Left Behind

Paula Deen's Cook Speaks

A cook and former close friend of Paula Deen’s revealed a complicated history with the embattled Food Network star, where intimacy and specters of the South’s racist past blended together. Deen originally hired Dora Charles as a cook at a Best Western restaurant, but the two became close friends when Deen opened her first restaurant in Georgia. They celebrated their birthdays together, and Charles developed recipes and trained cooks for Deen’s growing empire. Deen told her that some day they would get rich together. But Charles says Deen also used racial slurs, asked her to ring a dinner bell outside the restaurant, and wanted another black employee to dress in an “Aunt Jemima” costume. As Deen’s business took off, she began treating Charles like just another employee, paid $10 an hour.