Celebrity chef Paula Deen has built a multi-million-dollar empire on a mountain of butter, cream, and fat. But now Deen, 64, could be paying a high price for her Southern style cooking. A number of media outlets, including The Daily and US Weekly, are reporting that the Food Network star has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and is in the process of changing her high-fat ways.
That would be a major effort, if you are a follower of her recipes. Paula Deen is not stingy with ingredients that most of us are trying to avoid – especially at midlife, when the risk of obesity-related diseases increases dramatically. One stunner, cited by The Daily, is on the menu at The Lady & Sons, the restaurant in Savannah, Ga., that Deen owns with her sons. It's called "Paula's Brunch Burger" and is composed of a fried egg and bacon atop a burger served between glazed doughnuts rather than a bun. (Honestly, it makes me a little nauseous just to write that.)
Deen's recipes have come under fire from a number of people, most notably another celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain. Last August, he called her "the worst, most dangerous person to America" because she was "telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us."
It will be interesting to see how this diagnosis – if the rumors are true – alters Deen's message to her fans. Deen's spokesmen haven't said anything public yet, but an announcement of the diagnosis is expected this week.
UPDATE: Deen officially announced that she found out she had diabetes three years ago and has been changing the way she eats ever since. For one thing, she's no longer drinking sweet tea, a drink she says is full of "empty calories." She's also exercising more: walking a mile a day on the treadmill. She says she still has fried chicken on occasion but has learned to indulge only in moderation.
Deen has also become a paid spokesman for the drug company that makes the diabetes medication she's taking. She'll be part of a campaign called Diabetes in a New Light (diabetesinanewlight.com).
I may not be a fan of Deen's recipes (too much butter and cream for me) but I have to admire the way she's made lemonade out of the lemon of her diagnosis.