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Paula Deen says she's 'back in the saddle'

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:10 a.m. HST, Feb 24, 2014

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. >> Paula Deen continued maneuvering for a comeback Sunday, turning a beachside cooking demonstration into a public apology for the racist comments that decimated her career last year.

The former Food Network star took the stage to prepare chicken and dumplings at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but before beginning asked the crowd if they minded if she talked about something serious for a moment. Without ever explicitly discussing the allegations or comments she has admitted making, she said she was glad to be back and that, "I am not a quitter."

"We have come off of a very hard summer my family and I, my team, my partners," she said to a cheering crowd of several hundred fans. "But you know, I have heard on more than one occasion ... that I've never apologized. So if anybody did not hear me apologize, I would like to apologize to those who did not hear me."

Deen's career has been in shambles following a one-two punch of public relations disasters. In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she'd until then hidden.

Then last summer, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. Most of her endorsement, book and TV deals fell apart within days.

Deen has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since then, even avoiding the Food Network's 20th anniversary party last October. But lately, she has made it clear she wants back. Earlier this month, she announced that private investment firm Najafi Companies is investing $75 million to $100 million to help her make a comeback.

As part of the deal, she's launching an umbrella company, Paula Deen Ventures, that will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks and product endorsements. And Sunday's crowd seemed primed for it all, shouting out to her "You don't need to apologize!" and "We want you back, Paula!"

"Ya'll's cards and letters that I got, helped me get out of bed every day," she replied.

Midway through the demo, Food Network star Robert Irvine joined Deen onstage. Irvine survived his own scandal in in 2008 when the Food Network let him go over discrepancies in claims he'd made over his work experience. He eventually returned to the Network, seemingly unblemished.

"This is a warning to you," Irvine told Deen. "You've apologized. You've eaten crow. You're done. Don't do it anymore. I've been there."

Before a roaring crowd, Irvine then got down on his hands and knees while Deen straddled his back and rode him across the stage, a reenactment of a gimmick they'd done during a previous festival.

"I'm back in the saddle!" she yelled to the crowd.


AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch tweets as @JM_Hirsch and can be emailed at jhirsch@ap.org

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Bdpapa wrote:
I like paula Deen. She is honest and says like it is. Unless you dealt with people from the South you don't understand. Its kinda like we call Chinese, Pake.
on February 23,2014 | 07:47PM
busterb wrote:
"N" is nothing like calling someone pake. I'd say go to Chinatown and yell Pake at the top of your lungs. Then walk over to some area that has a decently sized AA crowd and yell "N" as loud as you can. Then you will know the difference. Try it, it's fun!
on February 24,2014 | 06:41AM
Bdpapa wrote:
A holes, what needs to be approved?
on February 23,2014 | 07:47PM
glenn57377 wrote:
There are celebrities out there, actors, singers, rappers and regular everyday people that openly do and say things that would make your ears burn. It's OK because that type of behavior is expected of them. This woman is not a practicing bigot nor discriminator. The media selects who they want to drag through the mud and the nation lets itself get sucked right into it. Paula Deen, because of her natural innocence, had to pay a horrible price for telling the truth about something she said a VERY long time ago. The media players that invoke this kind of destruction are no better than criminals in the street. Every one of them are more guilty than Paula Deen will be over a million years of life. Who will they attempt to destroy next?..........in their feeding frenzy on the less guilty.
on February 23,2014 | 08:21PM
Bdpapa wrote:
My sentiments also!
on February 24,2014 | 05:15AM
WizardOfMoa wrote:
Mine also!!
on February 24,2014 | 07:27AM
Kate53 wrote:
Deen is nothing more than a liar. The racists comments were media-fueled distractions from the real problems. Deen hiding her type 2 diabetes for years, all while promoting cooking deadly-to-diabetics recipes on her TV show. She ignored her brother's harrassment of employees, which she admitted to in her deposition (something everyone should read from beginning to end to get the real picture of Deen) and where the racists comments/attitudes played out. Too bad the media wasn't more concerned with the real issues -- her lying and obfuscating.
on February 24,2014 | 04:52AM
3ocean3000 wrote:
You had me a diabetes and drug company payoff.
on February 24,2014 | 04:52AM
nitpikker wrote:
i've never cared for deen because her style of cooking helped the "fattening of america". and now her sons have jumped on the bandwagon to further her dynasty. racist sentiment aside, she's just too hypocritical.
on February 24,2014 | 05:37AM
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