Paula's comeback? Embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen proclaimed Sunday, Feb. 23 during a cooking demonstration at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Florida that she was "back in the saddle."
8 months after a racial slur scandal and subsequent PR nightmare. the former queen of Southern cuisine apologized to fans and addressed the "very hard summer" she endured last year. "I have heard on more than one occasion ... that I've never apologized," Deen told fans, as reported by the Associated Press. "So if anybody did not hear me apologize, I would like to apologize to those who did not hear me."
Indeed, Deen delivered multiple teary mea culpas in 2013 after a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee, in which Deen admitted using the N-word, leaked online. Although the case was eventually dropped, Deen's career was tarnished: the sunny chef's Food Network contract was not renewed and she was eventually dropped by multiple endorsement companies including Wal-mart and Smithfield Foods last summer.
After the scandal, Deen stayed out of the spotlight and even avoided the Food Network's 20th anniversary party back in October. "I am not a quitter," she said to the South Beach crowd Sunday while preparing chicken and dumplings onstage. "Ya'll's cards and letters that I got, helped me get out of bed every day," she continued.
The news comes weeks after it was revealed that the Southern personality had secured a $75 million investment deal with Najafi Media to help launch her new company, Paula Deen Ventures, which will encompass her cookbooks, restaurants, cruises, and other assets of the brand.
Halfway through the South Beach demo, the AP reports that Food Network star Robert Irvine -- who overcame his own scandal over a fabricated resume back in 2008 and was dismissed by the network only to be rehired eventually -- joined Deen onstage. "This is a warning to you," Irvine said to Deen. "You've apologized. You've eaten crow. You're done. Don't do it anymore. I've been there." Irvine then got down on all fours and Deen straddled his back.
"I'm back in the saddle," she exclaimed to the crowd.