Born in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen was a homemaker and bank teller before entering professional cooking. She divorced her first husband in 1989 shortly after moving to Savannah. She was left with only $200 and her two teenage sons.
The Bag Lady
Paula was considered a good Southern cook, so she started a small catering company called The Bag Lady. She would make sandwiches and other meals, then her sons would deliver the food. Paula avoided going out herself because she suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of public places. Paula believes this fear comes from an incident in which she was held at gunpoint during a bank robbery. The Bag Lady was very successful and soon outgrew her kitchen.
Her Own Place
Paula was then hired by a Best Western Hotel in Savannah to cook. She worked there five years before opening her own restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in downtown Savannah. Paula was able to overcome her agoraphobia with her constant contact with guests. The restaurant was a success and later moved into a larger building in Savannah’s Historic District.
A Cookbook or Two
In 1997, Paula self-published her first cookbook, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking (Compare Prices). The book was noticed by a literary agent of a major publishing house, who happened to be dining in the restaurant to escape a thunderstorm.
Paula increased her success and national recognition by promoting her book on QVC, where it became one of the best-selling cookbooks. She has since written three more cookbooks: The Lady & Sons, Too! : A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah (Compare Prices), The Lady & Sons Just Desserts (Compare Prices), and Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style (Compare Prices).
Paula began her relationship with the Food Network in 1999 when her friend introduced her to Gordon Elliot. Paula appeared on the show Doorknock Dinners where several episodes were filmed in Savannah. Paula also appeared on Ready, Set, Cook! and finally got her own show in 2003, Paula’s Home Cooking.
Paula appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002. Her appearance brought hundreds of letters from women who took control of their lives after watching Paula tell her story. Paula made her film debut in 2005 in Elizabethtown starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. In the movie, she plays the aunt of Orlando’s character. Her cooking is heavily featured in the movie.
A Happy Ending
In 2004, Paula married Michael Groover, a tugboat captain.