described ‘Queen of Southern Cooking’.
A woman that makes burgers using donuts as buns, lasagna sandwiches and single handedly butchers food to the point that she induces dry retching. The video above involving frozen cheesecake and a large pot of boiling oil should give you a sufficient introduction to Deen’s world.
As she says: “Just when you thought you couldn’t make cheesecake any better!”
With her ‘Y’alls’ and addiction to powdered sugar, butter, oil and salt, Deen represents the wonderful world of contrasts that is the “land of opportunity”. In the US, food franchises with 20 or more locations must include calorie count on the menu in an effort to promote sensible eating choices, while Weight Watchers spends about $90 million on advertising campaigns in the country every year.
Yet, here is this larger than life Southern belle that has become a multimillionaire and quasi-national hero thanks to her calorific and fat filled cookin’.
Having sold more than 8 million cookbooks to date, opened two restaurants so far and another two opening soon, plus four TV shows running concurrently on the Food Network, a magazine, cookware and kitchen accessories line, Deen’s message reaches far and wide. She has also tapped into the world of social media and has close to a million fans on Facebook with hundreds commenting on her page every day.
Compliments such as “You are blessed Paula being able to cook such delicious meals! God Bless!” and “I love your peanut butter fudge with cheese.”
Even Paula’s sons Jamie and Bobby Deen have cashed in on their mother’s celebrity status with a spin off brand of their own - The Deen Bros, which so far includes a magazine and Food Network show.
But like all tales of the American Dream, it hasn’t always been smilin’ for perky Paula. She fought a long battle with anxiety disorder agoraphobia and found herself as a single ‘mom’ in her 20s after a failed marriage to her high school sweetheart. As her website describes, “Cooking was always the one staple in Deen’s life”, and thanks to a deep fryer and some guest appearance on Oprah a celebrity cook and business woman emerged.
So is Paula to be praised and admired for her entrepreneurial spirit or should she be reprimanded for the possibility that she’s teaching people the basics of cooking? Both. As obesity rates in the US stand at one in four (and Australia is largely on par with that), perhaps health warning disclaimers to some cooking shows are required, for example, consuming deep fried cheesecake can be severely hazardous to your health. In the meantime it’s best to find the humour in the mysterious fact that an ever-growing fan base has made Deen the enormous success she is today.
On that note:
“A little more powdered sugar, a little more fresh cream, a little vegetable and look at that yummy fried cheesecake.”
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