A “Deen Team” Pep Rally

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By Paula Deen

January is as much a time for new beginnings as it is a time to look back and see how far you’ve come. This past year was a mixed bag of blessings and setbacks for me, but as long as I keep puttin’ one foot in front of the other, I feel like I’m making progress.  I just hadn’t realized how far I’d come until a couple of weeks ago when I circled the wagons, bringin’ together my entire Savannah team, which includes folks from The Lady & Sons, Uncle Bubba’s, the Paula Deen retail store and Paula Deen Enterprises.

The two restaurants and the store had temporarily closed for the holidays so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to thank everyone for their years—and in some cases decades—of service, and to get them excited about the New Year.  Thinkin’ back on my high school days when I was a cheerleader, I wanted to recreate that pep-rally excitement—people comin’ together under one roof, whoopin’ and hollerin’ and getting excited about what we do best: makin’ people happy. 

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But no one was happier than me that morning, standing in a huge hall at the Savannah Riverfront Marriot surrounded by the more than 300 people who make up the “Deen Team.”  In the 22 years I’ve been in the restaurant business, it was the first time we’ve been together in one place—and it was downright overwhelming.

Some people, like my “soul sister” Dora Charles, have been with me every step of the way, starting off with me at The Lady—the first restaurant I opened in a Best Western more than two decades ago.  Others have only been with me for a couple of months and are just cuttin’ their teeth.  But as I see it, we’re all in this together for the long haul.

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I expected we’d have ourselves a party that morning, but I didn’t expect to get so overcome with emotion.  I don’t think I really had a sense of how far this stubborn little girl from Albany had come.  I’ve had so many setbacks over the years—Mama and Daddy dying so young, divorce, poverty, agoraphobia—but seeing all those familiar faces and listening to my boys talk about how far we’ve come together, I thought to myself, “Well, ain’t this somethin’.”

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And then when they called me up on stage, everyone started cheering. “Paula! Paula! Paula!” they yelled.  I stood there for a few moments, dumbfounded, and I got a little choked up.  I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I finally managed to say what I felt deep in my heart: “This takes my breath away.”

Moments like these are few and far between, but it’s the sweetness that flavors my life—the reason why I keep moving forward.  And the reason why I’m always excited about what’s to come.

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54321

Paula, I just watched your current 2013 E true Hollywood story. I just love you and your family so much! I know how much all this negativity has hurt you but as you said the love of your family is what is most important. I was tearing up at the end of the show and then Jaime said something like if yall were any closer you would share underwear!! Then I busted out laughing! To me that just shows the authenticity of your family ! Thank you for all you do! You go girl!! PS Let's interview Matt Lauer and ask him how he got to be so perfect and has he ever said anything he regreted or was taken out of context!!

By Brenda Bodin on October 19, 2013

54321

Paula, You are a beautiful person, a child of God. Please don't allow the bullies to bring you down. Let those without fault throw the first stone. Believe me, none of us would even pick up a pebble. You are in my prayers. God bless you and you family!

By Jo cannon on July 17, 2013

54321

As a Southern Lady from Alabama living in Florida I was just diagnoisted with diabetes and you have inspired me. I would love some of the recipes you use. A cookbook would be great idea.

By Glenda Braun on February 15, 2013

54321

Pauls, i watch our shows religiously, and the boys too. On a Christmas show, the carolers were out front and you went to the window. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blinds, they looked kinda brown checked/plaid. Where did you get those blinds Southern' Gal?

By Carol Pagacz on February 05, 2013

54321

Paula, When are you coming out with a Southern Style Healthy Cookbook for others of us who have diabetes and don't like the healthy living cookbooks that list foods we've never heard of. Thanks! Peggy

By Peggy on January 31, 2013

54321

I have laughed and enjoyed your shows for years now. I have several cook books and haven't found a bad recipe. I do miss your show. I enjoy the reruns but I'd like to see you do some new ones too. Don't listen to those people who say you've sold out to the dollar. There's nothing wrong with success and you can't stay in the same place forever. New things come along and you have to move forward. Congrats to you and your sons!!! Look forward to seeing what God blesses you with next. By the way how's your hubby? Always enjoyed the shows you did together.

By Robin Burrow on January 30, 2013

54321

Please tell me how you overcame agoraphobia...I am many, many years into this aggrivating thing and just have no idea how to even start to "get better" P.S. I have your cookware and love it!

By Stefanie on January 29, 2013

54321

Love your cooking.

By Betty Splettstoesser on January 27, 2013

54321

Congratulations, sweet Paula! You've worked so hard! Here's to a fabulous year! 'Love your blogs!

By Angela Lopez on January 25, 2013

54321

Paula, loved you since the beginning at good network. You like all the rest have become so commercialized. You were like a special aunt or cousin teaching your family's recipes and read But like Rachael and Bobby and the rest you have sold to the dollar. You have forgotten where you came from., the boys have cashed in your $ which I can understand but when but when I try to contact it is magazine and family furnishing, your dinnerware and etc. shame on you remember where you came from and who you'd want to reach. You have out sold out foney shame on you. remember the special ap!ry!!!!!!!!ons you used to wear that was you

By Paula Gardner on January 25, 2013

54321

I think your crew is lucky to work for such an inspiring woman. Keep up the great work Paula. You have a lot to be proud of.

By Kim Beaulieu on January 25, 2013

54321

Paula i been down the same road hadnt got back up as far as you but i thankful and keep fingers crossed and pray hard

By linda blankenship on January 25, 2013

54321

Paula, you are such an inspiration. You could have easily given up but you found strength and made it through so much. Every time I read about your life story it brings tears to my eyes. It gives me strength to make it through my own struggles in life. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world.

By Alma on January 25, 2013

54321

I just saw front page of a people magazine with you and your boys on the front page and girl you looked amazing. I am a 49 year old man with severe degenerative bone disease in both knees. Now I know I have to drop at least 40 pounds to releave some of the pain in my knees. The morning it is good until about 12:30 to 1:00 when I am at work and on my feet most of the day. My employer has been great in dealing with it for me, But there will be a time where I will have to go on disability. The lord gives people challenges in your life that will prove the make you stronger. And that is what I believe in my situation which has made my stronger in everything that I do. I will work until someone tells me that i shouldn't and we both know that will not stop my. I was wondering if there are any recipes that are low in calories that would help in my challenge to drop that weight. you rock lady.

By David Gleason on January 25, 2013

54321

That brought tears to my eyes! Paula, your story gives me hope that my business will grow into something larger than myself! I think you're amazing and if you ever get to Destin, FL, have a couple of seconds to spare and wanted to see someone get choked up, I'm the girl to see!

By Leslie Soley on January 25, 2013

54321

I live in a small town. I just closed my Driving School, of 20 years. I love to cook, maybe someday I can cook for you at Lady and Sons. I hope we move to Jacksonville, FL. soon. Then at least I can visit. You are my hero Paula. You let people know, like I have always felt, just get up off your ass and do it! I love your attitude and drive. God Bless, you and yours. Also have a great time on that cruise!

By Barbara A. Brookbank on January 25, 2013

54321

Paula, I miss your show so much. You're my favorite "chef". It was on for a while on Food Network UK, but not anymore. Can you urge them to return it to the lineup? I got to meet you once at a book signing in Hurst, Texas. I got the last one of your books in the store and stood in line for two hours, but it was well worth it. I brought your books with me to Ireland, even though it's sometimes hard to find the right ingredients. Sure would like to see you back on our lineup. Thanks for being so great. Cheryl Clair Co. Tipperary Republic of Ireland.

By Cheryl Clair on January 25, 2013

54321

Paula,I bought two of your cooking pans and they each had two stickers inside that took me 4 or 5 days to remove.you should tell your company not to do that..I was planning on using them that night and couldn't because I couldn't get the stickers off.Very disappointing.

By Pauline Ingraham.com on January 24, 2013

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm