Paula Deen is choosing to ignore her epic fall from grace -- telling TMZ, she doesn't need to make a comeback after her n-word scandal ... because she "never went anywhere."
Fact is ... Paula's reputation has been destroyed -- but the celebrity chef is refusing to wave the white flag.
We talked to Paula as she was flying to Houston ... where yesterday she got a standing ovation at a cooking convention, then broke down in tears -- a full 180 from the stiff upper lip routine she gave us.
Interestingly, the person by Paula's side at the airport ... none other than Hollis, her dutiful bodyguard. You may remember the New York Times interview, when she mentioned Hollis was "as black as that board," referring to the black background.
She does have some kind words for 2 Chainz' new cookbook. Mayonnaise and butter, yum!