The First Lady of Southern Cooking

Written By: 
Ashley Daniels

Paula Deen dishes out the latest on her new restaurant, favorite foods and the next chapter

Just like her food, Paula Deen is sugar and spice and everything nice, served with a side of spunk and sass. The goal of Deen’s food is to make you feel comfortable in the heart and soul, not just fill your belly. And she is cooking up some of those Southern family recipes here in Myrtle Beach at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, which at press time is expected to open in June at Broadway at the Beach.

At 70, there’s not much slowing Deen or her family food empire down. Though she’s been moving strong and fast way back since her start as “The Bag Lady” in 1989, we managed to contain her for a 15-minute phone interview from her hotel room in Minneapolis—far from her Savannah home—to chat about the new restaurant and what’s next on her plate.

Q: With your first Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen location in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (pictured above and at left), what makes Myrtle Beach a good choice for your second location?
A:
We are coming to Myrtle Beach, honey! Our Paula Deen Store has been there for a couple years, but the restaurant is fixin’ to be birthed. … Myrtle Beach very, very much has the same feel as Pigeon Forge. It’s really a family destination, just like Myrtle Beach. That’s what our restaurant is all about: family time and just making those memories, so it was a natural fit.

Q: What do you think really puts the word “family” in your Family Kitchen name?
A:
I love when I have the ability to stir up memories with people. I hope I can take them back to their grandmother’s table when everything was served in mismatched bowls. Everything’s served family-style, so you have to talk to the people you’re eating with and say, “Pass those mashed potatoes.” I think so many people are like me: some of their best memories are spent at the table with those they love. It’s just very simple.

Q: What’s your favorite food on the menu right now? And what’s a recipe obsession you’ve had lately?
A:
I’m so impressed with our breakfast menu. Everyone starts off the meal with a fresh cinnamon roll. The items for breakfast, you will never see anywhere else. We have ooey gooey butter cake pancakes, where the ooey gooey butter cake is dropped in the center of it, and we have candied bacon … breakfast is just a mind-blower.

I’m obsessed with our fried chicken. It kinda put me on the map. It’s so important that we get it perfect and consistently right every time—and the biscuits and the hoecakes. Years ago, when we opened Lady & Sons, there’d be lines of people out in the street, so I’d run out with our cheese biscuits and hoecakes and serve them because I was afraid they’d fall over from hunger.

Q: Besides this project, what have you been busy with lately in the culinary industry? In publishing? A return to Dancing with the Stars, perhaps?
A:
Oh, I hung up my dancing shoes! I’m a busy girl! I’m in Minnesota right now for a show I have on Evine every Tuesday night called Sweet Home Savannah; I have a line of small kitchen appliances; I have my clothing line and textile line, with fabulous sheets; and my magazine takes up a good bit of time—and my furniture line.

Q: What kind of experience do you want folks to walk away with after a visit to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen?
A:
I want them to walk away with not just the fact that they filled up their bellies, but that they filled up their soul, too. That’s what I hope for!

For more info and updates on Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, visit www.pauladeensfamilykitchen.com.

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PAULA DEEN’S FAMILY KITCHEN