Approaching a year since the Food Network pulled the plug on her TV show, Paula Deen plans to hit the road this summer to cook live for fans.
Paula Deen Ventures, a new company formed to help launch a comeback for the celebrity cook, announced Monday that she's booking 20 shows in cities across the U.S. starting in June. It says the 90-minute "Paula Deen Live!" shows will feature a mix of cooking demonstrations, games with audience members and personal stories.
"I cannot wait to get on the road and meet so many of my amazing fans during these shows," Deen said in a statement.
The tour kicks off in June, a year after Deen's admission under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past became public.
The Savannah, Ga., restaurateur said in a May 2013 deposition related to a harassment lawsuit involving her brother, Bubba Hiers, that “of course” she had used the word "Nigger," but not in a “mean way.”
In part because Deen has been embraced by liberals like Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Griffin, and has been an avid Obama supporter, the N-word quotes shocked many of her fans and confirmed for many Northerners that behind that genteel facade and Sun Belt shine, the South hasn’t really changed. As Chicago Now columnist John Chatz wrote, “To many of us, the South still stands for slavery and the Civil War. This may be wrong and it may be simple, but people like Paula Deen help keep these opinions alive."
The Food Network and other corporate sponsors soon parted company with Deen. Her offending comments were during a court deposition in a lawsuit by a former employee making harassment and discrimination claims against Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The suit was settled last August.
The cooking tour is the latest piece of a comeback strategy Deen rolled out in February when she announced a deal with the Najafi Companies, an Arizona-based private investment firm that's pouring $75 to $100 million into rebooting her public career.
Only five cities on Deen's tour schedule have been announced so far, and all of them are located in her Southern comfort zone. Deen has booked two August shows in her home base of Savannah, followed by another up the highway in Atlanta. She also plans to cook for crowds in Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio, Texas.
The tour kicks off June 21 and 22 with two shows in the Smoky Mountains tourist hub of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., where Deen has a new $20 million restaurant in the works.
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