Paula Deen and Beaches, Resorts & Parks Magaizine at Destin, Florida's World Famous Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort

By Laurie Hobbs and Will Estell  

As celebrity chefs go Paula Deen is at the pinnacle of her game. In the 24 years since opening her first business, a home-based catering company in Savannah, Georgia, Paula has grown to become a recognized icon of southern charm, good food, and media success. Though her road to fame and fortune may seem short on the surface, many don’t know about the difficulties and perseverance that fueled the drive leading to Paula’s current success. Success not only as a media icon, but moreover as a mother, an entrepreneur, and a strong example of what making your dreams come true is all about.  

Paula Hiers Deen was born and raised in Albany, Georgia where she enjoyed a rural southern childhood, attended high school, and at just 19 years old married her boyfriend with whom she later had two sons, Bobby and Jamie. After a somewhat unstable number of years living in poverty, Paula and her family made a move to Savannah, where Paula says she fell in love with the city and began living the American dream. Until that is, things began to disentangle in a short period of years. Tragedy struck when she lost both parents within four years of each other, her marriage of 27 years fell apart, and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia -a disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment as being difficult to get help or escape from. By this time her boys were both teenagers and Paula was doing whatever she could to try to support both sons and her younger brother, Bubba, who she had raised from age 16. She worked as a bank teller, tried selling insurance and real estate, and even hung wallpaper in an effort to provide for them.  

Finally, in 1989, at 42 years old, Paula took her last $200 and decided to rely on the one thing she knew best, and had learned from her grandmother… Southern cooking! Paula essentially turned her life in a positive direction by simply sharing her spectacular southern lunches. Deen prepared and bagged the lunches, and sons Bobby and Jamie would hit the town selling and delivering the meals. All over the Savannah area people began to buy and fall in love with these simple southern staples. All the while helping Paula and her sons make a living and build a future. Albeit a future Paula and the Deen boys didn’t dream of being so bright.  

Paula and her sons not only overcame poverty, but her first business, The Bag Lady, brought out strengths and enhanced her positive family dynamic. Outgrowing her home kitchen, she moved her catering company to a small restaurant at a Savannah area Best Western. Five years later in 1996 she opened her now famous, The Lady and Sons restaurant, along with Bobby and Jamie.  

This was the start of her claim to fame, as USA Today named The Lady & Sons "International Meal of the Year" in 1999. The house specialty is a buffet, which typically includes fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens, beans, corn, and other fine southern staples. The growing popularity of the restaurant was such that it led to Paula’s first book, 1998’s The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. This gave her fans the opportunity to try Paula’s recipes at home and made way for her inaugural appearance on QVC. Paula’s friendly demeanor, southern accent, and down to earth personality made her a natural for television.  

Paula was soon offered her own show and her rise to stardom was underway. With the viewing success of Paula’s Home Cooking, which debuted in 2002, the Food Network added Paula’s Party in 2006, wherein sons Bobby and Jamie began making appearances with their mom. By now the family that began their first business by delivering “lunch-and-love-in-a-bag” had become the most recognized family in food. The network then offered the brothers their own show, Road Tasted. Since 2008 Paula has continually had two shows airing, Paula’s Best Dishes, and her long running original, Paula’s Home Cooking. Bobby’s own show, Not My Mama’s Meals continues to be a big hit on the Food Network and Cooking Channel. While Jamie’s show Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen has also achieved acclaimed success.  

In addition to her Emmy winning television success, Paula is the author of 14 cookbooks, collectively having sold over ten million copies. Her now famous magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen, is published bimonthly, by Alabama based Hoffman Media, and has a growing circulation of almost one million copies per issue. Paula Deen Foods, launched in 2011, and features meals and products based on her traditional recipes. The line appears in major grocery retailers across the country this year, and will also include lower calorie creations.   In addition to The Lady & Sons, co-owned with Bobby and Jamie, Paula and her brother own Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah. There are also Paula Deen Buffet locations at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, and Horseshoe Casino in Southern Indiana. Her full service, Paula Deen’s Kitchen is located at Harrah’s in Cherokee, North Carolina, and Joliet, Illinois. All part of Paula Deen Enterprises’ partnerships with Caesar’s Entertainment and Harrah’s.  

As a company, Paula Deen Enterprises includes a growing number of licensees covering a vast array of brands and products from cookware to foods, sauces, spices, and baking items. Trying her creative hand in other areas, Paula has also introduced a complete line of furniture, greeting cards, and even the Paula Deen and Family Party at Sea Cruise.  

Continually showing a humble attitude, and forever grateful for all she and her family are being blessed with, Paula and her sons are active in numerous philanthropic endeavors. From donating time and support to America’s Second Harvest to serving on the board of the Bethesda Home for Boys to working alongside Smithfield Foods’ Helping Hungry Homes, which has helped in providing 10 million meals for America’s hungry.  

Paula Deen’s connection to Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, and Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s renowned Sandestin Wine Festival, is part of her many guest appearances around the country. The Sandestin Wine Festival, sponsored by Coastal Living magazine, happens April 18-21, and is an event any wine connoisseur and fan of the beach is sure to delight in.  

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a world renowned destination comprised of 2,400 acres and 30 delightful neighborhoods featuring 1,800 vacation rentals, condominiums, town homes, golf villas, and LeCiel, a newly renovated boutique hotel. With Gulf and bay views and more than seven miles of white sand beaches, this resort is a vacation lover’s dream. The resort is also home to 72 holes of championship golf , on four courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19 swimming pools, a 100-plus slip marina, a fitness center and spa, and expansive convention space. The Village of Baytowne Wharf is also located within Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, and features a vast array of dining, shopping and entertainment options for those visiting the resort, or nearby areas of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.  

When asked about her stay on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, Paula exclaimed, “I’m thrilled to be at Sandestin, a jewel of the South, and to be able to meet all the great people, and talk about my passion for good food and gatherings with family and friends”…. That sounds like a perfect answer to us!  

For more information about Paula Deen visit www.pauladeen.com or Facebook.com/PaulaDeen. You can also follow her tweets @Paula_Deen on Twitter. To book your next vacation at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort call (800) 622-1038 or visit them at: www.Sandestin.com and on Facebook and Twitter.   Additional information provided courtesy of Paula Deen Enterprises, and Sandestin Living.