SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP/WBEN/CBS) -- 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 announced Monday (read it below) the celebrity cook is booking 20 shows across the U.S. starting in June. It says the 90-minute "Paula Deen Live!" shows will feature a mix of cooking demonstrations, games for audience members and personal stories.
Paula Deen Ventures is a joint project between Najafi Cos. and Clarence based Paula Deen Foods, run by former Tops Supermarket owner and executive Steven Nanula. That private-equity company, Najafi Cos. is investing $75 to $100 million to help Deen move past her former business model — basically selling her name, image and expertise — into what they hope is something much more lucrative.
Deen is working on a comeback after her admission last year to having used racial slurs in the past.
Only five cities have been announced so far, including in her home base of Savannah plus Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio, Texas. The tour kicks off June 21 in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., where Deen has a new restaurant in the works. In February, Paula Deen Foods opened a store featuring her branded products, at the company's headquarters on Main Street in Clarence.
All of this is new territory for Deen, who in the past had little control over the products and partners in her world. Her name was on spatulas, muffin toasters, candles, chicken parts and salad-dressing mixers, Businessweek reports. She licensed her brand to Serta mattresses. Caesars Entertainment opened Paula Deen restaurants in its casinos.
And Deen was reportedly content to sit back and let the money flow in — until it stopped. Major sponsors gave her the boot last year as controversy raged over her past use of racial slurs. Her new cookbook was canceled. She gave a teary apology on “The Today Show,” and then dropped out of the spotlight.
It’s enough to give Najafi Cos. confidence that those tens of millions of dollars will not go to waste. “The Paula Deen brand is alive and well,” Jahm Najafi, the head of Najafi Cos.., told The Journal.
Deen benefits because she now has more business advisors than she has ever had in her career. Like most buyout firms, Najafi will likely be actively involved in its investment, and will steer it down a path to profits. Deen is reportedly pursuing a new TV deal, but nothing has been announced. Similarly, she isn’t saying anything yet about new retail partners or sponsorships.
SAVANNAH, Ga.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Paula Deen Ventures (PDV) announced today that the Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen, will embark on a 20-show nationwide tour this year. “Paula Deen Live!” will be an entertaining and interactive ninety-minute show featuring Paula demonstrating how to make her favorite seasonal dishes, including new recipes featuring Springer Mountain Farms chicken. For the first time ever, fans will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with Paula on stage and taste her delicious Southern creations. Paula and her husband, Michael, will share personal stories and engage the audience in cooking and games.
“I cannot wait to get on the road and meet so many of my amazing fans during these shows. From cooking up some of my favorite dishes to bringing fans on stage with me – it’s going to be an absolute thrill!” said Paula Deen.
“This is an exciting time to create “Paula Deen Live!” These unique, one-of-a-kind events will let Paula interact with fans across America who love her sense of humor and down-to-earth Southern charm,” said Gordon Elliot, Paula’s longtime producer, Executive Producer of “Paula Deen Live!” and creator of The Chew on ABC.
The first two shows kick off on Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22 in Pigeon Forge, TN where Paula is also opening Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen; a restaurant and retail operation which is scheduled to open late Summer 2014.
Dates for the first seven “Paula Deen Live!” shows are as follows. An additional 13 shows will be announced shortly.
VIP experiences, including reception with hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, meet-and-greets, photograph opportunities, gift bags and VIP seating for each show will be available for purchase.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public through Ticketmaster on Thursday, May 1 at 10 a.m. ET. For more information, go to www.pauladeen.com/schedule
Springer Mountain Farms is a sponsor of “Paula Deen Live!”
About Paula Deen Ventures
Paula Deen Ventures partners with world-class product lines, food manufacturers and various media properties to deliver great products to her fans. Deen has sold over 8,000,000 copies of her 14 cookbooks and is supported by one of the largest social media followings on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, on which one of her most recent recipes was the most ‘re-pinned’ globally. The Savannah, Georgia restaurant, The Lady & Sons, founded with her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, remains one of the country’s most popular regional restaurants. Paula Deen Ventures is headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, with offices in New York.