Paula Deen finally got her hood pass re-instated ... so declares one African American photog -- a self-appointed ambassador for his race.
Deen strolled through LAX Friday evening and was real chatty ... bragging about her new digital network and the best way to cook fried chicken.
But Paula got real serious when one photog told her, "black people still love you."
Check out her response ... interesting.
Paula Deen Restaurant
Sorry We Screwed You Over ...
But Here's Our Card!
4/4/2014 1:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The employees at Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House weren't sent packing empty-handed ... TMZ has learned they were given a business card and a list of restaurants in the area that are hiring. Better than nothing, right?
As TMZ previously reported, Bubba's -- the restaurant at the center of the Paula Deen racist controversy -- closed down Thursday morning out of the blue ... with some employees finding out on Facebook and others hearing the news from the restaurant once they arrived at work.
One employee told us they were paid through Wednesday and got vacation pay along with two weeks severance.
The employee said the whole ordeal was particularly hurtful, since so many staffers stuck up for the Deen family during the controversy -- some patrons threw food at them and they still defended Paula.
Oysters and employees -- they all get shucked.
Restaurant at Center of Racism Scandal
4/3/2014 11:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Uncle Bubba's Seafood & Oyster House -- the place where Paula Deen's empire crumbled -- just closed for good, and the way employees found out is just shocking.
The company did NOT tell its employees in an open meeting or face-to-face. The workers showed up this morning only to find the sign down and appliances being removed from the joint.
The only explanation was posted on the restaurant's Facebook page this morning -- "Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba's is now closed."
People were pissed off, including one woman who says, "My mother worked there for over 8 years and no one called her!!! My fiance also worked there no one called him, in fact a UB manager called him LAST NIGHT to get his availability for next week!"
Another wrote, "My mother put in some hard work for years with you & she finds out when she shows up for work this morning to be escorted by a police officer to get her belongings."
You may recall ... the GM of Bubba's sued Paula ... and during her depo Paula recounted the story where she once used the N word to describe an African American man who held her up.
We reached out to Deen's rep ... so far, no word back.
I'm Cool with Paula Deen ...
And I'd Give Rachael Ray My Sweet Meat
3/19/2014 6:10 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen can drop all the n-bombs she wants ... DJ Paul is still down with the celebrity chef, and says he'd love to get in the kitchen with her today.
The Three 6 Mafia rapper -- slash chef and celeb caterer -- told us yesterday in NYC ... he's unfazed by the whole controversy surrounding Paula using the n-word.
Paul says he was hanging out with Deen at a food festival in NYC minutes before he got arrested in 2012, and added ... "I look at Paula Deen as a mom" ... and she can holla at him anytime.
But the Academy Award winner revealed the chef he wants more than a phone call from is Rachael Ray. You gotta hear his metaphor about his weenie and RR's pot ... classic.
Talk about danger dogs.
Riding Dolly Parton's Coattails to
Cook Up New Restaurant
2/26/2014 10:40 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen's hitching her wagon to Dolly Parton to try to bury her n-word scandal ... forging ahead with a new restaurant right next to Dolly's amusement park.
Paula Deen's Family Kitchen will open later this summer next to Dollywood in Tennessee -- her first new business venture since last month ... when a businessman pumped $75 mil into Paula's comeback.
Sources connected to the restaurant tell us besides the usual family-style portions of Southern food staples ... Paula's new joint will also feature a retail store to hawk her wares and books.
We're told Paula's spent the last 4 months focusing on all aspects of her business ... and this restaurant is a top priority.
$75 MIllion For Huge Comeback
2/12/2014 12:15 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen -- like the Phoenix -- is rising again ... thanks to a $75 MILLION infusion of cash from a Phoenix-based investment company that could put Paula's wares in the back pocket of airplane seats.
Jahm Najafi clearly thinks the Paula Deen brand is still a marketable commodity, because his company is fronting the cash.
As for Najafi's plan ... we found it extremely interesting that in 2012 he bought SkyMall magazine ... which you've probably leafed through and then failed to buy anything from inside. So the question -- will Paula's pots and pans end up in the mag?
As you know ... Paula was unceremoniously dumped by virtually all of her sponsors after confessing she used the N word to describe a person who robbed the bank she was a teller at in the 80s.
By the way ... in addition to SkyMall, Najafi owns the Book of the Month Club and Columbia House.
2 Years in Prison
9/16/2013 2:01 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The man who allegedly attempted to extort $250,000 from Paula Deen has just been sentenced to 2 years in prison, TMZ has learned.
As we reported, a man named Thomas Paculis contacted Deen's attorney claiming he would release "true and damning" information about the celebrity chef's n-word usage if he didn't receive a huge check. The FBI tracked Paculis down and he was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of extortion.
Paculis struck a plea bargain with prosecutors last month, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of extortion. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the remaining count.
Paculis was sentenced today to 2 years in a Georgia prison, plus one year of supervised release and 40 hours community service. He has already been remanded into custody.
Interestingly, the court also ordered Paculis to attend substance abuse counseling. We called Paculis' attorney to find out why -- so far, no word back.
I Don't Need a Comeback
'I Never Went Anywhere'
9/15/2013 7:12 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
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!
SOBS at First Public Appearance
After Racist Scandal
9/14/2013 9:21 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen was a big butterball of emotion today during her first public appearance since settling the racial discrimination lawsuit that destroyed her career ... and we've got the pics.
Paula appeared in Houston, Texas today for the Metro Cooking and Entertainment Show to mark her return ... and got choked up after receiving a standing ovation when she hit the stage.
The 66-year old chef told the crowd she had been wanting her return to take place in Texas all along ... and was just shedding tears of joy.
The crowd in Texas seems to have forgiven Paula -- so we gotta ask ...
Stars and Scars
You Be the Judge
8/31/2013 9:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Lots happened this week ... most notably Lamar Odom slipping deeper into trouble over his addiction. So we gotta ask ...
Dropped from Cooking Expo Ads
Even Though She's Headlining
8/25/2013 12:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen is headlining a giant food expo in Houston next month, but you wouldn't know it ... because two huge ticket sellers are REFUSING to put her name or her picture in the advertising, TMZ has learned.
The event is the Metro Cooking and Entertainment Show ... and Paula was supposed to be the main attraction, but sources connected with the expo tell us, Groupon and Livingsocial are actively trying to distance themselves from anything Deen-related.
Instead, the companies are featuring much lesser known chefs on their ads -- like Terry French and Martie Duncan -- and ticket sales are taking a huge hit.
A rep for the expo tells us, "It's more difficult -- I'm not going to kid -- not having those tools [Paula and her sons] to help sell tickets, but we are fighting for Paula."
Paula has been with the expo for 8 years, and the rep says tickets sold much more quickly when the chef was featured on the advertisements ... but not this year ... and there's nothing Metro can do about it (except on its own website).
FYI, the expo will be Paula's first public appearance since she settled the racial discrimination lawsuit filed against her in Georgia.
Reps for Livingsocial and Groupon had no comment.
Racial/Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Dismissed
8/23/2013 1:10 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen has SETTLED the lawsuit that sent her empire crashing to the ground.
Lisa Jackson -- who worked as General Manager at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House -- filed the suit, claiming racial and sexual harassment. The racial claim was dismissed recently because Lisa didn't have a dog in the fight -- because she's white.
Now Jackson's lawsuit has been dismissed, and all signs point to a settlement. The terms appear to be confidential.
Paula Deen's Husband
WE'RE NOT BIGOTS
Now Gimme Chick-fil-A
8/15/2013 8:05 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Less than two months after Paula Deen went on TV and proclaimed that "everyone should be treated equal" ... her husband Michael Groover was seen walking out of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
While they do have great food (really great food), is Chick-fil-A REALLY the best place for Paula's hubby to grab a meal ... in the wake of the chef's "I'm not a bigot, please take me back America" campaign?
FYI -- it wasn't too long ago Paula appeared on TV and said, "I believe that every creature on this earth — every one of God's creatures — was created equal, no matter who you choose to go to bed at night with, no matter what church you go to pray. I believe that everyone should be treated equal and that's the way I was raised, and that's the way I live my life."
Just sayin' ...