Paula Deen is ready to let fans back into her kitchen.
The celebrity chef is on a multi-city tour to promote her new, digital-only network launching in September. The Paula Deen Live! shows will stop in Savannah on Aug. 8 and 15 at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts.
The live shows and the subscription-based network mark a comeback for Deen, who weathered a career fallout after admitting to using a racial epithet last year. The admission cost Deen her contract with Food Network and many other endorsements.
The new platform speaks to the controversy. Deen is no longer cooking on the world stage. Instead, she has created a private arena for fans who absolutely want her in their lives and have forgiven her implicitly.
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Deen no longer cooks on talk shows or in TV test kitchens. Instead, she films in her own home cooking studio.
It's a full-circle move for the Queen of Southern Cuisine, whose 20-year battle with the anxiety disorder agoraphobia kept her confined to her home for many years.
"I loved my kitchen. That was my security," Deen said. "I spent so much time in it and loved everything about it."
Now, Deen has returned to the comfort of her own kitchen, but is giving fans access to it 24/7 with the Paula Deen Network via computers, smartphones and tablets.
The network is backed by a multimillion dollar deal with Najafi Companies, an Arizona-based private investment firm.
According to Businessweek, Najafi often invests in industries "out of public favor."
It is arguable how out of public favor Deen is, however, even after being vilified by the media as a racist. With 4.3 million Facebook likes and 1.2 million Twitter followers, the zeal of her fans remains strong.
"After the last year, I have to say that I'm more well-known now. My fanbase has grown in big numbers," Deen said, adding that new fans are always welcome, no matter how they hear about her. "There's always room for one more at my table."
Deen said she especially enjoys being up close and personal with the audience during her Live! shows.
"I like to talk to my audience. I encourage them to yell out to me. I love hearing what they've got to say."
In the 90-minute shows, Deen demonstrates how to make her favorite seasonal dishes, answers audience questions and brings her husband, Michael, on stage to share stories.
For the Savannah shows, Deen said she also expects her sons, Jamie and Bobby, to join her.
"We haven't homed in on specifics of the Savannah show yet, but I would be most disappointed if my children didn't show up," she said.
Deen co-owns The Lady and Sons, an authentic Southern restaurant in Savannah, with her two sons.
When The Paula Deen Network launches on Sept. 24, fans will have access to unscripted programming, plenty of cooking demos, and another way to interact with Deen.
"There will be something for everyone," Deen said. "I'm here to please the viewers, not the other way around."
No matter what the obstacle, it seems Deen can't be kept out of the kitchen. Not when she still has legions of followers buttering, basting and baking per her instructions. The network is a way for her to continue that.
"I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my fans," she said. "I'm so thankful for their loyalty and love, and I'm ready to get back out there and be with them."
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.