Paula Deen hid her type 2 diabetes diagnosis from the Food Network for 3 years — and made $30 million for her fattening fare in the interim.
While keeping the Food Network and her fans in the dark about her diabetes, Deen continued delivering episodes on deep-fried butter balls and other artery-clogging fare as she raked in an estimated $10 million per year via her TV show, cookbooks, endorsements and appearances.
“I intentionally did it,” Deen admitted to NBC’s Al Roker of hiding the news from fans. “I said, ‘I’m gonna keep this close to my chest for the time being’ because I had to figure out things in my own head.”
Since Paula Deen announced she has type 2 diabetes yesterday everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Internet commentators and home chefs have been railing against her health secret and recipes.
While I find it ethically questionable that Deen continued to hawk her vein-clogging meals, though frankly I’m more concerned about her well-timed partnership with the diabetes drug Victoza, a lot of the criticism directed at this “Southern food goddess” is somewhat misdirected. After all, it isn’t as if she is forcing us to make her food.
If you’ve ever made and eaten one of Deen’s recipes you know that they are oily and over-cheesed at best and artery-clogging at worst. Last Thanksgiving I gave her corn casserole a go. It called for 1/2 of a stick of butter, 1 to 1.5 cups of American cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1 can of creamed corn. When I took it out of the oven there was a puddle of grease along the top. One doesn’t need to be a registered dietician to know that her recipes, which are often drenched in butter, cheese, and other fattening foods, fall on the bottom of the health scale. I have steered clear of her recipes since but apparently others haven’t. Her cooking-related products made more than $30 million in the past three years.
It’s important to remember a very important fact about Paula Deen. She is as much a businesswoman as she is a chef, and her ultimate goal is to make money, not worry about the waistlines of Americans. With her cookbooks, TV show, and various endorsements (Deen teamed up with Kraft in 2010 for a Philadelphia-brand sponsored cooking contest with, you guessed it, cream cheese), she operates less like an individual and more like is a for-profit company, which she actually is. The Victoza-sponsored Diabetes in a New Light website went live yesterday—on the day her alliance with the drug’s maker was announced. This wasn’t a coincidence; it was a meticulously-timed PR campaign.
For her part, Deen is unapologetic about her recipes—and that’s just fine. It’s her life, after all, and we now know how that turns out. The rest of us will at some point have to decide whether or not we want to follow the same road as Deen, or make our own healthier path.