Paula Deen's Cook Talks, and It's Not Flattering

Dora Charles says Deen wanted black worker to dress like Aunt Jemima

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 25, 2013 9:31 AM CDT | Updated Jul 25, 2013 10:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – Paula Deen called Dora Charles, the cook who helped Deen open the restaurant that eventually helped her become famous, her "soul sister" and promised her that "if I get rich, you'll get rich," Charles tells New York Times—from what the paper describes as her "aging trailer home." Now, Charles wants the world to know that "Paula Deen don't treat me the way they think she treat me." Charles, who is black, says she was still making less than $10 per hour at Savannah's Lady & Sons after Deen became a Food Network star; after a white co-worker told her in 2010 that others were making more, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But she hasn't "press[ed] matters in court," as the Times puts it, and still works at the restaurant, where her pay has since been upped to a $71,000 salary (Deen's son says the bump had nothing to do with the complaint). But Charles recalls Deen using racial slurs and asking a worker to dress like Aunt Jemima while making hoecakes. Deen's team denies any mistreatment, and says Charles just wants money even after "over 20 years of generosity" from Deen. And there were certainly perks to Charles' job, including appearances on Deen's show and free clothes and other items. For her part, Charles says she expects no money from Deen, she just wants "to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly."

In this Dec. 30, 2010 photo, Paula Deen speaks in Pasadena, Calif.
In this Dec. 30, 2010 photo, Paula Deen speaks in Pasadena, Calif.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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