Food Network star Jamie Deen, son of embattled food celebrity Paula Deen, is coming to the Triangle next week to promote his new cookbook, “Jamie Deen’s Good Food.”
It’s been a rough summer for the Deen family. Paula Deen saw her business empire suffer after she admitted during a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit to using racial slurs and making other racially insensitive remarks. Many of Paula Deen’s supporters and sponsors dropped her, including the Food Network and Smithfield Foods. The discrimination lawsuit – filed by a white former employee who claimed racial epithets, racist jokes and pornography on office computers were common at one of Deen’s restaurants – was settled by the parties and dismissed last month.
Ten days ago, Paula Deen, with her sons Jamie and Bobby at her side, made her first public appearance in many months in Houston. A tearful Deen got a standing ovation from the crowd. Paula Deen is expected in the next several months to make appearances to support her oldest son’s new book, based on his show “Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen,” which airs at 10 a.m. Sundays on the Food Network.
In an interview last week, Jamie Deen talked about his mother’s return to the public stage, how fatherhood changed his cooking and eating, and how he got his sons, Jack, 7, and Matthew, 2, involved in the kitchen.
Q: What was it like to be with your mom in Texas?
A: Mom really loves being out with people and just having a good time. She hasn’t had that opportunity this summer. So it was great to be a part of it. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve seen it reported so much as a comeback. How lucky are we to ever find the level of success that we actually get to participate in a comeback? For so long, we had nothing to come back from. I tell people we didn’t draw the shutters shut and bury ourselves in a hole when this whole thing came out. When the charges were dismissed, we didn’t have a celebration party. We’ve stayed true to who we are and let things play out. Not being able to speak for ourselves was kind of tough. People who know us, know our business and our employees, friends and fans could see it for what it was. We’re certainly excited to get it behind us and get back to work.
Q: What do you want people to know about your mom and about how your company treats its employees?
A: People would ask me about our business, and for years now I have been able to say seeing people grow into our business and succeed is my greatest pleasure. I have two fantastic young men that are our executive kitchen managers, and both of them started as dishwashers. (One) started 17 years ago and (the other) started 15 years ago. They are from the inner city, here in Savannah. They have the same opportunity that every employee with us has to work hard and be rewarded. These guys are just like me, where they found a level of success [that] where I came from and from where they came from is kind of out of the ordinary … When you find a level of success with the media, half of it is you get so many wonderful opportunities because of that ‘celebrity.’ The other side is you are kind of a target for people. It’s nothing new … It wasn’t a lot of fun. We didn’t feel like any of the accusations were true. People who want to label somebody – that’s just as wrong as anything that anybody has accused my mother of. We’re simple Southern people who are very grateful for our opportunities. We work hard and treat everybody the same way based on their character first and foremost, and that’s it.
Q: How did you evolve as a cook after parenthood?
A: I’m just like every other parent in the world, and I figure out what am I going to cook for dinner tonight, what can I make that Jack is going to eat and is good for him. As parents, one of our biggest responsibilities is to set our kids off on good eating habits. My wife and I figured out what can we do that is fresh, easy to cook and kind of quick that will satisfy not only him but us. My dietary life has changed as well as my cooking life now … My wife and I don’t fry any food at the house. We’re eating a lot fresher. … I’ve lost 50 pounds. It’s how everybody should eat.
Q: What strategies did you use with your sons to avoid what you call ‘the chicken nugget rut’?
A: You have to show your children different food early. Both of my boys love avocados and have been eating tons of vegetables … You have to put it in front of them. Another key is give them the opportunity to get in the kitchen and help you cook because the more they touch the food, they take ownership of it and they are proud of it and they are more willing to try it. You also have to live it as a parent. You can’t eat cheeseburgers and expect your children to eat baked fish. That’s how I became a better eater.
To see a printable recipe, click on link below:
PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees.
PLACE butternut squash on a sheet tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss it all together. Roast for 30 minutes, giving the squash a good flip halfway through to ensure that it cooks evenly. Allow to cool to room temperature.
MAKE dressing: Combine shallot, vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to combine; taste and adjust seasoning.
ONCE squash has cooled, place half the squash in a large serving bowl. Reserve remaining squash for another use. Combine squash with mixed greens, radicchio, endive, grapes, feta and pistachios. Drizzle with maple vinaigrette and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.Yield: 4-6 servings.
Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl