If you’re a foodie, what I’m about to say might make you writhe on the floor with envy: I recently got to sit in Paula Deen’s kitchen.
Admittedly it wasn’t her own private kitchen, but I had a front-row seat at the live kitchen demo the Food Network star and her two sons, Bobby and Jamie, did at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and my tÊte-à-tÊte with the Deens prior to the show revealed more than a few family secrets.
The first? It’s not just any fried chicken that the Deens serve at The Lady and Sons, which is a favorite among tourists, locals and former President Jimmy Carter.
The now-famous recipe took multiple tries to nail down — before the family reverted to the way they’d been cooking it for years.
“The key is to season the chicken ahead of time to allow the flavors to stick all the way down to the bone,” Paula reveals.
Perhaps inspired by the crowd of more than 100 people milling in to watch them cook, Jamie Deen is struck by a revelatory impulse and tells me what really adds the final touch: cooking the chicken in peanut oil.
“The oil might cost a little more,” Jamie says, “but you’ll certainly taste the difference.”
Not all the Deen family secrets are quite as light or easily replicated. Deen’s past includes a long and bumpy relationship with her former husband, and one of the things that allowed Deen to conquer her depression and move on to become a worldwide television star was, predictably, cooking.
“If all women would take responsibility for themselves, then they would all have a pretty amazing life,” Deen says.
“I finally took responsibility for myself when I was 42 years old. But you know what? It’s never too late. I wish I had done it a little bit earlier because my life changed drastically when I was in control, but I will never again suffer for someone else’s decision making. I needed to finally step up for anything that would affect my children’s lives or mine, and I did.”
Smiling at Deen, I admit she’s done an admirable job, but there is one unavoidable question: “Which children are you talking about?”
At this the family erupts in peals of laughter, and Bobby Deen places a hand on Jamie’s shoulder and reveals yet another fact at least one brother might want to keep to himself: “Vanessa, he is 38!”
“Well, they’ll always be my babies,” Paula adds.
And while talking to this dynamic family it remains clear that the heart of the Deen’s home is the kitchen, Bobby and Jamie will soon be branching out with their own show on the Food Network.
“It’s going to be a travel show, where we meet interesting people and create interesting food,” Jamie laughs. “We start shooting soon, and it promises to be exciting and a lot of fun.”
The show, called Two for the Road, will also be broadcast over the Internet and will feature at least one very special guest star.
“You can expect to see Mom’s familiar face on the show. We’ve been stepping into her kitchen for so long that it’s about time we let her step into ours,” Bobby says.
The show will undoubtedly be an interesting concoction, especially considering the fun, lively interaction between the three. The family chemistry shows no signs of dissipating and probably will only grow more interesting, considering how differently the three describe themselves.
When asked to compare themselves to a kind of food, their answers span the gamut of cuisine.
“I am a baked tater, all soft and fluffy,” Dean offers.
Jamie describes himself as a fire-roasted corn (“It’s one of my favorite things to eat. It’s cooked outside in the grill and so much fun to eat”).
And Bobby — well, Bobby is a steak. “A succulent delicious steak,” he clarifies. “I am a filet mignon!”
“You are a piece of meat, baby!” his mother adds. “And the steak is single!”
If you crave the Deen humor as much as their succulent cooking, don’t worry, because the world will be seeing a lot more of them in the future. Aside from running the restaurant, Jamie and Bobby will also work on their upcoming show and penning a cookbook of their own.
Mom, on the other hand, will be coming out with two cookbooks, one of which will be a memoir.
“It’s going to be my life story, and be ready because I am going to share the down and dirty,” Deen warns naughtily.
Jamie and Bobby Deen’s new show, ‘Two for the Road,” debuts June 27 on The Food Network.